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Media Technology

Ask Florian Kaps of the Impossible Project 61

Posted by timothy
from the quixotic-project-was-taken dept.
The Impossible Project, first mentioned here in 2009, has a goal that might be quixotic, but (despite the name) is looking ever more possible, after all: to bring back film for the millions of Polaroid instant cameras that have mostly become paperweights in the wake of the near-total discontinuation of instant film. This takes a sort of modern alchemy; the chemistry of instant film is tricky, and the knowledge had been dying out quickly. The Impossible team members didn't start from nothing, though: besides hiring a core of former Polaroid employees, they bought part of the former production facility in Enschede, the Netherlands, as well as production equipment. Now you can ask project founder Dr. Florian Kaps about the technical hurdles the project faces, as well as the motivations that led him to take on such a task. Note; though it's not all in stock right now, the project has successfully created various kinds of instant film, both monochrome and color. (If you have multiple unrelated questions, please post them separately.)
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Ask Florian Kaps of the Impossible Project

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  • What is the financing of this project? I.E. do you take donations, or are you planning to sell a product (and how do you expect to make a profit if the original manufacturers felt they could not)? In either regard, do you plan to release your methodology so others can make their own film?

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      If the company is much smaller or more efficient than the original manufacturer, they can probably realize a profit where the former company could not. There's a reason you don't see giant megacorps getting into every little niche market, and only concentrating on large mass-markets.

    • by LMacG (118321)

      They already are selling film, as alluded to (and linked from) TFS.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @02:04PM (#37910114)

    the chemistry of instant film is tricky, and the knowledge had been dying out quickly.

    Its also patented and extremely easy to find very detailed instructions for the basic processes. You won't have the same level of quality as company produced products as they not only had the patent information, they also had existing years of experience which these guys don't have.

    The information however, is not lost and won't be. Thats kind of one of the points/features of the patent system. Why is it that people focus exclusively on the shitty side of patents, then completely forget them when it comes to the actual purpose they exist?

    • You won't have the same level of quality as company produced products as they not only had the patent information, they also had existing years of experience which these guys don't have.

      Check the website: the project was started by a small group of the most experienced former Polaroid employees - so those years of experience is in their bones.

    • by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @02:20PM (#37910294)

      Real patents rarely have the information you need to reimplement a technology; the lawyers who write them up are experts at putting in only what needs to be detailed to get past the patent examiners, and no more. It's not like the patent examiners actually try to reimplement things based on patent texts, to make sure they're complete.

    • Its also patented and extremely easy to find very detailed instructions for the basic processes. You won't have the same level of quality as company produced products as they not only had the patent information, they also had existing years of experience which these guys don't have.

      The information however, is not lost and won't be. Thats kind of one of the points/features of the patent system. Why is it that people focus exclusively on the shitty side of patents, then completely forget them when it comes to the actual purpose they exist?

      The hard part is what isn't in the patents. The tolerances, the times, the temperatures, fiddly proportions. Trade secret stuff, in other words.

      I have a couple of packs of Polaroid film in the fridge. They should have patent numbers on them somewhere. What's left of my last box of Type 59 4x5 film is starting to show its age, with lower-than-usual contrast and a green colour shift. The few sheets I have left of Type 57 4x5 black and white still work OK.

      ...laura

  • Location (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @02:08PM (#37910170) Homepage

    Long-term speaking, do you plan to stay in the current location of the old Polaroid factory?

    I suppose you'd basically run production like old days, but on a much smaller scale. That might make it very costly to stay in the same building & pay for maintenance / repairs / heating etc. So do you have any plans to move to another location, one that might be more fitting to the size of the operation? If so, what would you be looking for @ a possible next site?

    (disclaimer: I happen to live around the corner from it, so I know the building & surrounding area).

  • Other Films? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tbowman75 (1579075) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @02:11PM (#37910186)
    Any thoughts on attempting to revive other discontinued films such as Kodachrome?
    • This is a very expensive to process format, and as far as I know nobody processes it any more. Unless a cheaper development process is found, there would be almost no market for it.

      Now, there are some 19th-century film, instant-film, and photo-paper technologies that are cheap enough to make yourself, especially if you don't mind handling toxic materials and you don't live in a country that makes such material nearly impossible to get. I can see a big enough market for a company to create film, paper, and

  • ...now I can stop hoarding the few packs of 600 film that have been sitting in my fridge for years...

  • by tuorum (1001313)
    I'm sure many people have inquired, but to put it here: Is there a timeframe being investigated in stabilizing the development chemicals in temperatures >75F? Living in Florida, the heat kills some of the film types rather quickly, resulting in some unrecognizable, though interesting looking, pictures.
  • Are there plans to increase the effectiveness of the blue opacifier layer so as to not require the extra "modifications" (i.e. using the frog tongue, shooting with a box around the front, etc)?
  • I nearly fell over when I saw a bunch of Impossible Project stock at Denver Pro Photo.

    Keep up the good work! (from a film fan)

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @03:09PM (#37910860) Homepage

    One of the neat features of Polaroid's SX-70 and later films is that there's an upper layer which becomes opaque when the film is ejected from the camera, and gradually clears after development finishes. Your web site says you have to eject the film into a dark place to avoid light leaking through during development. Why is your opaque layer not working as well as the original?

  • by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @03:16PM (#37910944)

    Your project became a necessity because Polaroid went bankrupt, and the world had only once source of the very specialized Polaroid film. Other common consumables have become a commodity, with multiple companies in the world being able to replicate the consumable. I can still buy toner for an HP Laserjet printer from 1987 for instance, even if HP doesn't produce it. Do you have any contingency plans in place so the world can avoid a similar fate if Impossible Project meets a similar fate as Polaroid?

  • by IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @03:17PM (#37910954) Homepage Journal

    Why bother? I mean, making large format instant would be brilliant, but for all those old (and by old I mean ancient and obsolete) instamatic type cameras, why bother? They are useless, worthless, and the lens technology was surpassed decades ago.

    It's be one thing if it for, say an ancient Leica or Mamiya TLR that required special film, but for an instamatic? Why go through all the trouble adn expense?

    • Check out the SX-70. That is some seriously cool technology. It's clearly in the same league for sheer geeky awesomeness as any other classic camera.

      And a classic Leica or Mamiya (or even a current camera fresh out of the factory) can't spit out a usable snapshot print in a couple of minutes without a separate printer.

  • Perhaps big enough to include a CCD imaging sensor, a printer and a paper tray. It would make a cool digital conversion.
  • What if we put a digital sensor into an old Polaroid and added Eye-fi SD for instant downloads.

  • What are your thoughts about the environmental impact of using polaroid film?

    Not only the chemicals used in making the film, but also the plastic holder for the film etc. Is there any way to make it more environmentally friendly?

  • by MotorMachineMercenar (124135) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @01:32PM (#37922722)

    Thank you for reviving the films. I shoot large format 4x5 slide film, and the quickloads have been indispensable for me in ensuring lighting, exposure and focus is right in the studio!

    What is your pipeline of products? Do you plan on releasing different speeds and formats, or doing something altogether different?

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