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Ask Florian Kaps of the Impossible Project

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the quixotic-project-was-taken dept.

Media 61

The Impossible Project, first mentioned here in 2009, has a goal that might be quixotic, but (despite the name) is looking ever more possible, after all: to bring back film for the millions of Polaroid instant cameras that have mostly become paperweights in the wake of the near-total discontinuation of instant film. This takes a sort of modern alchemy; the chemistry of instant film is tricky, and the knowledge had been dying out quickly. The Impossible team members didn't start from nothing, though: besides hiring a core of former Polaroid employees, they bought part of the former production facility in Enschede, the Netherlands, as well as production equipment. Now you can ask project founder Dr. Florian Kaps about the technical hurdles the project faces, as well as the motivations that led him to take on such a task. Note; though it's not all in stock right now, the project has successfully created various kinds of instant film, both monochrome and color. (If you have multiple unrelated questions, please post them separately.)

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Florian (-1, Flamebait)

hakahaka (2485890) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909912)

Sorry, but Florian is known M$ apologists and anti-open source. He is not welcome here!

Re:Florian (-1, Offtopic)

AdamJS (2466928) | more than 2 years ago | (#37909940)

So? Open Source is not the only way of going about software development, nor does it have to be the be-all end-all for absolutely everyone. To discount something completely unrelated simply because of one member's views is quite shortsighted.

Re:Florian (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37909960)

Kill yourself. Please.

Re:Florian (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37909990)

Are you one of the trolls who lives in RMS' beard? I've always thought they were mere legends.

Re:Florian (0)

cyborg_monkey (150790) | about 2 years ago | (#37910834)

Anus, not beard.

Re:Florian (0, Flamebait)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910008)

Can't you even read the SUMMARY?

Dr. Florian Kaps. Not who you think he is, so stop being such a knee-jerk freetard already. Or go sit in the corner with RMS and the other smelly kooks.

Re:Florian (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37910364)

Eat shit and die you Florian apologist bitch.

Re:Florian (1, Offtopic)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 2 years ago | (#37913924)

Kinda sad they don't know the difference between Florian KAPS and florian MUELEER, I guess everyone that is named Steve better have an umbrella handy in case a FLOSSie troll start flinging poo at them because he shares the same first name as the head of "the company that shall not be named". I swear everytime I think /. has reached the absolute peak of batshit then someone shows up with a tanker full of crazy and blows my scale all to hell.

As for TFA, here is a crazy question.....why? Wouldn't it be smarter if you wanted to save all those Polaroid cameras to just develop a CMOS sensor that would fit in the old film slot and let you convert it to digital? I mean we have adapters to let you play MP3s through a cassette slot, so why not a CMOS that turns an analog into a digital?

it just seems to me to be a better long term solution than trying to keep a funky film format alive. Sure they were cool back in the day but IIRC their shelf life wasn't great, and I wouldn't be surprised if the process to make the film didn't leave you ended up with some seriously nasty toxic wate from the manufacturing process. After all when the film was designed we didn't really know how dangerous a lot of those chemicals were and were big on a "better living through chemistry" kick. So unless they are gonna charge $100 a pack or make it in a third world hellhole where they can just dump the waste in the local river i bet its gonna be a money bleeding operation. If it wasn't Polaroid would still be making it now wouldn't they?

Re:Florian (2)

tomhudson (43916) | about 2 years ago | (#37914362)

Your proposed solution doesn't work because it makes too much sense (and it would be cheaper to just buy a 14 megapixel camera with 4x optical zoom for $99, or use the 5 megapixel camera that comes with your cheapie phone).

Or for under $230, buy a 14mp camera with 22x optical zoom, 4x digital, 16 gig storage, wifi picture transfer, 720p video, 3" LCD viewer, usb, hdmi, batteries, cables and camera bag all included.

Or for $140, settle for 16mp/15x optical zoom, 2.7" display, and only vga movies.

Heck, you can get a really nice 14mp Nikon DSLR with an 18-55mm lens, 1920x1080x24p video, RAW, various memory cards, 3" screen, 1/4000 to 30 seconds exposure, all the usual bells and whistles like auto focus, auto follow, internal dust-off, - just marked down another $100 to $550.00, and if you don't like the lens, you can swap it.

At $3 per color picture for the sx-70 film, it would take less than 200 pictures to make the Nikon free - and you can make unlimited copies w/o degradation.

Yes, the SX-70 was a real innovation for its time ... but there's a host of reasons it's dead.

Re:Florian (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#37923460)

Well I can understand wanting to keep the camera if for nothing else the nostalgia factor, after all there are fan clubs for Brownies too, but film died FOR A REASON, its frankly a really shitty format until you get into high end. I grew up with the Polaroid, hell i probably got one or two of the old "zebra case" instamatics, but I'm also smart enough to know the pictures? Frankly weren't great. they were a little fuzzy, resolution wasn't hot, and the colors were always a little...off.

In the end there isn't anything they can do about the resolution, the short shelf life of the film (less than 2 years IIRC and on some brands less than 9 months before the color started getting wonky) and of course the toxic byproducts from the manufacturing process.

But what they CAN do is what I saw done to the old high end Hassalbad 35mm, which is create a CMOS pack that fits into the former film slot. this would let them get EVERY picture at max resolution (which for an instamatic? probably 3Mp MAX, more likely 1Mp) and with a decent NAND cache they could probably take 300 pictures with it before needing to offload, hell they could even put a little screen in the bottom of the "film pack" if they wanted to see the results instantly or even have a little thermal printer that would plug into the edge of the film slot and print what you took instantly.

So while I agree you can get an insanely overpowered camera cheap now, such as the 7MP I got my mom for less than $40 on sale, if they want to keep the bulky old camera trying to replicate the film is NOT the correct way to go. It would be like an 8 track fan club trying to buy the old production lines and get 8 tracks cranked out again, they are ignoring there were reasons why they died out and trying to make this stuff in small batches will just make the prices worse and leave them with more unsold stock.

Because nostalgia factor or no I doubt very seriously they are gonna find too many folks willing to shell out $60 for a 30 pack of instamatic film. Digital is higher quality, easier to use, less wasteful, can be trivially copied and exchanged, its just a better medium. The only ones that really have an excuse to even use film anymore are filmmakers and other high end professionals and even with them once the RED cameras go down in price film will be useless for them as well. They were great fun in the age of bell bottoms and the Chevy Vega but those days are long past.

RED cameras. (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37944076)

About a month ago we had a local manufacturer of cinematographic film abruptly declare bankruptcy and lay off 1,000 people with zero notice. They had completed a change-over to producing the highest-quality cine stock 3 years ago, and RED cameras just killed them dead.

For those wondering what RED cameras are [red.com] , does 4096x2304 pixels and up, at 48fps, make you drool?

Re:Florian (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#37917580)

As for TFA, here is a crazy question.....why?

Pretty much the end of the thread IMHO.

If you want to produce low quality weird-coloured fuzzy pictures, just get a Photoshop/GIMP plugin.

Re:Florian (0)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915612)

YHBT.
YHL.
HAND.

tomhudson = diabetes ridden fat sow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37920234)

tomhudson, lose weight ya diabetes ridden fat sow. Eat a salad, and we don't mean your usual wheelbarrow full (along with a shovel for a spoon and pitchfork for your fork, lol).

Re:Florian (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37910160)

Obviously this is not Florian Mueller.

Re:Florian (0)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910250)

I guess in hakahaka's mind, the first name "Florian" is now tainted and anyone with that name is guilty-by-association with whatever this Florian Mueller person did.

I have a question: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37909938)

Why does /. keep giving me 404s by redirecting me to pages like slashdot.org/AbCdE/story/...?

Re:I have a question: (0)

Saintwolf (1224524) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910326)

Well if you've managed to make that post, then you fixed it.

Financing (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910014)

What is the financing of this project? I.E. do you take donations, or are you planning to sell a product (and how do you expect to make a profit if the original manufacturers felt they could not)? In either regard, do you plan to release your methodology so others can make their own film?

Re:Financing (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910272)

If the company is much smaller or more efficient than the original manufacturer, they can probably realize a profit where the former company could not. There's a reason you don't see giant megacorps getting into every little niche market, and only concentrating on large mass-markets.

Re:Financing (1)

LMacG (118321) | about 2 years ago | (#37910546)

They already are selling film, as alluded to (and linked from) TFS.

Forgot about patents? (3, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910114)

the chemistry of instant film is tricky, and the knowledge had been dying out quickly.

Its also patented and extremely easy to find very detailed instructions for the basic processes. You won't have the same level of quality as company produced products as they not only had the patent information, they also had existing years of experience which these guys don't have.

The information however, is not lost and won't be. Thats kind of one of the points/features of the patent system. Why is it that people focus exclusively on the shitty side of patents, then completely forget them when it comes to the actual purpose they exist?

Re: Forgot about patents? (2)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910228)

You won't have the same level of quality as company produced products as they not only had the patent information, they also had existing years of experience which these guys don't have.

Check the website: the project was started by a small group of the most experienced former Polaroid employees - so those years of experience is in their bones.

Re:Forgot about patents? (3, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910294)

Real patents rarely have the information you need to reimplement a technology; the lawyers who write them up are experts at putting in only what needs to be detailed to get past the patent examiners, and no more. It's not like the patent examiners actually try to reimplement things based on patent texts, to make sure they're complete.

Enablement requirement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37910722)

On the other hand, patent Enablement under 35 U.S.C. 112 requires that a person of ordinary skill in the art (POSITA) be able to make and use the process or invention described and embodied in the patent (without undue experimentation, per court interpretation.) If the patent fails in that respect, it gets invalidated. Patent attorneys walk a fine line.

Re:Enablement requirement (4, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | about 2 years ago | (#37910818)

On the other hand, patent Enablement under 35 U.S.C. 112 requires that a person of ordinary skill in the art (POSITA) be able to make and use the process or invention described and embodied in the patent (without undue experimentation, per court interpretation.) If the patent fails in that respect, it gets invalidated. Patent attorneys walk a fine line.

Ah, but there's a catch. It must be of sufficient detail that a person can follow the process described in the patent. It does not follow that the person will get the best - or even a usable - result that process can provide. It may say what compounds but not their mixture. It can show a series of steps but not the actual timings. You forget that they typically write patents as broad as possible, they don't say "coat in solution for 2-3 minutes" as that would mean a process that takes 1 minute or 4 minutes aren't covered. They'll just patent all variations, useful or not.

Re:Enablement requirement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37912576)

Your talking about the difference between claims and specification. The specification should have that info (though I don't think the office is rigorous about it). Also, the specification is usually written by engineers.

Re:Forgot about patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37910302)

If you think the reason for patents existing is to document inventions you're delusional. It's an artificial legal construct used to create an exclusive right over something which normally would not be scarce.

Re:Forgot about patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914846)

No, he's actually right: The idea behind patents is to force companies to document their ideas for everyone to see - in exchange for temporary legal protection. The alternative was seen as companies keeping their ideas secret - which could lead to both longer monopolies (if no one could or bothered to come up with a reimplementation or replacement), and in information loss.

Re:Forgot about patents? (2)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | about 2 years ago | (#37911144)

Its also patented and extremely easy to find very detailed instructions for the basic processes. You won't have the same level of quality as company produced products as they not only had the patent information, they also had existing years of experience which these guys don't have.

The information however, is not lost and won't be. Thats kind of one of the points/features of the patent system. Why is it that people focus exclusively on the shitty side of patents, then completely forget them when it comes to the actual purpose they exist?

The hard part is what isn't in the patents. The tolerances, the times, the temperatures, fiddly proportions. Trade secret stuff, in other words.

I have a couple of packs of Polaroid film in the fridge. They should have patent numbers on them somewhere. What's left of my last box of Type 59 4x5 film is starting to show its age, with lower-than-usual contrast and a green colour shift. The few sheets I have left of Type 57 4x5 black and white still work OK.

...laura

Location (4, Interesting)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910170)

Long-term speaking, do you plan to stay in the current location of the old Polaroid factory?

I suppose you'd basically run production like old days, but on a much smaller scale. That might make it very costly to stay in the same building & pay for maintenance / repairs / heating etc. So do you have any plans to move to another location, one that might be more fitting to the size of the operation? If so, what would you be looking for @ a possible next site?

(disclaimer: I happen to live around the corner from it, so I know the building & surrounding area).

Other Films? (4, Interesting)

tbowman75 (1579075) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910186)

Any thoughts on attempting to revive other discontinued films such as Kodachrome?

Re:Other Films? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37910718)

I want to see clay tablet printing brought back first.. Yeah.

Obsolete formats are obsolete. Let it go already.

Sure sure... i'll get off your lawn too gramps.

Kodachrome? (1)

davidwr (791652) | about 2 years ago | (#37911174)

This is a very expensive to process format, and as far as I know nobody processes it any more. Unless a cheaper development process is found, there would be almost no market for it.

Now, there are some 19th-century film, instant-film, and photo-paper technologies that are cheap enough to make yourself, especially if you don't mind handling toxic materials and you don't live in a country that makes such material nearly impossible to get. I can see a big enough market for a company to create film, paper, and chemistry for such technologies and do so in a standardized way, so my photos aren't subject to batch-to-batch variances in the films, chemicals, or paper.

Personally, I think it would rock if I could buy real tintype film in a cartridge that fit late-20th-century manual cameras without paying an arm and a leg for it. Oh wait, it looks like I can come close - someone out there on the interwebs sells a DIY kit where you apply the emulsion yourself, for that real 19th-century-photographer experience.

Large Format Instant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37910270)

Quite excited to see small format instant film return and having read some about the experiments Impossible has done with large format, I'd like to know if we can expect a serious large format product? As a late comer to large format photography I've been scraping by with expired Polaroid and less than flexible Fujifilm offerings. I continually read old articles and even books wherein the photographer talks about using Polaroid film to preview scenes for multiple exposure shots - something that is now a bit difficult to do.
It would be nice if the old film backs could be reused, but I rather imagine people would be inclined to buy (yet) another if the product looked to have some longevity. But to reiterate, it would be nice if the old film backs could be reused.

Thanks for all the hard work so far.

Re:Large Format Instant (1)

squidflakes (905524) | about 2 years ago | (#37910704)

I too would be very interested to see the return of large format instant. I have a 4X5 Crown Graphic with two instant film backs that are completely unusable because the only in-production instant sheet film in that size is only available in Fuji's filmpack format.

Great news (1)

oh-dark-thirty (1648133) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910318)

...now I can stop hoarding the few packs of 600 film that have been sitting in my fridge for years...

sup dawg (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37910414)

What's it like being cuckolded by your wife and knowing you can never sexually please her?

Heat. (2)

tuorum (1001313) | about 2 years ago | (#37910646)

I'm sure many people have inquired, but to put it here: Is there a timeframe being investigated in stabilizing the development chemicals in temperatures >75F? Living in Florida, the heat kills some of the film types rather quickly, resulting in some unrecognizable, though interesting looking, pictures.

light block layer (2)

tuorum (1001313) | about 2 years ago | (#37910788)

Are there plans to increase the effectiveness of the blue opacifier layer so as to not require the extra "modifications" (i.e. using the frog tongue, shooting with a box around the front, etc)?

Not a question... (1)

Fishbulb (32296) | about 2 years ago | (#37910800)

I nearly fell over when I saw a bunch of Impossible Project stock at Denver Pro Photo.

Keep up the good work! (from a film fan)

What's the problem with the opaque layer? (2)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#37910860)

One of the neat features of Polaroid's SX-70 and later films is that there's an upper layer which becomes opaque when the film is ejected from the camera, and gradually clears after development finishes. Your web site says you have to eject the film into a dark place to avoid light leaking through during development. Why is your opaque layer not working as well as the original?

Avoiding the same fate as Polaroid. (2)

Vellmont (569020) | about 2 years ago | (#37910944)

Your project became a necessity because Polaroid went bankrupt, and the world had only once source of the very specialized Polaroid film. Other common consumables have become a commodity, with multiple companies in the world being able to replicate the consumable. I can still buy toner for an HP Laserjet printer from 1987 for instance, even if HP doesn't produce it. Do you have any contingency plans in place so the world can avoid a similar fate if Impossible Project meets a similar fate as Polaroid?

Ok, I'll ask the obvious (2)

IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) | about 2 years ago | (#37910954)

Why bother? I mean, making large format instant would be brilliant, but for all those old (and by old I mean ancient and obsolete) instamatic type cameras, why bother? They are useless, worthless, and the lens technology was surpassed decades ago.

It's be one thing if it for, say an ancient Leica or Mamiya TLR that required special film, but for an instamatic? Why go through all the trouble adn expense?

Have you ever checked out an SX-70? (1)

sirwired (27582) | about 2 years ago | (#37911312)

Check out the SX-70. That is some seriously cool technology. It's clearly in the same league for sheer geeky awesomeness as any other classic camera.

And a classic Leica or Mamiya (or even a current camera fresh out of the factory) can't spit out a usable snapshot print in a couple of minutes without a separate printer.

Re:Ok, I'll ask the obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37913960)

Why bother?

Nostalgia is a powerful thing, my friend. Just look at the Transformers movies if you need proof of that.

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37911250)

This project is impossible.

Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37911292)

Because this old camera I found seems to have only "ten to an owner" [wikipedia.org] written on it.

What kind of BEvERages do you like (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37911334)

What kind of BEvERages do you like?

I'm at least a case worth of impressed by your determination and success so far. I don't own a Polaroid camera, but would like to support your continued efforts and considerable ballsiness for taking on a project of this magnitude with liquid refreshment.

IIRC: The film cartridges were quite big (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | about 2 years ago | (#37912512)

Perhaps big enough to include a CCD imaging sensor, a printer and a paper tray. It would make a cool digital conversion.

WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37913172)

Seriously? You know there are tons of volunteer organizations out there that you can contribute time to that are actually helping people... you know with drinkable water or food to feed their children. Who the hell cares about instant film that never was particularly of high quality anyway?
If you want nostalgia then get a Polaroid filter/after effect for your digital camera.

This is almost the definition of foolishness.

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37919894)

So, why dont YOU contribute your time to said organizations instead of wasting it bitching about how others decide to spend their time/expertise? Seriously, go die in a fire.

I have all the drinking water I need, I have all the food I could ever hope to eat, I don't have children so none of the problems you speak about are of any consequence to me. On the other hand I have a few MF / LF view cameras where using instant film is a godsend. So, his work is of consequence to me. I say kudos to him.

Would it upset him if ... (1)

PDX (412820) | about 2 years ago | (#37913490)

What if we put a digital sensor into an old Polaroid and added Eye-fi SD for instant downloads.

Film pricing for different GEOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37914332)

The Impossible Project online shop is charging Australian orders about 30% more. $36 AUD versus $23.49 USD.
The AUD has been at or near parity with USD for over 6 months, it's the same product, requires no localization, attracts no sales tax and the buyer pays shipping - could you explain the reason for this price difference?

Film pricing differences between GEOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914930)

[It's a real question not a comment]

The Impossible Project online shop is charging Australian orders about 30% more. $36 AUD versus $23.49 USD.
The AUD has been at or near parity with USD for over 6 months, it's the same product, requires no localization, attracts no sales tax and the buyer pays shipping - could you explain the reason for this price difference?

Re:Film pricing differences between GEOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37924990)

That's terrible! I'm so tired of Aussies getting ripped off - anything from apple, software, now FILM!
Yeah, what's the score Florian?

environmental impact (2)

caroboom (986492) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916980)

What are your thoughts about the environmental impact of using polaroid film?

Not only the chemicals used in making the film, but also the plastic holder for the film etc. Is there any way to make it more environmentally friendly?

Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37918136)

The film you're producing is still pretty expensive, do you have plans for future improvements or scaling to reduce this?

Very Large Format (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37919818)

Is the 'room-size' camera part of this project? The results are more than beautiful!!

What's next? (2)

MotorMachineMercenar (124135) | more than 2 years ago | (#37922722)

Thank you for reviving the films. I shoot large format 4x5 slide film, and the quickloads have been indispensable for me in ensuring lighting, exposure and focus is right in the studio!

What is your pipeline of products? Do you plan on releasing different speeds and formats, or doing something altogether different?

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