Earlier this week Philadelphia-based QWD Lab released a brand new film developer kit made specifically for small-scale development of motion picture film at home in its native ECN-2 process. The new kit, dubbed simply the “QWD ECN-2 Kit”, comes in powder form (just add water) and will process at least 15 rolls of 35mm/36 exposure, or 65mm/120 format equivalent motion picture film such as Kodak’s VISION3 250D, 200T, 50D and 500T, older VISION stocks as well as Fuji Eterna films.
You’ll need to bring your own stop bath which, if you’re new to film development, you can buy a bottle from any number of online and physical stores letting darkroom gear for about the same price as a couple of rolls of film.
This isn’t about bringing something that feels cinematic to a wider audience, it’s about bringing something that IS cinematic to a wider audience.Jeremy Saltry, QWD Lab
QWD ECN-2 kist are already being used by movie directors and directors of photography in Hollywood and around the world for both work-related and personal projects and now they’re available on an even smaller scale in easily shipped powdered form, there’s really nothing stopping anyone who is already developing their own film at home from shooting cine films for still photography AND developing them in their native Chemistry.
Regular readers of EMULSIVE will be familiar with QWD (Quiet We’re Dreaming) Lab’s Jeremy Saltry through his three-part “Cinematic Storytelling” series, in which Jeremy dedicated several thousand words talking about motion picture film stocks, comparing native ECN-2 processing vs C-41 “cross processing”, and ultimately detailing the complete ECN-2 development process. If you missed it, please do check it out at the preceding links.
I spoke briefly to Jeremy about the release of the QWD ECN-2 Kit and his plans for both the immediate future and further into the long term. Here’s what he had to say:
“People around me have no idea what I do. Many friends who are not photographers and even some who are, I think question my sanity a little bit when I tell them I founded a company that involves 35mm film. They look at it as almost regressive. I don’t blame them.”
“We are very close to bringing 35mm DX coded, factory cassettes to market in addition to 65mm film. What is involved with something like that is a pretty large scale deal. Something we have been working on for the last year. Many moving parts. We are working more closely with a manufacturer to co-package our chems which allows us to really get into the worldwide market and get to scale. You really need the inventory and capital and connections to put something like that in place. That is something we have grown exponentially in the last 1-2 years. Really even quicker.”
“We’ve learned a lot about scaling within your means. Steadily. You never want to grow too quick and there were a few times we had that started to happen. Your film supply runs dry because you didn’t forecast or look ahead. Your chemical side is delayed due to shortages of certain chemicals that might also be used in agriculture or medicine.“
“What happens is you can have demand but you don’t have the supply. That is never a good look. I think this next year will be interesting. We had to kind of market and grow slowly with intent. We were packaging in-house with a limited capacity. That is no longer the case. We were rolling thousands of feet of film by hand. Thankfully those days are behind us.“
Film photography, especially motion picture film for still photography might be a relatively small niche but the financial reward for success is still substantial. It’s easy to forget it’s still the industry is still worth over a billion US dollars a year.
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I asked Jeremy about the (inevitable) competition, who has been using/testing these smaller kits and where he see’s the market for this product.
“Inevitably someone will come out with an ECN-2 kit. It’s not if but when. Coming from the motion side, working for years as a director, still working as a director, and our relationships with everyone involved working in motion as well, we know this process and know it well.”
“We know the right way to do this. It’s why we have DPs and Directors that use this every day in their careers for decks and scouts. Working in motion, you need something that will always work without fail. You rely on your tools to always work – no exceptions. Especially when budgets and talent and crew and a full production is on the line. You just know it works. That’s what QWD is. The right way and consist. No shortcuts.”
“This isn’t about bringing something that feels cinematic to a wider audience, it’s about bringing something that IS cinematic to a wider audience.”
“I think we will always just own ECN-2: kits and film and that is it. We just want to make sure film and kits are always there. That they work and either a pro or a casual shooter knows exactly what they will get, so they can focus on their work without any doubt. We are not going to get wrapped up in accessories or different processes. We do one thing well. It’s this.”
“QWD will always be about the right process. The right colors. QWD will always mean quality and consistency.”
Along with the kit, QWD are also releasing their own hand-rolled, rebranded versions of all four current Kodak VISION3 stocks: VISION3 250D, 200T, 50D and 500T. All four are currently available at Freestyle Photo.
As someone who has been shooting motion picture film stocks for still photography for nearly 8 years, I can’t begin to describe how happy I am at the news of this kit becoming widely available to mere mortals on a regular and consistent basis. Not living in the US or Europe, getting access to some of the newer film developing chemistry options can be a challenge – due to both MSDS restrictions and weight – so I’m incredibly pleased that QWD pursued the powdered route. It’s easier and safer to transport, as well as not as hard on the wallet.
Before you go, I’ll leave you with this: a review of the QWD ECN-2 Kit by Studio C-41’s Bill Manning.
As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
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