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Taking Motion Picture Film Through the Airport on your next trip? Here are somethings you need to know to avoid fogging

Posted on March 02 2020

Pro8mm has a long history of insuring our clients the safety of their motion picture film if they followed our previous guidelines. In 2009, we wrote this blog, 8 Tips for Shooting Modern Super 8 #5 Airport X-Ray  as things had changed significantly after 9-1-1.


We personally have been on trips where the film was x rayed up to 10 times, and never a problem, as long as you didn’t put it in your checked luggage and put it in your carry on because the x-ray scans are not as strong.

Well, as the first of the year this has all changed. This is what Kodak officially put out regarding CT Scanning X-Ray Technology and how it affects your film. In their statement they are referring to still film, but take a look at the ISO’s they are using in their examples and the same would be true for the equivalent ISO of your motion picture film.

FROM KODAK....

CT Scanning X-Ray Technology and Film

As many of you know, the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has recently been installing Computed Tomography (CT) scanners for carry-on luggage in US airports. In the coming months these scanners will be operational at 145 airports in the US. CT scanning technology has been used for checked luggage for many years, and Kodak Alaris and Eastman Kodak have warned photographers not to check their film, but rather to carry it on and request it be hand-checked by TSA agents at Security. 

To better assess the risk to film from the new carry on scanners we brought a small quantity of Portra 400/135 to John F Kennedy Airport in NYC. With the help of TSA representatives the film was put through the new carry on CT scanners from 1-10 times. The film was then evaluated at Eastman Kodak Research facilities. The initial results are not good. Just 1 scan shows significant film fogging, leading to smoky blacks and loss of shadow detail. This will be more significant for higher speed films. Although it’s possible that a roll of 100 speed film would show less degradation, we strongly recommend against putting any unexposed or exposed but unprocessed film through a CT Scanner. 

We reached out to the TSA to ask what options there might be to warn passengers. We originally asked if it would be possible to add signage at airports that utilize CT scanning technology. We are developing warning stickers that can be placed on your film. These will be available in a label format so they can be printed on your in-home or in-office printer. Just attach the label to the plastic bag as described in the TSA description below. 

The TSA did tell us that all TSA screeners are trained to hand check roll and movie film as well as single-use cameras. Sheet film in boxes may require more diligence on the part of the photographer. 

From the TSA:

Most x-ray machines used to screen carry-on bags should not damage undeveloped film under ASA\ISO 800. There are a limited number of screening checkpoints that use x-ray equipment that may damage undeveloped film. These airports will have signage in front of the x-ray stating that the x-ray may damage undeveloped film.

If you are traveling with the following types of film, please pack it in a clear plastic bag, remove it from your carry-on bag at the checkpoint, and ask for a hand inspection:

• Film with an ASA\ISO 800 or higher
• Highly sensitive x-ray or scientific films
• Film that is or will be underexposed
• Film that you intend to “push process”
• Sheet film
• Large format film
• Medical film
• Scientific film
• Motion picture film
• Professional grade film
• Film of any speed that is subjected to x-ray screening more than five times

In most cases, the x-ray equipment used for screening checked baggage will damage undeveloped film; therefore, please place undeveloped film in carry-on bags.


These US airports currently use CT scanning technology:

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
  • Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI)
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
  • Houston Hobby Airport (HOU)
  • Indianapolis International Airport (IND)
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Miami International Airport (MIA)
  • Oakland International Airport (OAK)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)
  • St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL)
  • Tampa International Airport (TPA)
  • Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD)

Pro8mm will also make similar labels available on our website available for download to be printed out and used when you travel.


In the meantime, use common sense and talk to the TSA agent. The will generally be happy to hand check your film. Carry your Pro8mm invoice with you incase the agent has any doubt about the type of material you are using. Many agents have never seen real film!

This should not deter you from traveling with your film. Just use common sense. If you think your film was subject to airport x-ray damage, please let us know before we process the film. There is nothing we can do at that point, but the information will be helpful feedback if we put your film up on the scanner and it looks fogged.

For any concerns, please call us at Pro8mm.com for further information.

Click here to download a free copy of our sticker or purchase one for $1

 

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