Processing Your Own Movie Film! What Tank? How to Manage?

Posted: 06/13/2019

We recently received an e-mail from Film Photography Podcast listener James who had some great questions about developing your own movie film at home. I'd like to share these tips!

Dear FPP,

I'm trying to figure out my solution for a developing vessel (either buying a LOMO tank or I have a friend who will gift me a Morse rewind tank), but I'm also stumped on how to go about drying my film in lengths of 25-50 feet.  Plus, if I move up to shooting 16mm...100 ft spools.  How to process, dry and make up without destroying my film.

The additional concern of remjet removal remains. I watched your video on removing remjet from 35mm vision 3 film, but once we're talking about using it in a movie camera, the lengths could get unwieldy.

What do you think?


Hi James,

A few pointers to share:

  • Processing your own film is absolutely the way to go. It will cut down your costs significantly--especially if you're focusing on B/W reversal. The chemistry needed will last you roll after roll, after roll. For example, I mixed my B/W reversal chemistry in May of 2018 and I'm still pushing rolls through it. Though I admit it's about time to mix some fresh stuff. Reversal (such as E6) or normal C41 will not last AS long but will still be FAR cheaper than sending to a lab. Chemistry available in the FPP On-Line Store.

  • Tanks: say 'thanks but no thanks' to the Morse tank. In my experience, they're a pain in the you-know-what to use, especially during the re-exposure stage for B/W reversal. However, unlike the Lomo tank, you won't have to split a 100 foot roll of 16mm in half to process, which is a bonus. On that front: they essentially made 2 types of Lomo tanks: a 50 foot model (UB-1) and a larger version which could handle 100 foot rolls. The former are plentiful while the latter are extremely rare and very expensive  If you're using a UB-1 tank to process 1 roll of 100 ft 16mm film, you can do it in one shot, but you'll need to cut your 16mm film in half and then splice it back together after it's done drying. This is because the reel is only large enough to accommodate 2 rolls of 50 ft 16mm film. I do it all the time and it's a breeze. Obviously, this means you can process 2 cartridges of Super 8 film with no problem. Or 2 rolls of Regular 8mm film with no problem.

  • Drying: Lomo actually made a film drying rack, the SKP-1, though again, they're harder to find and will cost you about $150.You can also make your own or do what I do, and use a clothes horse like this one which easily handles 100 foot rolls of 16mm or maybe even one like this will work, too. Mine works great with everything I've processed.

  • Remjet: I won't sugar coat this one--removing remjet from movie film is not fun. You'll need either a sink with a stopper, or a large square bucket. What I do: After the film is done rinsing, I keep it immersed in the water. I then loosen the lomo tank reel screw just enough to let the film be unloaded. I then clean the remjet off a few feet of the film in the water, and, with a spool immersed in the water, begin to thread it onto the spool. You just have to work foot by foot, removing the remjet with your fingers and spooling the film onto the reel. I usually dump the water out every so often to keep it clean. The important thing here is to make sure the film stays under the water to keep it wet. Once the remjet is removed and the film is on the reel, I then empty the bucket, fill it with clean water again, and thread the film onto another empty reel, and transfer the film again, just to make sure it gets a final rinse. I then take the reel over to my clothes horse and hang it to dry. There might be an easier way but that's my method anyway.

Owen McCafferty

What chemistry and how to develop? See our BLOG and VIDEO - DEVELOP BW MOVIE FILM AT HOME!


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