See How Kodak Makes Film Through a Behind-the-Scenes Factory Tour

As a creative, it is very likely that you have at least once, shot photographs the analog way and used a film camera of some kind. But how much do you know about how that film camera works, or better yet, how the film is made?

In this three-part series of hour-long videos, YouTuber Destin Sandlin of the Smarter Every Day channel takes us further along his behind-the-scenes tour of the Kodak Factory in downtown Rochester, New York to see exactly how Kodak makes its film stock light-sensitive for photographers. In the first video (embedded below) Sandlin walks viewers through a general overview of the mechanical processes involved in making the blank film base. In the second part, we dive into more detail to find out precisely how the films are made to be light-sensitive.

Making film is a complicated process that requires specialized equipment, materials, chemicals, and even more important, people who know how to use them all together to create each and every variation of film we have access to. As the first video states, most 35mm film produced from Kodak is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) pellets which are ground into a fine powder to take up more surface area before having a stabilizer added to it. This mixture is melted down and processed into a molten polymer that gets filtered and is then shaped into clear rolls of film.

These rolls are then passed through a series of rollers that stretch the films out where different coatings are then “precisely” added to the material as it travels along the production lines to help bind the photosensitive layer. Once the film(s) is taken off the accumulator, it is then checked for quality and packaged up in a “casket” where it is stored until it is time to make photographic film (light sensitive) at a different location.

In this new location, the backing/support material/film is loaded into a huge machine where the light-sensitive coatings will be applied to them. And what is even more fascinating is the process is done almost entirely in the dark because any light in the factory would “expose” the film/emulsion and effectively ruin it before it even made it to the packaging. This means the machinery needs to be able to operate in complete darkness with minimal human input, and this is all done while the materials are wet, and need to be dried. Not to mention the process requires there be no vibrations whatsoever and the temperature has to be completely stable during the entire process. Basically, the amount of work that goes into making film, and making it light-sensitive, is incredibly complex, incredibly delicate, and wildly fascinating.

The final video of the series dives into the final steps needed to take those giant sheets of light-sensitive material and cut them up so that the result is small enough to put into our cameras. This includes the slitting of the film, putting the sprocket holes in to run through the camera, as well as building the “cans” uses to house and protect the film (including the process of its final packaging we see on retail shelves), most of which, is all done entirely in the dark.

Watching the entire process unfold in this series from Sandlin shines a light on how complex film manufacturing actually is, making each roll created feel all the more impressive once it reaches the hands of the creatives who put them to work. To see more of the work produced by Smarter Every Day be sure to visit their YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and website here.