Reviving An Old Film Brand
By James Grahame
We're at a crossroad in digital imaging - that magical time in a technology's adoption curve where nearly everyone uses and enthuses about it. In a few years - perhaps five or ten - we'll see a small but determined group of people aggressively readopt traditional still and motion picture film as if it were a new technology. And that's a good thing, because it gives us more variety.
The problem is that film manufacturers are in trouble and only a handful will survive the next five or 10 years. That's where this Kickstarter project comes in. Ferrania started making film in Northern Italy in 1923 -- think of a classic Italian film and chances are that it was shot on their film stock. The company was acquired by 3M in 1965 and became independent again in 1999. The rise of digital pushed them to close in 2010.
Fast-forward to 2012 and a new company -- FILM Ferrania -- was born, based out of the old Ferrania Research & Development building. They've started a Kickstarter project to fund a small bach of ScotchChrome, which is a 100 ASA daylight color reversal film that can be used for slides or movie projection. It's a relatively new formulation created by 3M Imation in the late 1990s and produced by Ferrania until 2003.
The Kickstarter project is already fully funded with several weeks still to go, and the FILM Ferrania gang are excited about using some of the proceeds to rescue important production machinery from old Ferrania buildings that are slated for demolition. These include a machine that makes triacetate base (the smooth, clear plastic that the photo-sensitive chemicals are coated onto), a chemical synthesis lab to manufacture the photo-sensitive chemicals, and a third machine that applies a smooth coating of chemical onto the film base. In other words, everything needed to make film in reasonably large quantities.
So what makes this Kickstarter project exciting? It's the fact that FILM Ferrania has chosen to make color reversal film, which is critically important to filmmakers who want to shoot and project their movies without being forced to digitize negative film. Former film giant Kodak is focusing on negative film, simply because it's the stuff that the professional motion picture industry requires. Several other manufacturers have chosen to concentrate on high-quality B&W stock, so Ferrania will occupy an important niche in the market.
100 More Years of Analog: FILM Ferrania [thanks for the tip, Robert Schmitt!]