Cinestill Cs2 – ECN-2 Processing, Simplified
One of the hottest trends in film photography is shooting film normally used for Hollywood blockbusters in your still cameras. Both Kodak and Fujifilm produce these films under the Vision3 and Eternia brands, respectively. But for the average photographer, we are limited to the standard C-41 process for these films. And while you can use this process to develop motion picture film, the ECN-2 process will produce a far flatter contrast and produce ECP standard motion picture prints. It should be noted that the full ECN-2 process is a total of ten steps and takes about twelve and a half minutes to complete, and are designed for high volume film production. The Cinestill Cs2 kit reduces these steps into two chemical steps with additional washes but is also customizable.
- Part 1 – The Cs2 Kit & Preparation
- Part 2 – Remjet Removal Considerations
- Part 3 – Processing Film
- Part 4 – Final Considerations
Part 1 – The Cs2 Kit & Preparation
The Cinestill Cs2 Kit comes in a single foil bag containing detailed instructions along with three additional foil bags containing the actual powders needed to mix up the liquid for developing your film. It is important to read through the instructions before starting to mix the chemistry and develop your film. These are incredibly detailed, so you don’t have to read through all of them, but it is important to focus on the chemistry preparation and development steps. Before you start, you will need to have ready a thermometer, two 1L storage bottles, water (soft or distilled), a way to heat your water, and a graduated mixing pitcher or cylinder. You will also need gloves and complete the preparation in a well-ventilated area. The Kit contains one pouch with the PreBath & Developer and two pouches (Part A and Part B) for the Blix that is the Bleach & Fix chemistry.
Lay out everything you need and begin to heat 1.2L of water to a temperature of 100°F (38°C); this can be achieved using boiling water or a Cinestill TS-1000 or similar immersion heater. Pour 600mL of the heated water into your pitcher/cylinder and add the entire developer powder pouch stirring while you pour. Top up to 1L and continue to stir until the powder is completely dissolved. Then store in a pre-labelled bottle. Clean out your mixing container, then add the rest of the water (600mL), add in the Part A pouch for the Blix, then add Part B while stirring, then top up to 1L. Before storing, it’s best to allow the Blix to off-gas. You’ll also notice that it will start to fizz and foam when you’re mixing the blix up. This is completely normal. Cinestill recommends pouring the blix between the mixing container and the storage bottle a couple of times to prevent the top from blowing off while in storage.
Part 2 – Remjet Considerations
While Cinestill removes the remjet layer from their 800T and 50D film stocks, all motion picture film has a black carbon backing on their motion picture films. This remjet layer is attached to the back of the film for two reasons; the first is to prevent halation, and the second to protect the film from scratches while travelling at high speed through motion picture film cameras. You need to know that the Cs2 kit has no included chemistry for the removal of this remjet layer. But never fear that removing the remjet layer is a simple task that can be completed before or after you’ve processed the film. It is recommended to remove the remjet before you develop the film to increase the chemistry’s lifespan. The easiest method is to use water heated to 106°F (41°C) and add baking soda and/or washing soda; add this to the tank and shake for three minutes, repeat this 3-4 times until the water comes out clean. Kodak Vision3 does have a thicker layer and might take 4 cycles, while Fujifilm Eternia will take 3 cycles. If you don’t have baking or washing soda, commercial products will take care of the remjet for you, which can be purchased. You can also complete this step after the fact, using a bucket of warm water and a microfibre cloth or gloved fingers. But developing with the remjet intact will reduce the life of the developing chemistry.
Part 3 – Processing
If you’ve processed any colour films in the past, then using the Cs2 kit will be a walk in the park. There are three sets of instructions in the Cs2 kit, but you only need to pay attention to two of them depending on what you want your images to look like in the end. The instructions for the full ECN-2 process are included but are not relevant to the Cs2 kit as it separates every step. The average user will want to stick to the 2-Bath or 3-Bath process. If you’re doing this for the first time, it would be best to start with the 2-Bath process designed for processing Cinestill films or regular colour negative (C-41) films. You need to pre-heat the chemistry again using a water bath with an immersion heater or something more complex like a Jobo processor. The developer is heated to a temperature of 106°F (41°C) and the Blix between 95°F (35°C) and 106°F (41°C), but it’s best to keep your temperatures consistent. The development stage is 3.5 minutes, with constant agitation for the first thirty seconds, then four inversions every thirty-second mark following. After the development, you move onto the Blix step, the film stays in the Blix for six minutes, using the same agitation pattern as the developer. Then the final step is a three-minute wash under running water with a temperature between 80°F (27°C) and 100°F (38°C).
One of the motion picture business tricks is a bleach bypass; this skips the bleach stage. Now, the Cs2 kit is designed around a combined bleach and fix stage. But you can purchase the needed chemistry from the Cinestill shop to do a bleach bypass using their 3-Bath method. To do this, you will need to have on hand a Cinestill F96 fixer, an Ammonium Thiosulfate based fixer. The process runs about the same as the 2-bath method, with the same times, temperature, and agitation patterns. The only difference is that you will add a two-minute wash between the developer and fix stage to stop the developer.
Part 4 – Final Considerations
If you’re someone who likes a lot of control over your images and has a good head for colour grading, the ECN-2 process will be perfect for you, as it produces a flat contrast profile. This means that if you’re shooting in high-contrast conditions, the Cs2 kit will level out and flatten that contrast and make it easily edited to hit that contrast to the exact point you like it also. If you love shooting motion picture films, you can get the best results out of them by using this kit. Of course, if you do RA-4 printing, negatives processed in the Cs2 kit will not print well, so it’s best to stick to a standard C-41 process. The Cs2 kit is available through the Cinestill shop at the cost of $29.99 (USD); each 1L kit will process 4 rolls of 120 film or 36 exposure rolls of 35mm; that number increases to 6 rolls of 35mm with 24 exposure rolls. You can watch our full video review of the Cinestill Cs2 Kit on YouTube.
All Photos were shot, processed, scanned and edited by Bill Manning.