Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996
Machines & Film
Updated : 13th July 2006
Some months back Kodak issued a warning regarding new X ray scanners being installed at airports. Has anyone suffered a mishap or heard of one ?
On my homepage I have mirrored the Kodak warning. There you can also see an example of how a neg looks like after having been through one of these x-ray machines.
To see it just follow the link on
to "a warning" or go directly to
or alternatively to
>Some months back Kodak issued a warning regarding new X ray >scanners being installed at airports. Has anyone suffered a mishap or >heard of one ?
Yes - a roll of Fuji 8671 (500 ASA color neg) that I forgot about in a bag came back from the lab with about a 50% grey base fog and grain so big it looked like dancing rocks. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Of course, if you can, mail your film with a "DO NOT X-RAY" sticker rather than take it through the airport. And of course, if you have to take it through the airport, avoid the X-ray by showing the cans to security and explaining.
Oh No Ben!!
Look what you
have done! Now everyone that shoots music videos just got
the latest effect. Expect to see many PAs lurking around
airport security stations with duffel bags full of exposed
film asking if they could put it through just one more time.
I had a project in Helsinki last February and was worried about the same thing. The advice I received back then from Kodak (UK), was to take the film stock as hand luggage. Most, if not all of the newer hand luggage X-ray machines use really weak x-ray radiation and I was assured that these would not effect the film. Whereas the checked in luggage goes through a stronger x-ray machine and that would cause some fogging on the film. Even after these comforting words I was still quite nervous, while watching my stock roll through the machine.
was not effected, which was confirmed by a speedy "clip"
& stock test. However I made sure that the rushes got
developed in Helsinki to avoid them going through the machine
again, as I was warned about multiple passes! It is best
to ask the airport staff to put your stock through the most
technologically up-to-date machine and also to tell them
what you are putting through. To the best of my knowledge
though, it still remains quite a risk take.
Maybe more could be done between the film manufacturers and the airport authorities ???
This is not true - the roll I wrote about that got messed up was run through the "hand luggage" security X-ray, NOT the baggage check X-ray. Apparently the old machines didn't do much damage, but the new higher-security ones are much stronger. And to hear Kodak tell it, the machines outside the US have always done damage.
The hand luggage machines WILL fog your film SEVERELY. And I can't imagine that anyone would check a bag with their film in it, unless they had no regard for their footage. Not only is there the bag check X-ray to worry about, there's the potential temperature and moisture damage.
From my personal experience ( I am sure others out there have more). I have taken film all around the States, Being insistent that the film be Hand examined (bring a changing bag, and a roll of slug film to show them what they will be feeling), and leaving extra time, has allowed me NEVER to need to have hand carried film x-rayed.
I have taken film into and out of Ireland, and England ( again with no problems). In fact leaving Ireland I was brought to a special room, where I lined up the cans. Opened up the untapped one with the slug/test film and then the Security man just touched the outside each and every can of film. Without asking to examine it further. What I find usually happens is that, once you get to the hand inspection station, either they have the Bomb particle sniffer, or after two cans of film being checked in the bag, the line becomes so long behind me, that they just say, "go on through".
It has only been on the Eurostar, and visiting England's Parliment where I had to have my film x-rayed ( the guards all thought my Bolex was rather cute, and they actually knew what it was). By the way, U.S. Monuments and the like will also X-ray. To enter The Statue of Liberty, we had to have the Panavision camera x-rayed ( they thought it was a lawn mower). Never had still film fogged yet, and I always forget about that and send it through. What about Using Fed-ex, or something of the like? Would that avoid the X-ray problem?
Balazs Bolygo writes :
>It is best to ask the airport staff to put your stock through the most >technologically up-to-date machine and also to tell them what you are >putting through.
Up-to-date doesn't necessarily equal weaker, or safer. The problem with the newer machines (apparently also coming into use for hand luggage?) is their _variable_ strength. But I've noticed some airports now have notices advising you to submit film for hand inspection - previously it was "no exceptions" and "don't worry, this won't do any harm to your film". A glimmer of hope and enlightenment.
The cumulative effect of multiple security checks is an important point, especially on faster film stocks.
It's all a pain in the proverbial, (even for the humble holiday stills that I choose to bring home rather than process at some local 1 hour lab in the mall or street market). But in a tussle between fogged film and hijacked aircraft, film is going to come second most of the time.