1981 Handling Original Film Instructional Video

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Detailed Description

A 1981 video on film handing from the USGS EROS Center.


Date Taken:

Length: 00:10:35

Location Taken: Sioux Falls, SD, US


The EROS Data Center was designed for the purpose of storing, reproducing, and distributing photographic imagery and electronic data acquired by satellite and aircraft.
The activities performed by each branch of the center contribute to these three main functions. Their goal – to provide top-quality products and first-rate service. Vital to meeting this goal is the work done by the people who actually produce the final product – those who handle the film in the photographic laboratory. 
Handling film is a touchy business. Most of us have known this from childhood, when it was ingrained in us by warnings – don’t touch the slide, just the cardboard edge. By direct accusations – you’re smudging it. And by subtle hints – perhaps you could learn to take pictures when you’re a little older.
Film handling is a touchy business – one which requires care, patience, and skill. Original film which is damaged cannot be repaired. Worse yet, it cannot be replaced. In order to become skillful in film handling, you must be constantly aware of some basic do’s and don’ts.
You must first be aware of any surfaces or equipment parts with which the film comes in contact.
Take the DeVere enlarger, for instance. It is one of the many pieces of equipment which has rollers. Do the rollers spin freely, or are they sluggish? If the film does not move slowly from one area to another, it may be scratched, torn, smudged, damaged in a number of ways. Such damage can be avoided by simply running your fingers over the rollers to check them before positioning the film over them.
If there is something hampering their movement, it must be remedied before production can continue. Make it a practice to first check any rollers for free movement. Film should not be allowed to drag across a surface if at all possible.
There are a number of ways to avoid this, depending upon the instrument being used. When placing film on the Richard rewinds on either side of a light table, for example, be sure that the film feeds upward over the top of the roll positioning the aperture of the densitometer over the film demonstrates another example of how unwanted contact with original film can occur.
It is a procedure that requires concentration so that the film is not damaged. Be alert. Do not allow distractions to affect your work. Get to know the equipment you operate.
Another way to protect film when it is put into rewinds is to use the correct spool size. On a gondola printer, a spool with a relatively small diameter is necessary in order to avoid scratching the film’s surface against the platen.
Another type of printer, on the other hand, will require a larger spool. Also, beware of spools that have lost their original shape.
If you see that a flange is bent, dispose of the spool. Attempting to use it will only cause the film to crease and possibly tear as it comes in contact with the bent metal. Along the same line, don’t be the person who bends spools in the first place. Don’t drop them, mount them incorrectly, or ever use them for purposes other than what they are intended.
Constantly ask yourself questions. Are the catch knobs locked on the light table’s rewind? Another thing to be conscious of when working with spools is the fact that they must be in alignment.
Skewed film will buckle, and creased or torn film will once again result. And don’t neglect to
adjust the tension screws when you place a roll of film onto the rewinds.
They are present on many pieces of equipment in the photo lab. A certain amount of pressure is needed so that the film does not droop excessively. And yet, too much tension can cause damage.
Adjust them each time so that there is the right degree of drag. A vital habit to develop is to check to see where machine controls are set before using a piece of equipment.
Film can be seriously marred on the durst color enlarger, for example, if the operator attempts to slide
the film between the enclosed glass plates of its negative carrier. You should first check to see that the latch is set so that the plates are apart, allowing free movement of the film. Because a great many instruments are run by electricity, the operator should always check to determine the setting of switches before positioning the film and turning on the power.
This step not only protects the film, it can protect the user from injury as well. Is it set to go left when you want it to go right? Is it in the null position or on full power? This can be especially vital when you are working with a machine such as the Colorado printer. It can expose as much as 100 feet of film per minute.
By the time you realize what is happening, especially in a darkroom, the situation will be out of control.
Don’t let the equipment catch you off-guard. There are other seemingly obvious, but very important, habits to develop if you want to consider yourself a pro film handler.
You must be extra-conscious of your actions when working in a darkroom. Take care, for example, when cutting raw stock. You would be surprised by the number of film rolls that are cut inadvertently.
The Mark IV printer makes a good example. Notice how close the roll of original film is to the roll of raw stock. A person who is not concentrating is within a few inches of botching the job. It’s almost too obvious to mention this matter, but please, don’t sneeze on the film. Again, awareness counts.
Sneezing is such a common occurrence that, in other situations, you might not think twice about it. But when handling film, you must be aware of anything that will change the original image, be it an obvious scratch or a barely visible water drop. 
Always wear gloves that fit properly. Be sure that they are clean and untorn. Otherwise, dust and
smudges will result. Another thing – use the Static Masters as they were meant to be used. Gently brush the film with the soft camel hair, not with the plastic casing, which you may have neglected to adjust.
Be careful when filing chip masters so you don’t force the folders into spaces which are too close. Make room first by separating the other files with your free hand. And of course, unless you know it is safe to do so, don’t turn on the lights.
Be aware of the situation each time you enter a darkroom. Is a job in process? Can normal room lights be turned on, or must safelight illumination be used? Always remember, original film cannot be replaced. 
Even if the same area is re-flown and re-photographed, the image will never be the same one that was shot the first time. 
The passage of time alone will have altered the areas, not to mention the changes brought about by such forces as climate and human intervention. Another thing to remember – be sure to put original film back into its container when you leave for the evening or for the weekend.
By leaving the film where it is, you might argue, the operator could easily begin the job where he left off. You might say it’s more convenient that way.
Actually, it’s not. The film will have to be cleaned the next day to remove the dust which will have collected in it. By leaving it out, too, there is a chance that the film could be accidentally damaged by another person who happens to be in the area after you have left.
The damage would be your responsibility. The film can provides protection for film when it is not being printed. Use it for that purpose. As a film handler, you will not always be working with original film.
Many times, prints are made from working masters. You might argue that a person does not need to be as careful with a working master as he does with original film because a working master can be replaced. The process of producing another master, however, is costly and time-consuming.
The work order in progress at the time has to be halted and set aside, therefore causing a greater turnaround period. So once again, the importance of taking precautions to protect the materials you work with cannot be over-emphasized.
Let’s review what we have covered. Be alert so that distractions do not detract you from your work. Check any equipment rollers for free movement. Do not allow film to drag across an unprotected surface. Use unbent spools of the appropriate diameter and align them correctly. 
Adjust tension screws each time film is placed on Richard rewinds. Note machine control settings
before turning on the power. Be careful when cutting raw stock. Adjust your Static Masters before using them. Wear clean, well-fitted gloves whenever you handle film. Don’t drop or bend chip masters. And don’t turn on the darkroom lights until you know that it is safe to do so.
There is a certain pride which [break in audio] goal should be to build good habits so that, with repetition, they become automatic. By being alert, patient, and skillful, you can protect the quality of the final product and the fine reputation of the EROS Data Center.
That is quite a responsibility, don’t you think?