Posted on September 01 2009
#5 Airport X-ray
(sample of 16mm Kodak Vision 320T Color Neg exposed to INVISION CTX-5500 baggage scanner)
Since 911, nothing has caused more grief to the use of film than airport X-ray. This is a great tragedy for film because with a little knowledge it is easily avoidable, and does not have to be the hassle it has become. For 8 years now, I have taken 500 ASA film on every trip I have taken. I always run my film through the walk through X-ray without any special consideration. I keep it in the original packaging, and I just put the film on the conveyor and let it go through. That’s right! If they want to rescan it, I tell them go for it. On one trip, I clocked 10 scannings of my film. I have never had a single frame with X-ray damage. The X-rays do not build up on your film, although you could, like the example above multiple x-ray hits if you put your film in your luggage. The X-ray system in the walk through are nowhere near as powerful as the luggage X-ray system.
What I never do is put my film in my luggage. The CTX-5000 x-ray machines that are used to check baggage at most commercial aiports is a very powerful device that can fog film. Not only is it much more powerful than the machines at airport security check in areas, it may scan a bag several times from several different angles. This WILL adversely affect your film whether it has been shot on not. I have asked every customer that I have seen with X-ray damage to his or her film the same question. Did they put their film through the luggage x-ray? Without exception every filmmaker with an x-ray problem at one time or another put their film in their luggage. So it is a simple matter of carrying your film on the plane and not putting it in checked luggage. To this point, do not use X-ray bags or lead lined bags and think that your film is safe in your luggage. All the airport people do is turn up the intensity of the X-ray system to identify what is inside.
X-Ray damaged film is easy to diagnose because it has a very distinct stroking of just the blacks in the film. It does not matter if the film was exposed when it was hit or not exposed. It does not even matter what the ASA is, as I have seen fogging even on Plus X black & white 100 ASA.
Because of the danger of x-ray, it is not a good idea to buy super 8 film from questionable sources. In the film industry there is a lot of film that is resold because it was not used on a production. This film, commonly called Recan in 16 and 35mm . When handled by reputable companies, it can be easily tested and then resold with full integrity. With Super 8 film there is no way to do this type of testing. Therefore, if you buy your super 8 from a short ends reseller you are taking a big risk because they cannot test it. (c) Pro8mm ™ Phil Vigeant, 2009
Did you know that Pro8mm sends you a DO NOT X-RAY sticker when you buy film from us so you can stick it on the outside of the package when you send the film back in for processing? Private carriers such as Fed-ex and UPS use there own planes and do not X-ray there packages but it doesn’t hurt to use DO NOT X-RAY stickers . In remote locations sometimes these carrier will use commercial airplanes to fly there freight, in which case your package could be X-Rayed. Check with the carrier and clearly mark the package – Rhonda www.pro8mm.com
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