Making and experimenting with homemade redscale film – Agfa Vista Plus 200
This article covers making and experimenting with redscale film at home. I’ll be walking you through the (very simple) steps you’ll need to roll your own, redscale film using Agfa Vista Plus 200, as well as showing you how my own tests went after shooting this film at EI 50, 100 and 200.
But first, some background…
After hearing about this year’s #BIFscale17, which is running through February 2017, I was not totally sure what it was all about…or even what exactly redscale film was. So, I started searching…
To the uninitiated, redscale film is regular C41 colour film that has been flipped over. This means that instead of exposing the film on the emulsion side, it’s exposed through the opposite side.
Light has to pass through the film base and red sensitive layer before it’s captured by the emulsion, which is what gives photographs taken with redscale film their special look.
In addition, to take into account the extra “stuff” the light has to go through, redscale film is normally exposed at a lower Exposure Index (at a lower ISO on your meter). This has the interesting effect of changing the results of the film to increase or decrease the “red” factor.
Also, because all C41 films are developed for the same time in the same chemicals, you can have wildly different results on the same roll of film when you shoot different frames at different speeds. You’ll be able to see more of what these results can look like using redscale Agfa Vista Plus 200 below but first…making the film.
Making your own redscale film
After a bit more searching I found out how easy it was to make my own redscale film at home and I would like to share both this process with you below before showing you some example shots.
The only prerequisite to making your own redscale film (aside from needing a roll of film), is that you will need either a darkroom or a changing bag in which to re.roll your regular C41 film backwards.
Here is a very quick tutorial on how to roll your own…
You will need:
- A roll of colour (C-41) 35mm film plus another roll that you are happy to waste, or an empty 35mm film cassette.
- A pair of scissors, or a knife
- Some tape (double or single sided)
- Somewhere dark to roll it back
First things first, if you plan on sacrificing a roll of film in order to create an empty cassette, pull out all the film and cut it off, leaving approximately 1 inch / 2.5cm sticking out.
If use are using a spent cassette from a lab, or left over from home processing, make sure that there’s enough film left sticking out of it for you to stick the redscaled film to a bit later.
Your empty cassette should look like the roll in the top left of the example below.
Next, take your donor film – the roll you will be converting – and cut the leader off (bottom right in the example above).
Stick the donor film to the empty cassette you prepared above, remembering to stick it on backwards. That is, stick it so that the lighter coloured emulsion side of the film points “out” – the emulsion points “in” on 35mm film.
The colour of the emulsion / non-emulsion side of your film should be distinct; one will be nearly black and the other the colour of coffee with a dash of milk.
I use strong double-sided tape to stick mine together and overlap the films approximately 10mm. See the example below.
All that remains to be done to is wind the donor film back into the empty cassette in a dark environment.
- You can see the empty cassette on the right in the picture above.
- Take note of the donor film on the left. As per the previous step, it’s stuck on backwards.
If you don’t have a darkroom, or film changing bag, make sure you are somewhere dark when you wind the donor film into the empty cassette.
With the donor film safely wound into the empty cassette, cut off the film approximately 1 inch / 2.5cm from the cassette’s light seal.
Keep it so that you can use the it again for the next roll (smart, eh?)
All that’s left is for you to cut a new leader so that you can load it into a camera.
And you’re done.
I was not sure of what sort of results I would get and after a bit more research, I decided to shoot 3 rolls of Identical fresh Agfa Vista Plus 200 at 3 different speeds: 50, 100 and box speed (200).
I also used the same camera/lens combo for all three rolls: my Nikon F100 with a 50mm f/1.4 AF-S.
Finally, all 3 rolls were home developed using a Tetenal C41 kit and the 30C method.
My results follow.
Agfa Vista Plus 200 redscale shot at EI 50
My first roll was shot with my meter set to ISO 50 and shed light on a problem with the film window on my F100. It must have been leaking a little light, as over half of the frames had light leaks of varying strengths, as can be seen below.
The colours that this roll produced were quite subtle except for the 2 images that where shot with very little light.
Agfa Vista Plus 200 redscale shot at EI 100
The 2nd roll was shot all at night which really exaggerated the reds so this test really didn’t show that by decreasing the amount of light gives a much redder image in daylight conditions but if you shoot it on long exposures then the red really pops.
These were all shot between 2 seconds and 20 seconds.
Agfa Vista Plus 200 redscale shot at EI 200
The 3rd roll I shot at box speed in quite a bright but overcast conditions.
This is my favourite look that I got from Vista, the reds really glowed but I did notice that if it was over exposed like the landscape shot here then the red effect is drastically diminished.
As a first time shooter of redscale, my conclusions are simple: the less light the film gets, be it by ISO settings or slower shutter speeds or slight under exposure, the redder the image.
What I am pleased about is how Vista performs, as it is only £1 per roll here in the UK, it’s really cheap to experiment with.
I recommend everyone to give it ago…it’s fun to experiment.
You can find more of my stuff linked in the author bio below.
Thanks for reading,
~ Tim Dobbs
Contribute to EMULSIVE
EMULSIVE NEEDS YOU. The driving force behind EMULSIVE is knowledge transfer, specifically engendering more of it in the film photography community. You can help by contributing your thoughts, work and ideas.
Help drive an open, collaborative community – all you need do is drop us a line and we’ll work something out.