EXCLUSIVE: Silberra BW film announcement + founder interview
UPDATE #2: Campaign now live
Silberra’s Indiegogo campaign is now live and can be accessed at the link below:
UPDATE #1: 120 and large format film added
I’m pleased to be able to announce that 120 films have been added to Silberra’s Indiegogo roster, giving us access to PAN50, 100 and 160 in 120 roll format.
In addition, development has begun on 4×5 and 8×10 versions of their OTRA series.
Fantastic news, just hours away from the official announcement.
I’m proud to be able to exclusively announce the start of Silberra’s new crowdfunding campaign, which supports the release of four new new black and white film series and a total of seven new films.
The campaign, released on Wednesday 25th October 2017 and this article outlines the films being readied for release, as well as a look into Silberra itself, through an interview I recently conducted with co-founders, Vladimir Vishnevsky and Konstantin Shabanov.
I’ve had the good fortune to test out most of the films Silberra are announcing, as well as one of Silberra’s film developers, Ascorol. You can find examples I’ve posted so far here on EMULSIVE, and more will be posted all this week.
Here’s what’s covered in this article:
Table of contents
- 1 Silberra crowdfunding announcement
- 2 Silberra founder interview
- 3 Closing thoughts
Silberra crowdfunding announcement
Silberra’s announcement covers four new 35mm and 120 black and white film series, as well as new photographic papers and development chemistry.
The four film series are:
- Silberra PAN, based on a tweaked Agfa recipe and available in four stocks: ISO 50, 100 and 160, as well as a limited edition 200 ISO film.
- Silberra ORTA, a brand new from-scratch orthochromatic film, available in ISO 25, 50 and 80 versions.
- Silberra IC, a brand new isochromatic film stock.
- Silberra PAN II, a brand new panchromatic film.
That’s a lot to take in, so let me break it down:
Silberra PAN: ready for mass production
Silberra’s PAN series is derived from technical and surveillance films by Agfa, which have been adapted to provide lower contrast, increase acutance and broaden the film’s dynamic range. The films retain the IR sensitivity Agfa surveillance films are known for, which can lead to some interesting Wood effects at certain times of the day.
Silberra PAN is ready now and will be available for preorder through the Indiegogo campaign in 35mm and 120 formats.
Silberra ORTA: ready for mass production
Where Silberra PAN is based on an existing emulsion which has been tweaked for use in still photography, ORTA is a totally new orthochromatic emulsion and will be available in ISO 25, 50 and 80 versions. It’s worth bearing in mind that when released, ORTA 80 will be the fastest orthochromatic film in production.
The film is currently in a late beta-testing stage and is available for preorder in 35mm and 120 formats. In addition, I have been made aware that development has started on 4×5 and 8×10 versions of ORTA!
Silberra IC and PAN II: in R&D
The third and fourth film series being announced are Silberra IC (isochromatic film) and PAN II (panchromatic film). Like ORTA, both are brand new emulsions and but are currently in early development. Silberra hope to have the films ready for formal testing in approximately six months. There’s further detail over at the campaign’s pre-launch page.
The rewards below are available directly on the Silberra Indiegogo campaign.
2x Film packs (USD15):
35mm Silberra PAN: 1x PAN50 and 1x PAN100.
35mm Silberra PAN: 1x PAN100 and 1x PAN160.
35mm Silberra PAN: 2x PAN200.
35mm Silberra ORTA: 1x ORTA50 and 1x ORTA80.
120 Silberra PAN: 1x PAN50 and 1x PAN100.
120 Silberra PAN: 1x PAN100 and 1x PAN160.
120 Silberra ORTA: 1x ORTA50 and 1x ORTA80.
10x Film packs (USD55-150):
35mm Silberra PAN: 5x PAN50 and 5x PAN100.
35mm Silberra PAN: 5x PAN100 and 5x PAN160.
120 Silberra PAN: 5x PAN50 and 5x PAN100.
120 Silberra PAN: 5x PAN100 and 5x PAN160.
35mm Silberra ORTA: 5x ORTA50 and 5x ORTA80.
120 Silberra ORTA: 5x ORTA50 and 5x ORTA80.
Collector’s edition (USD250):
Limited edition box set
Sample images and box shots
There are several hundred photographs created by photographers all over the world over at Silberra’s social presences on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Here are a few choice examples I’ve pulled from social media. Please check individual photo credits and make sure you give the photographers a follow.
To view the images fill screen, click or tap and swipe, click or tap to navigate through each frame.
Silberra founder interview
I grabbed some time with Sillberra’s founders, Vladimir and Konstantin to talk to them about the company’s history, ask them a bit more about the nature of the films they’re hoping to fund through their Indiegogo campaign, and learn a bit about how they expect the campaign to assist, production and ongoing R&D.
Here’s how it went:
EM: What, why and when? There’s a lot to take in with the announcement, so can you tell us a little about the history of Silberra and what led you to start this project?
KS+VV: KSilberra is new – created just this year – but Vladimir and I started off our partnership several years ago with a small online store for film photography products here in Russia.
Vladimir was a professional photographer and running a photography school at the time; and there was a certain demand for supplies that wasn’t being met, so we decided to fill the gap.
At the time we were producing developers, fixers, stop baths, and alternative process materials for cyanotype and gum bichromate printing. There was no one else who was producing this kind of thing for analogue photographers in Russia at the time and even today, those who do are very few and far between.
In 2012, the owner of the supplier we were partnering with decided to give up the devices and materials he was using for production and in 2012 we started doing it all ourselves. Our volumes and production speed were growing pretty fast and we naturally expanded to fill the need.
More recently, over the past few years, we’ve been working with a producer of commercial chemical photography materials – materials not aimed for use by “normal” photographers. The local industry is simply not big enough for a large company to create something for the mass market, so they’re not interested in entering what we call the “hidden market” of analog photography here in Russia. It might be similar in some other countries but here, if you’re not in the scene, you really won’t know it exists.
EM: So how are you taking care of the emulsion and coating aspect? Is your current operation set up for scale?
KS+VV: We’re set-up for producing finished film to a certain point and that’s partly what the crowdfunding campaign is designed to help us with. To understand the need for the campaign, it’s important to understand the analogue photography landscape here in Russia.
Tasma, who some people in the West may know is basically the only factory here in Russia manufacturing film; and they produce it in huge quantities. The minimum volume requirements are not suitable for us right now. They might never be.
Additionally, a lot of the required technology is missing, or inaccessible to us. When the USSR broke up, much of the knowledge and facilities were divided and went to the hands of private enterprise. Physical resources were split and the intellectual side – knowledge, experience and awareness of the technology was decimated. The technology should have been common but was lost.
Over the past few years, Vladimir and I have had to learn so much as we’ve created chemistry and now real, physical film stocks. Types of film grain, light sensitive materials, properties of emulsive layers, coatings, anti-halation, substrate technology…you could say that the process has been a bit like creating a symphony orchestra one instrument at a time while the music is still being written. We know what it should sound like and are tweaking everything all the time! It really seems like an impossible project at times but we’ve come so far and won’t be stopping until we’re done.
Production of the film in the quantities we need for true mass market distribution won’t be a problem, as we already have the working relationships and specifications; and because we’re already producing the films in small quantities. What a successful funding campaign will allow us to do is place the orders we need for the materials we need, build out our infrastructure and continue research and development on two new film stocks IC and PAN II.
EM: Can you tell us about PAN and ORTA, the two films that are the main focus of the campaign?
KS+VV: Silberra PAN is a modified Agfa stock, specially made for the still photography market for Silberra. The film in its original form has never been made publicly available and although it would have been quite easy to release the original film, we decided to make a few changes to give it more of a traditional still photographic feeling. We’ve adjusted the base emulsion to lower contrast and bring out mid-tones, increase acutance and make it more responsive across the entire light spectrum. We decided to keep its IR and near-IR sensitivity, as the effects it can bring to (filterless) photography are quite special!
ORTA, our orthochromatic film is being produced in partnership with a partner that specialises in producing slow, very high resolution films and material for the holographic industry. They have been around since 1930 and also still produce glass plates, technical copying film. We are working with them to solve coating and other challenges for this film based on our own direct feedback and photographers who have been shooting both ORTA 50 and 80 for the past few months.
ORTA is the first step in our plan for three totally new, designed and made in Russia films. The other two will be an isochromatic film and a panchromatic film (PAN II). We have supported our R&D efforts ourselves until now, learning as we go. Our ISO and PAN II films will be released in that order for a very good reason: we are creating the emulsions, coatings and substrate from scratch. These are not films that exist anywhere outside of Silberra and we are very excited to be able to bring them to the market!
Let’s talk about the campaign in a bit more detail. Exactly what is this funding supporting and what challenges do you face in the months ahead?
KS+VV: This is going to be a long answer, so let us break this into a few parts: PAN, ORTA, Finishing/Production and Silberra IC / PAN II.
PAN: We have so far been funding research, development and production directly and you could say that the campaign is actually divided into two smaller parts. The first part is the mass production of Silberra PAN. It is unique and even in it’s original form as an Agfa stock, was never released to the public. We wish to bring our modified version to the market as something to help establish our name outside of our local audience. The PAN series, along with the chemistry we produce shall form the basic ground for us to build from.
ORTA: The second part of the campaign covers our our orthochromatic, isochromatic and new panchromatic films. Orthochromatic films are simpler to produce than panchromatic films, as demonstrated by the evolution of film stocks over the last 100+ years. It is our plan to use Silberra ORTA as the basis for the development of our PAN II series.
ORTA’s emulsion is ready to go and we are at the stage where we need to create specific substrates to coat the film onto, as well as making the necessary changes to the coating machines themselves. We can go into some detail here but it’s probably best described as engineering time to make the adjustments and ongoing tweaks. After that, we’re aiming to create somewhere in the region of 3sq kilometers of material, which will then be ust and prepared as film!
Finishing / Production: In order to prepare for mass production, there are lots of things we need to buy in wholesale quantities to create the master rolls of ORTA (and to finalise the packing/production of PAN film). There is no film finishing/packaging line here in Russia, so we will have to buy new cartridges, invent some kind of semi-automated spooling line or subcontract the finishing/packaging line abroad.
We are still hand rolling those films into cartridges and use reliable bulk loaders for that operation. We currently use recycled cartridges, which makes us a bit more eco-friendly and gives us an opportunity to offer our future backers at Indiegogo real rewards within a reasonable timeframe and not years of expectations.
Silberra IC / PAN II: Our planned Isochromatic (IC) and Panchromatic (PAN II) films are what we’re calling our second and third generation Silberra films (ORTA being first generation), We cannot produce PAN II without IC, or IC without ORTA: they are stepping stones and represent the same leaps that companies like ILFORD and Kodak made in their own early histories.
~ Konstantin and Vladimir
I’ve spent the past few months getting to know Konstantin and Vladimir and and am 100% behind what they’re trying to do. Making new film, totally new film, seems a much better endeavour than faking the feeling of the medium with plastic novelty – I’m talking about you, “Yashica”.
Funding the ability of Silberra to start manufacturing these films in volume is the primary goal of the campaign and in my opinion, well, well worth your contribution.
Konstantin and Vladimir have gotten so far by themselves and the fact they’ve been creating their of film chemistry for the past eight years should let you know they’re not going anywhere.
There are aspects of their grand goals that simply cannot be achieved without the support from the global film photography community, so if you like what you see here, take a punt and help be a part of the future of film photography!
Thanks for reading and please drop me a line with any questions in the comments below.
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