Preparing the Base

Making the Rewards: Part 3

Yes! We have restarted the "Making the Rewards" series that we were forced to interrupt in June 2015. 

Our testing phase has turned a corner and we’re now preparing the base material for our first production runs.

Film is coated on a transparent triacetate or polyester material. This is commonly referred to as “base.”

Our chemical formulas from the Ferrania/3M days are all designed to use a triacetate base that is manufactured from organic materials rather than the polyester base that is more commonly used today. This is crucial for us because the only way to keep all the coated layers in place is to match the chemistry with the base. These layers must deposit correctly and adhere to the base properly to create an accurate exposure and to stand up to the rigors of processing. This is particularly true for cinema products where the film runs through the camera at 24 frames per second - mechanically stressing both film and camera.


This video was originally filmed last spring for the Making the Rewards series before we got interrupted. As you can see in this video, we have a lot of original Ferrania triacetate base in stock right now. As Renzo explains, many of these "Jumbos" are cut into the Kodak-standard of 1.38m wide x 3000m length. What is not mentioned is that we also have a number of Jumbos in Agfa-standard width of 1.13m x 3000m length.

After an initial inspection of our stock, we have opted to start with our Agfa-standard Jumbos.

These two standard sizes were of course perfect for the Big Boy industrial coater, but not at all for Little Boy, which can only accept rolls of 23cm wide and 300m length. The infographic below shows how we go from Jumbos to miniJumbos.

Cutting down the Jumbos is relatively easy because it can be done in full daylight.

The triacetate base is really just transparent plastic and not sensitive to light. The only thing we need is a reliable slitter and a clean room!

After a lot of research and discussion, we decided not to spend the time and money necessary to put our modern, multi-format Kampf slitter online. It’s practically brand new, but it’s a real beast and requires a significant cost and effort to move it to the LRF, hook it up to the building services, and get it tested and adjusted. (We’ll dedicate a specific post to the Kampf slitter in the future.)

The Kampf Monster

Instead, we have installed a slitter from 1917!

This machine features custom-made Japanese blades, and was made in France during the time that Ferrania was just called F.I.L.M. and was in partnership with the famous Pathè brothers. This machine served Trixie (the triacetate production machines we also saved as part of our Kickstarter campaign) for many, many years and remains super accurate and entirely useable today.

The New Old Slitter

(click any image to open a fullscreen slideshow with descriptions)

We will use the antique French slitter only to cut the Jumbos into miniJumbos - but even for just this one purpose, installing it saves us enormous time and cost.

With miniJumbos cut and ready, we move to the next phase - coating. After coating, every movement of film rolls must happen in complete darkness - first into the aging room and later into the converting room.

But this is another story - coming soon...


David Bias

New Yorker. Crazy for old cameras and analog film. But I love sci-fi. Go figure.