Re: [Frameworks] paclab

From: Tom Whiteside (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Aug 06 2010 - 11:35:28 PDT

Moira et al -
                I worked for a while in a lab, many years ago, so here's a recollection that might be informative. In a processing machine you have thousands of feet of 16mm film spliced together (most of it, of course, in 100 or 400 foot lengths) and this long long "reel" of film runs continuously from developer to stop to fix to bath to dryer (and many variations thereof, depending on the film stock). The film would pass from one tank of liquid into the next for the different steps in the process; those tanks are separate but the entire run of film is continuous. When you load it on the front it is in a light tight magazine, when it comes off the end it is processed film, dried and taken up on a big reel. Then the pieces are disconnected and those little pieces of marked tape (or punched numbers) let the technicians know who gets which piece of film.

                 In between runs the processor stays loaded with a very strong processing leader, 16mm wide but considerably thicker than film - it remains threaded through all those hundreds of rollers, you'd always start and finish a processing run with that leader. In the darkroom when you unload camera spools or magazines, all the film for processing that day (not just yours, but everyone's) is spliced together (five stainless steel staples) tail to head. If there is a break in the film you have to find it and fix it in the darkroom, splice it together with staples. Once it is all loaded into the magazine, it is attached to the processor, and the run begins. All of the film behind yours is completely dependent on yours not breaking to have a successful run. If the film breaks, there will be problems downstream. Something that was supposed to be in the developer for X amount of time might end up in there for 4X the amount of time, uh - oh, doesn't look good. If the carefully timed flow of film through the processor is changed in any way - film breaks, film gets stuck, power outage stops the machine - there will be problems.

                I was always scared to death of this, and was therefore a very careful film handler in the darkroom. (Read - very slow.) I never had a breakdown on my b&w machine, but it happened once on the color machine (on the owner's watch, a guy with decades of experience) and yes, some footage was ruined. Having to thread the processor again was a big BIG hassle, too. Labs do not want this to happen. Kodak's disclaimer has always been if they ruin your film in processing they will replace the lost footage with that amount of raw stock - doesn't matter if it was a casual test roll or the results of your once-in-a-lifetime million dollar shoot, even if it was their fault they cannot be liable for how "important" it was, ie, you can't sue them for all of your expenses for that shoot.

                So I think it is relatively rare, but it can happen. Did Pac Lab offer to replace your raw stock?

- Tom

From: email suppressed] On Behalf Of ev petrol
Sent: Friday, August 06, 2010 1:32 PM
To: email suppressed
Subject: [Frameworks] paclab

hey folks
just got 5 rolls back from paclab ... & they very apologetically told me that 2 out of the 5 were damaged ... apparently someone else's film got stuck in the machine & somehow most of the emulsion got wiped offa mine (looks interesting in a weird kind of way, but not what i was after!)
first time it happened me there, to be fair ... anyone else had similiar experiences recently? wondering whether to give them the benefit of the doubt, or look for another lab
cheers all round, moira<><>

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