New colour film is coming!
I spoke with Birgit Buchart, a Marketing PR Manager at Lomography USA on Thursday about the email I’ve received earlier. Titled: “Confidential: NEW Lomography Color Negative Film in the Making.”
Today I am able to reveal some of the details about this new stock.
Our photochemical industry has had its ups and downs. Consumption peaked around the year 2003 when almost a billion rolls of film were sold. Public interest has drastically declined in the following five years to just “roughly 2% of that,” — Time Magazine. Today it’s on the rise again.
For Lomography, the launch of the “world’s first truly new color negative film stock in over a decade” is their latest effort to test the market and, perhaps, expand its boundaries.
The science behind making film, especially in large batches, is complex. The logistics required to set up a new emulsion are so challenging that multiple successfully funded efforts have spectacularly failed. Even Kodak has had its share of setbacks while preparing their relaunch of Ektachrome emulsion.
Because of the headaches associated with sourcing difficult-to-find machinery and updating the chemistry to the current environmental standards, many businesses, including Lomography, opt to rebrand existing stock instead. This usually means sourcing an active film manufacturer or a large batch of film and building marketing efforts to promote and sell.
Today, Lomography is promising to take it to the next level with their newly-formulated emulsion from scratch.
The emulsion has been in development for at least a year, according to Birgit. There has been a lot of thought and effort put into this project.
For Lomography, the Kickstarter campaign to fund Lomochrome Metropolis will be their eleventh launch. So far, they’ve had a perfect record of backer fulfilment. Making new colour emulsion from scratch, at scale is a huge undertaking so I made a point to ask Birgit for some reassurance. The plan, as she told me during the call, is to send the rewards around February 2020 and begin worldwide distribution shortly after. The film, while still being tested and tweaked, is ready to be packaged in 35mm, 120, 110 and 16mm formats.
Lomography has always been secretive about their manufacturing process. I’ve seen no photos of the factory floor or detailed information on the technology behind the emulsion. So far, Birgit could only reveal that the film is very forgiving to over- and under-exposure.
She also mentioned that it is possible to develop it in E6 chemistry. Although the results that their tests revealed were “not flattering” due to a strong green hue.
I’ve requested additional information and contacts for the people involved in formulating the chemistry. The HQ denied. However, I’m still hopeful that the company will eventually reveal some facts to bring the fans a little closer to the “backstage” experience. I also think that the science and reasoning behind this film could help its users understand the motivations and the vision of the crew who made it.
✹ Update: Lomography’s cofounder Matthias Fiegl briefly mentions “…a production chain throughout different continents with different but equally passionate partners” in Katheryn Thayer’s article on Core77. Thayer further describes the production as “restricted to small batches.” Seeing how the crowdfunding goal for Metropolis is just USD 100K, this seems like a reasonable strategy. Especially in the context of Film Ferrania’s campaign to restart an existing film factory with, so far, a five-year delay on backer rewards.
Looking at the sample images, the film appears to create pleasing palettes for skin and reflective surfaces. It does not produce natural colour tones otherwise. This emulsion should be used with the intent of a stark effect.
The overall feel that the dyes provide is cool and reserved when it comes to saturation. Teal dominates the shadows, the highlights are mild orange.
The silver compound crystals which form shadows and highlights are seemingly capable of retaining a lot of sharpness and detail in a narrow band of exposure. I would think slide film or narrower for maximum precision. The falloff is stark, but the information is retained quite well in the overblown areas. Shadows are darkness.
✹ Update: It may be worth your time checking out Studio C-41: 1 Hour Photo Podcast episode 6, season 3. There, Birgit suggests shooting the film at ISO 100 for milder, less saturated colours. She also reminds Bill’s listeners that Lomography is the only active manufacturer of 110 film format.
Metropolis is a brand new emulsion. Many of its aspects are expected to change as the production ramps up. Birgit confirmed that they are still running tests and adding tweaks.
A few trial silver gelatin prints have been made, they are currently at the Vienna HQ. Looking great as I am told. A video test of the 16mm reel is yet to be done — can’t wait to see the results of that one! Understandably, Lomography had only so much footage and time available for the initial sampling. In fact, 16mm film reels will only be produced if 500 people or more pledge to buy.
If you bulk-load your film, there is a $190USD deal for a 30-metre 35mm package. This should give you about 18 rolls with the standard 36exp at just over $10 each. Could be a worthwhile investment should you like to play with the film and push it in different directions.
Further details on the launch and backer rewards, a.k.a. preorder, options can be found on the Kickstarter page for Lomochrome Metropolis film launch campaign.
Lomography’s Metropolis project feels like a mix of innovation and improvisation with plenty room left for simple fun. Its launch is certainly good news for the film photography community, which feared extinction just a couple years back. I’m looking forward to testing it in my favourite camera.