The film cassette label states that the S stands for Sound Recording Film. I wondered how a film designed for making movie sound tracks would fare in conventional photography. In short, Washi S was most definitely worth investigating, especially as I was given a roll gratis.
Who or what is Film Washi?
Washi are billed as the smallest film company. Lomig Perrotin founded the company in 2003 in a closet in his Paris (France) apartment. His first film, a paper negative, was a hand coated emulsion on Japanese Washi paper.
Today Film Washi offer a range of converted films using paper, x-ray, aerial, movie and infra red materials, they are now based in St.Nazaire, France.
Film Washi S is a monochrome 35mm Sound Recording Film. The Film Washi S datasheet states that this is a panchromatic emulsion but not fully red sensitive. Washi’s description of Washi S reads:
“Film “S” is a film used by motion picture professionals for sound recording, an use which requires very fine grain and ultra high definition. This sharpness is guaranteed by a special anti-halation layer located between the film’s base and the emulsion layer, while its usually in back layer for ordinary films.”
The film’s maximum spectral sensitivity is 620 nanometres which means that it runs out in the orange sensitivity region. Stated ISO is 50, with very fine grain and very high contrast. Washi suggest shooting in diffuse light to help reduce contrast.
The film is available as a bulk roll or in a recycled cassette (mine was Agfa Precisa). The datasheet has a list of recommended processing times with various developers. The anti halation layer is between the emulsion and the base rather than on the back of the film to give high definition.
What is sound recording film?
Cinema release prints have optical sound tracks at the edge of the picture. Light is projected through the optical tracks, picked up by sensors and converted into sound. Printing the sound tracks onto the release print ensures synchronisation with picture is always maintained.
The top image shows a sound recording film negative that has three different types of sound tracks, two digital and two analogue tracks. The analogue being the black wavy lines on the left of the negative and the white wavy lines on the positive. The digital tracks are the grainy looking stripes on either edge of the film and between the sprocket holes.
The lower image is the cinema release print which has been made using the sound recording and image negatives in a contact printing machine.
Exposure and processing
I shot the film in a Leica M2 with 50mm Summarit-M f/2.5 lens, metering at ISO 50 for the shadows.
The datasheet suggests taking three blank images before starting your roll to avoid light piping through the polyester base. I still got 36 exposures after firing the blanks. Most of the film was exposed as suggested under dull, diffused lighting on a wet day in Manchester, England.
The exterior exposures range were from 1/60th of second at f/2.8 to 1/8th of a second at f/8 but mostly at 1/30th of a second at f.4 – quite tricky to hand hold! Inside the science museum I gave a long exposure of the old computer, 4 seconds f8. I used Nik & Trick Services Photographiques, to process and scan my film, as they hand process specialist films.
The Washi S was developed in Rodinal, diluted 1 to 100, stand for 45 minutes.
You can see the negatives look like soot and whitewash, so let’s have a look at the scans.
These Manchester bridges show how good this film can look under the right conditions, although the detail has disappeared in some of the white pipework. The definition is excellent. To zoom the thumbnails below, just click or tap on any of the images.
The long exposure in the science museum looks good, despite being badly lit by spotlights. The TukTuk was less successful, the neg was underexposed.
Back to bridges. It appears that metering for shadows is the right way under these lighting conditions. The above images could almost be on conventional film.
The datasheet implies that photography in the sunshine would not be a good idea, so obviously when advised against something then, that something, must be done. Hence the next four photos, taken in Rochdale, England on a glorious day. Isn’t that contrast amazing? Some detail in the shadows, but the highlights…!
Grain – what grain? High definition. High contrast.
Diffuse lighting is definitely helpful and careful developing is essential. Nik and Trick’s choice of Rodinal stand was clearly spot on. Perhaps for sunlight you need to expose for the mid tones and lose the shadows, or use a more suitable film.
There are Sound Recording films from Fuji, Kodak and Orwo and retailers who spool up this type of film. This was just one roll of film, developed one way, because photography should be fun and this film WAS fun.
Thanks for reading.
~ Phil Harrison
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