Goodbye Kodachrome

So all the major news outlets have picked up on Kodak discontinuing Kodachrome, their namesake. They’re obviously doing this so they can pull out that Paul Simon concert footage that’s been burning a hole in their pocket and slap it on the news. That’s great, because I like Paul Simon. They can also make this thing into some kind of rallying cry for the death of film, but it’s just another stock, right? Perhaps it’s a little more than that. It’s ridiculous if you ask my opinion – it’s kind of like if McDonalds stopped selling burgers. It fits together with where Kodak needs to go, I guess.

The product effectively died in 2005 when Kodak dismantled their main processing lab in Lausanne Switzerland because processing wasn’t environtmentally free or the lab property was really valuable, whatever, something like that. Right now the only place to develop the film is Dwaynes Photo in Lawrence, Kansas. That’s where Stan Brakhage developed some of his film (according to the imdb at least) and it’s also where I developed all the footage that shot for my first film Frankensteins Bloody Nightmare. Perhaps the news of it’s impending doom at that point forced my hand into starting the film.

One odd little tidbit is that any Walmart that utilizes Fuji for it’s film processing was able to process Kodachrome Super-8. You simply dropped the film in a photo envelope with the direction to process as K-14 and they would send it directly to Dwaynes with a relatively short turnaround. This was how I processed every single bit of Frankensteins… footage, through Walmart. I never lost one reel and I even had a tracking # from Fuji from the mailer so I could check on the status of the processing.

So what can I tell you from the balance of a feature film with the stuff? Well, Kodachrome was a pain to shoot, really. It has limited latitude and it require a significant amount of light to expose properly, then it turns very muddy if you underexposed.

Still, properly exposed on a beautiful sunny day? The green, blues and reds are just mind-blowing, and the skintones just look fabulous as well, It’s just got the timeless sheen of technicolor. It’s a reversal stock, but those colorations are still very present when the film’s telecined, even though I wish I’d had the money to transfer to some uncompressed HD format because I really thought the DV compression really crunched those colors down. Still, I’m happy with final results even though when they made the Unearthed Films DVD they messed up on the gamma, washing out those colors slightly, but that’s another nightmare unto itself.