30 Sep 2013

Analogue Film: the Sequel

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Analogue Film: the Sequel Analogue Film: the Sequel RedShark/ Shuttershock


Phil Rhodes looks at how Ferrania could be generating new prospects for photochemical film

A few months ago, I had the unfortunate job of writing an article for this site in which we discussed the end of Fuji as a motion picture film manufacturer. Much as we all understand the situation, photochemical film has been a long-lived technology – an immensely long-lived one, compared with anything else of similar complexity – and the end has clearly been nigh for some time. The old dog is still barking only because of a hale and surprising dedication to quality from both crew and producers, which they probably didn't really have to do from a sales and financial perspective.

And, strangely enough, prospects for photochemical origination may be stirring in an entirely unanticipated quarter. Ferrania, named after the area in Italy in which it was founded, manufactured a variety of film stocks from 1923 until 2009. Then, like everyone else, they found the market drying up and shut down film manufacturing. A distressingly large number of presumably mainly skilled staff, representing the vast majority of the company's 230 employees, were laid off in 2012.

Hope for the Future

So far, so depressing, but things are looking up: the name, site, and any remaining equipment have been purchased by a group of former employees, with the intention of starting back up in film manufacturing. When it closed down, the company produced some modern emulsions rated at ISO 200 and 400, although in the first instance they're intending to start making 100-speed films in negative and reversal. And yes, there's a stated intention from Film Ferrania's Nicola Baldini to produce the 100 reversal in motion picture formats. It's based on the stock latterly sold by Imation as Scotch Chrome 100, although presumably somewhat redesigned given the current availability of
the chemicals used to make it.

All of this is, without any doubt whatsoever, the best news for analogue film fans for quite some time. Kodak only make five 35mm camera negative films now, one of which is black and white, and none of them is reversal. I'm not sure how long it's been since there was any announcement of a new film stock whatsoever, and it is of course heartening to witness the founding of new enterprise, particularly in a western country, in high-tech engineering and manufacturing, and with the creation of skilled jobs. The company's website is very sparse at the moment, but on their brief blog entries they've already reported a healthy number of mailing-list signups.

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Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes is a Cinematographer, Technologist, Writer and above all Communicator. Never afraid to speak his mind, and always worth listening to, he's a frequent contributor to RedShark.

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