What is Hand Processed Super 8 and 16mm Film?
Hand processing Super 8 and 16mm film gives your film a
unique look while allowing you to process it for a fraction of the cost
of sending it to a lab. There are special tanks that can allow you to
get a clean look, like from the lab, but the process I've used gives much
more "down and dirty" results.
The process outlined in these pages utilizes a stainless steel developing tank, designed for developing 35mm still slides or negatives, and either a b&w or a color reversal developing kit made by Kodak. More frugal and adventurous hand processers can buy their chemicals in bulk, but the kit is a cheap and easy way to start. The Super 8 cartrige is basically bashed to pieces with a hammer, and the film is stuffed, spaghetti style, into the tank.
Scratches, pieces of emulsion, bleached out segments, and imprints of sprocket
holes are some of the tidbits that will show up on your film. The look
is kind of crazy, and I've had good results using it for experimental
pieces, such as Portrait of Greg , and
music videos. The larger the tank, the cleaner the process. One roll in
a 4 reel tank will come out cleaner than two rolls in a 4 reel tank. (Reels
in this case refer to the 35mm still reels that the tank was designed
for - two 50 ft. rolls of Super 8 can fit in one 4 reel tank, one 50 ft.
roll in a 2 reel tank).
The process works with sound and silent Super 8. Tri-x and Plus-x are processed using a black and white kit, and Ektachrome is processed using a color kit. See the Kodachrome page for instructions on processing Kodachrome.
Hand Processed Super 8 Film Stills
and Video Clips
Tri-x Hand Processed using b&w process
for Quicktime clip of solarized b&w
Note the flecks and scratches. You can
somewhat control the amount of this by the amount of film and other
junk you throw in the tank. The batch that this still is from had
lots of interference due to a problem with the fix, but it came out
looking great! The still is from Joe's Dream.
The clip is from Portrait of Greg.
Ektachrome Hand Processed using color process and
Click here for
You can somewhat control the amount of
solarization by the amount of time you
expose the film to light. If you are processing two rolls at once,
you can somewhat control which roll gets more solarization by putting
that roll into the tank last. This still is from some experimental
footage. The clip is raw footage for My Way.
Super 8 Hand Processing Materials List
1 Tetenal E6 Slide Kit by Jobo
4 1-liter brown, collapsible photochemical
1 Fuji Hunt Chrome 6X Processing Kit
7 5-Liter brown photochemical containers (or equivalent)
1 Kodak TMAX Direct Positive Slide Kit
1 Gallon Fix
1 Liter Hypoclear
6 1-liter brown, collapsible photochemical
35mm 2 or 4-reel stainless steel developing tank (2-reel
develops one 50 foot roll of Super 8 at a time, 4-reel develops one or
two rolls at a time.)
11 x 14 x 4 inch deep plastic tray (a cat box will do
- it's cheaper than a large photo tray)
1 35mm 10-plus reel stainless steel tank, or large plastic
photo tank (the lids tend to stick)
2 Large trays if youre using the Fuji Hunt Kit
For both gauges:
1 Flat-top thermometer
1 Measuring graduate
1 Pair rubber gloves
1 Pair scissors
1 Length string
1 Pair Goggles
1 NIOSH/MSHA certified Respirator
Do your developing in a room with running water that can
be made light tight. Bathrooms work best, and windows in them can be covered
with material from a photo shop, or anything that you improvise. You may
want to wait until dark and turn the lights off in adjoining rooms - whatever
works for you and your space. Make sure the space is well ventilated.
The main thing to remember about safety is that we're playing with chemicals that are harmful to skin, lungs, and the environment. Your best defense is a well-ventilated space. You may also want to get ahold of the following:
You can also order these pamphlets free of charge from Kodak (1-800-242-2424 x25):
- rubber gloves
- an apron
- a pair goggles
- a NIOSH/MSHA certified respirator
- "Safe Handling of Photograhic Chemicals"
- "The Prevention of Contact Dermatitis in Photographic Work"
- "The Environmental Emergency Card"
Step by Step Instructions
To develop film:
1) Follow the kit instructions for mixing the chemicals, and label the
datatainers. Chemicals can be mixed and stored ahead of time. Make sure
to squeeze any air out of the top of the datatainers, to help preserve
the chemicals. All the chemicals, including the bleach, can be reused
for up to 10 rolls of film or more (maybe only 3 rolls if using the b&w
kit to develop Kodachrome).
2) Place the datatainers in the large tray and fill the tray with water
that is hotter than the temperature range that the kit prescribes for
the chemicals. After a few minutes, test the temperature of the chemicals,
and make any adjustments to the water in the tray so that it brings the
chemicals to the right temperature.
3) Gather your materials, particularily the hammer, Super 8 cartridge(s),
and developing tank. You won't need the reel holder inside the tank, just
the tank and its lid.
4) Make your space light tight and turn off the lights. Let your eyes
adjust, and look for light leaks. Fix any before proceeding.
5) For Super 8: In total darkness, hold the Super
8 cartridge on an angle against a hard surface so that the edge of one
side rests on the surface.
Strike the cartridge with the hammer on its upturned edge.
You may need to strike it 3 or more times to crack it. Then pry open the
cartridge and locate the spool of film inside.
Remove and completely unravel the spool of film,
remove it from the core, briefly rinse it (optional - facilitates solution
flow), bunch it up, and stuff it into the developing tank. Put the lid
on the tank securely, and then turn on the lights. (Now that you
don't need the room to be light tight, you can open the door and window
to improve ventilation.)
For 16mm: In total darkness, simply pull the film
off the 100-foot daylight spool. Keep in mind that you only need to spool
off as much as you feel is appropriate for the tank youre using,
then return the rest to its light-tight box. You can keep track by estimating
an arms length of film as equal to about 3 feet. Be careful with
400-foot loads because they have nothing more than one small plastic core
to support them.
6) Follow kit instructions for processing. The times the
kit gives are for from the time the chemical is first poured into the
tank until the time that the next chemical is poured. Use the funnel to
put the chemicals back into the datatainers. When developing b&w film,
follow the fix with a few minutes of Hypoclear, which will cut the rinse
time down to 4 minutes.
7) After rinsing, hang the film up on a line or shower
rod and blow dry.
8) When dry, find the tail end of the film, which will
read "exposed." Spool the film onto a reel (the sprocket holes are closest
to you when spooling from underneath the reel left to right).
9) Attach leader and project.
There are a number of ways to tweak the process to get different looks to your film, both during and after the hand processing.
Solarization is the effect that I've had the most fun with. When
you solarize your black and white film, the image will flash to a negative
at random parts. In the color process, you also get neat colors. See the
Stills and Clips page for a hint at what this
To solarize your film: Two-thirds of the way through the first developer, open the lid of the tank in total darkness and then flash the film with a 100 watt bulb from about three feet away for a very brief time (less than a second). Put the lid back on and continue processing.
You can also experiment with different developing times. The kits include a push/pull table. You can experiment with the temperature of the chemicals, as well. Cooler temperatures produce "cooler" tones (more towards blues), and warmer temperatures produce "warmer" tones (more towards reds).
You can throw pennies, safety pins, or anything else you can think of into the tank and see what imprints they leave on the film.
You can also tint and tone your film after you process it, using special dyes, or whatever you come up with. Rephotograph your film, dual project it, optically print it, transfer it to video and digitize it to add digital effects. The possibilities are endless!
Hand Processing Kodachrome
Unfortunately, there are no chemicals (that I've heard of) available for hand processing Kodachrome. However, we can get around this by using black and white chemicals and changing the developing times. Here's how:
- from notes by M. Gorey Dixon
- When shooting Kodachrome, overexpose 1/2 to 1 stop to get a light, contrasty image. Regular or underexposure creates a dense, brown toned, muddy image.
- Develop the film for 12 to 14 minutes in the first developer and in the re-developer. Follow standard b&w guidelines for the other steps.
- To bring out some Kodachrome color in tones between sepia and orange, briefly return the film to the bleach, and then re-develop once again for 12-14 minutes.
Super 8 Web Resources
The 8mm Film Format Metadirectory
super . . . Super . . . SUPER 8!
Gerald and April's Small Format Movie Page
Super-8 Filmmaking: Literature
KODAK: PMI Super 8
THROUGH THE LENS: An E-Zine on Super8 FilmMaking
Hand Processing Color Reversal Film
Film Arts Foundation