Friday, October 16, 2009

DIY Redscale Film!

Out of all of the rad techniques out there that exist for playing with color film, by far one of my all time favs is making redscale film. It is really simple to do, and the results are stunning, especially if you use a toy camera such as the Holga.

There's a Wikepedia article here if you'd like to read more about how it works, but basically we're going to be exposing the film from the backside, and as the light hits the film layer first, instead of the emulsion, the blues and greens are mostly filtered out. What is left is the deep reds, maroons, and yellows. It all depends on the film. In my test yesterday, the cheap Fuji Sensia 400 speed gave me a vibrant orange-red hue. The light leaks that crept in added some brilliant blues to some of the images!
So gather up your materials. You'll need:

  • 1 roll of 35 mm color film
  • 1 empty roll of film with a bit of film left sticking out
  • some scotch tape
  • scissors
  • a changing bag, darkroom, or hide under your sheets (a bit dusty though)
Cut the leader off of the unexposed roll of film at a right angle. Make it as clean and straight as possible.

Now tape the unexposed film to the bit of film left sticking out of the empty roll, making sure it is backwards. In the pic above, the unexposed roll is on the left, the empty spool is on the right. Notice how the emulsion layer faces the camera on the unexposed roll, while the empty spool has its film layer facing us.

Pop it in the changing bag/darkroom/under your covers/etc. It doesn't matter as long as it is totally dark, and I mean NO light at all.
Now, I can't really show you the next step (because it's in the dark, duh), wind the film from the unexposed spool onto the empty one. Be gentle, the emulsion is easily scratched. Just grab the knob on the top of the empty spool and twist, moving the film from one spool to the other.
Once you've done that, making sure you're at the end of the roll, you can bring everything back into the light. You'll have to cut the film again, but make sure to leave a little flap of film sticking out of both reels, but especially the one that now has all the film in it.

This is what you should end up with. The reel with all the film on it is on the left, and the now empty spool is on the right. Notice how the emulsion layer faces us on the spool on the right. That's what we're after!

Now just load it into your camera and fire away! You'll notice I wrote a red "R" on my spool, that's to help me distinguish between redscale and regular film. But you can also tell because the emulsion side faces the back of the camera, and the glossy film side is now what gets exposed in the camera.
If you want to load this into a regular camera, that is, one with a standard take-up reel, you may need to trim the film a bit and make yourself a feed tab. On the holga it's no problem because I just tape it to a standard 120 format film reel and then unload the camera in a changing bag. But for normal 35 mm cameras (Slim Devil, LC-A, Lubitel, whatever) just snip away part of the top of the film and make a new leader.
Now get out there and take some crazy redscale pictures! Oh, and tell your photo processor that the emulsion is backwards and not to worry if everything comes out red. I forgot to mention that to my hour photo lab, and they were a little annoyed. Oops.
Happy snapping!

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