ECN-2 Processing: Everything You Need to Know
I want to say 2020 through 2021 has been kind of the year motion picture film (as in celluloid). It is starting to make a strong foothold in the photographic still community. There is a fascinating experience in shooting a film stock that Hollywood Directors and DP’s (Director of Photography) reach for when it comes to making a motion picture film. While there is great excitement with these film stocks, there is an issue getting them processed. Most labs will often turn away motion picture film because it has something called the ‘rem-jet layer.’
The rem-jet layer is a black, carbon powder-coated on the back of the film that holds multiple purposes. It can be used to reduce halation (when light passes through and bounces back into the film, creating a red glow), a layer of defense from scratches inside the camera, and it is used to displace static buildup inside a motion picture camera, preventing static discharge from exposing on your frame.
Update 2022: A new site called Atlanta Film Co. now offers spooled down 35mm Vision3 Film with options to process it in TRUE ECN-2 Processing with Kodak Motion Picture Film Lab Atlanta.
Unless designed for motion picture processing, labs often do not have a step to remove the remjet layer. If a roll of motion picture film does make it into the machine at a photo lab, it can cause a maintenance nightmare and yield costly cleaning and chemistry replacement. So, don’t try to sneak it through. They will find it, and it will upset your lab manager very badly.
Do it yourself!
Now, let’s say you’re pretty crafty, and you process your film at home. However, you will have to pick the process you want to develop. There are ways you can process your motion picture film. You can process your film in a traditional 7-stop process using QWD Lab’s ECN-2 kit, or using CineStill Film’s Cs2 Cine Simplified ECN-2 Kit, or for our EU friends, Analogue Wonderland and Fotoimpex sell these two kits. Alternatively, Bellini Foto makes a 7-step ECN-2 kit. However, I cannot find a reputable retailer that sells this chemistry in the US nor the EU.
Picking the right Chemistry
Now that you’ve decided on which chemistry you want to use, now it’s time to process. If you’re looking for instructions on processing it, I won’t go into detail in this article. In our previous articles processing with QWD Lab and CineStill Film, you can read about it or watch our videos below on how to process it. With that being said, I wanted to mention one thing: the CineStill Film Cs2 kit. The Cs2 kit was originally intended for processing color negative film (like CineStill’s 50D & 800T with the rem-jet already removed, Portra 160/400, Ektar 100, etc.), so it lacks a prebath kit.
Lastly, you can process your motion picture film in C-41; however, ECN-2 film processing is tailored to provide a lower color gamma and flatter contrast and color curve to print to motion picture ‘print’ film (what you see in the theaters). Like CineStill Film’s Cs2 kit, it’s highly recommended to use a prebath kit to address the rem-jet. Read more about the differences on CineStill Film’s FAQ.
Now, the Cs2 kit can be used with motion picture films. However, it lacks a prebath kit. This caveat was not well-received in the motion picture stills film community (yes, I’m getting very niche here) despite being marketed towards their films: 50D and 800T. CineStill Film recommends purchasing/making a separate prebath or using the Cs2 developer as a ‘one-shot’ (single-time use) because the adhesive that holds the black carbon coating on the back of the film gets absorbed into the chemistry, causing color shifts and leading to premature chemistry exhaustion.
However, not all is lost! Making your prebath is very simple, and all you need are two ingredients: 1L of warm water and 1Tbsp of baking soda.
If you wish to watch our “How-To” video, you can do so here:
Mixing Instructions are quite Easy. All you need are two ingredients:
- 1 Tablespoon (14g) of Baking Soda
- 1 Liter of warm water 102-105°F (38-40°c)
Pour baking soda into the water and stir until dissolved.
Rem-jet Processing Instructions:
For either the C-41 process or the ECN-2 process, the prebath is poured in and discarded before the development step.
Step 1: Pour warm prebath chemistry into the film processing tank.
Step 2: Continuously agitate (vigorously) the film processing tank for 2.5 minutes.
Step 3: Pour out the dark liquid.
Step 4: Rinse the film in warm water until the remaining rem-jet has cleared.
After processing the film, there will be some manual cleanup in the final rinsing phase. This will require removing the remaining remjet on the film by hand. I highly recommend purchasing some nitrile gloves for two reasons. The first is the gloves. They are very soft and will minimize the risk of scratching the emulsion. Secondly, it prevents the oils and fingerprints from getting on the film. If you choose to use your hands, strongly consider using some Photo-flo as the final rinse.
Rem-jet can be a messy business. Once it gets off your film, it will stick to everything: your tank, your reels, and sink. After processing and while my film is drying, give everything a good scrubbing. I highly recommend getting a small hand brush (like a nail brush), dish detergent soap, and warm water and thoroughly scrub your reels and tank.
That’s it! Removing the rem-jet is not a scary step, as many would think! I’ve been processing Vision3 film for nearly a year, and it’s a straightforward process. I highly recommend giving it a try. You can purchase bulk rolled Vision3 film from just about any online film retailer. Freestyle Photo and Film Photography Project are my two main go-to.