ECN-2 Processing

By Henry James

Rev. April 2024

Introduction

Developing ECN2 film by hand can be an exciting challenge for any photography enthusiast. However, before diving into this process, it’s essential to have a solid foundation in film development. Familiarity with black and white (B&W) and C41 colour negative development is highly recommended. These foundational skills will provide you with the necessary experience in handling chemicals and understanding the timing and temperature controls that are crucial for film development.

 

ECN2, or Eastman Color Negative 2, is the standard process used for motion picture films and differs from the more common C41 process in several key ways. The primary difference lies in the initial steps and the chemical composition used to treat the film. ECN2 includes a remjet backing removal, which is not present in C41 films. This backing must be carefully washed away before the main development steps can begin. Additionally, ECN2 uses different chemicals for its developer, stop, bleach, and fixer stages, tailored specifically to handle the unique emulsion used in motion picture film.

 

Understanding these distinctions is vital, as it affects not only the handling of the film during development but also the final outcome of your photographs. With this in mind, if you are well-versed in the basics of film development and are looking for a new challenge, developing ECN2 film by hand can be a deeply rewarding endeavour.

Setting Up

The following instructions assume you have successfully loaded your film rolls into tanks for development. If you are not familiar with this process we do not recommend attempting ECN2 developing.

 

For color developing, only use tanks with the capacity for two 35mm films.

Chemical Preparation

Before you start, ensure all chemicals are ready and accurately measured. ECN2 processing requires precise chemical handling to avoid any cross-contamination and to achieve the desired results:

  • Kit: We recommend using the Bellini ECN-2 kit. 
  • Heating: Heat your chemicals to the recommended temperatures. This involves bringing your developer to around 41°C (106°F). Use the CineStill Temperature Control System to ensure that your water bath is stable to avoid fluctuations that could affect development.

  • Handling: Use separate syringes, measuring cups, and stirrers for each chemical to prevent cross-contamination. Rise out funnels between uses. Wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area to handle chemicals safely. Consider the water bath and sink to be contaminated.

1. Pre-bath

A pre-bath step involves soaking the film in a pre-bath solution at roughly 38°C (100°F) for 10 to 15 seconds. This step helps to prepare the emulsion for the removal of the remjet backing and ensures an even development.

Return the pre-bath to the bottle after use.

2. Washing Away the Remjet

Removing the remjet, a black carbon backing on the film, is a critical step in processing ECN2 films:

 

  • After the prebath, fill the development tank with water tempered to about 38°C (100°F). Seal the tank and vigorously agitate it to loosen the remjet from the film. This vigorous shaking helps to dislodge the remjet effectively.

  • After agitating, quickly dump out the water. Repeat this process: fill, agitate vigorously, and dump, continuing until the water runs clear. This step will need to be repeated several times to ensure all the remjet is removed completely.

 

This method ensures thorough removal of the remjet, preparing the film for a clean and clear development process.

3. Developer

Fill the tank with the ECN2 developer solution at 41°C for 3 minutes.* Invert continuously for the first 15 seconds, then for five seconds every 30 seconds until 3 minutes have elapsed.

 

When done, return the developer to the bottle.

 

*Repeated use of the chemistry will require lengthening of the development time. See the kit for details.

4. Stopping

Immediately after developing, fill the tank stop bath to halt the development process. Agitate for 30 seconds to ensure thorough stopping.

 

Return the stop to the bottle when finished.

5. Rinse

Exchange the water three times to thoroughly remove all traces of the stop bath, preparing the film for the next chemical treatment.

6. Bleach

Bleaching removes the developed silver image, leaving behind the colour dyes.

Immerse the film in bleach for 3 minutes at temperature.

Continuous agitation for first 15 seconds only.

 

Return the bleach to the bottle when finished.

7. Rinse Again

Rinse the film five times with fresh water to remove any residual bleach, preparing it for fixing.

8. Fix

The fixer makes the image permanent and light-resistant.

Treat the film in fixer for 2 minutes at 38°C with continuous agitation for first 15 seconds, then for 5 seconds every 30 seconds.

 

Return the fixer to the bottle when finished.

9. Final Wash

Wash the film in running water for 5 minutes to ensure all chemicals are removed.

10. Removing Remaining Remjet

Take the film off the reel and gently wipe it with a wet microfiber cloth to remove any remaining remjet. Be gentile. 

11. Removing Remaining Remjet

Fill the PhotoFlo tub with clean warm water and add half a cap of Stabilizer.

Soak the film in the stabilizer solution for 1 minute at room temperature to protect the color dyes and prevent fading.

12. Drying

Transfer the film to hang in the drying cabinet to avoid any particles settling on the wet film. 

Unnecessary inspection of the film will cause dust and hair to perminatley set into the drying emulsion.

Cleaning

After successfully developing your ECN2 film, proper cleanup of your equipment and work area is crucial to ensure everything remains in good condition for future use. Here are the steps to follow:

 

  1. Close All Chemistry Containers: Ensure that all chemical containers are tightly sealed to prevent any contamination and evaporation. Store them in a cool, dark place to maintain their effectiveness for future developments.

  2. Wash the Temperature Control System and Tub: Make sure to drain the temperature bath completely. Clean the interior surfaces and rinse thoroughly with water to remove any chemical residues that could corrode the equipment or affect future uses.

  3. Clean Tanks, Reels, and Equipment: All tanks and reels should be thoroughly cleaned using warm, soapy water. Pay special attention to any nooks and crannies where chemical residues might accumulate. Rinse everything under running water to ensure no soap or chemical residues are left behind.

  4. Dry and Store Equipment: After washing, allow all equipment to air dry completely in a dust-free environment before storing. This prevents the growth of mold and the occurrence of unwanted water spots on your equipment.

  5. Dispose of Waste Properly: Finally, ensure that all chemical waste is disposed of according to local regulations. Proper disposal protects the environment and adheres to health and safety standards.

 

By following these cleanup steps, you not only prolong the life of your film-developing equipment but also ensure a safe and clean workspace for the next film-development project.