Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Robert Schaller Workshop Response

The word filmmaker is generally used for people who shoot their own movies, but artists such as Robert Schaller give it a whole new meaning. He actually makes his own film by hand. The process can be tedious and time consuming, but it provides you with a canvas unavailable to those who only use lab produced films. There are many different types of emulsions that one may mix and apply to film strips, each yielding different results. Some emulsions will crack and peel while drying, producing a reticulation effect that some consider desirable, as it provides rich texture. The thickness that emulsion is applied and the texture of the brush you use to apply it will also affect the look of the exposed film. Thick patches of emulsion show incredible contrast and detail, while thinner spots have little contrast and images appear ghost-like. When an artist makes their own film, they only have a certain amount of control over the product, so it is crucial to pay close attention and take accurate notes. This balance of control and chaos can lead to interesting experiments with the physical and chemical aspects of making a film.

I had the opportunity to mix a black and white emulsion using potassium bromide, silver nitrate, gelatin, and distilled water. You want your materials to be as pure as possible, gelatin being the only exception. The impurities found in store bought gelatin, such as sulfur, are important to the emulsion making process. If one uses a purified gelatin, this and other chemicals must be added to produce the proper reaction. There are two main variables when mixing emulsion. The temperature you mix it at and how slowly you mix the chemicals both influence the size of the silver bromide particles. Adding the chemicals gradually over time will cause the silver bromide particles to grow larger, therefore becoming more sensitive to light. When mixing the silver bromide solution, you want the crystals to grow as large as possible. The emulsion is not as sensitive to light as that used in lab produced film, so you want to make it as sensitive as you can. Once the emulsion is fully prepared, you are ready to spread it on film strips and let it dry. This type of film is not recommended for use in a standard camera. The variations in emulsion thickness can cause it to jam, and flakes of emulsion can damage the internal components.

Making film by hand was a very informative and interesting experience. Not only did I learn the process used to make film, I now have an understanding of what chemically occurs when emulsion is mixed and film is exposed to light. Taking part in Robert Schaller’s workshop has inspired me to look for new ways of making and exposing film. I am looking forward to experimenting with this process in the future.

1 comment:

Sarah Buccheri said...

The scan of your film strips look great!
You have a very well-written and concise report here. But the assignment was to compare the outside art event to a film/video seen in class. For instance, having attended Schaller's workshop, do Gatten's "What the Water Said" or Brakhage's "Mothlight" have more significance for you? Now that you have a better and hands-on understanding of the science behind film stock, film projection, exposure and etc?
For your next blog, make sure weave in ideas or aspects of works encountered in class.