Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Infra Red

A pilot we're involved with needs to shoot a helicopter surveillance sequence that would, in real life, be shot with an electronic infrared camera. I talked to Kodak here in L.A. and was told that the infrared motion picture film was only available in 35mm, 150 foot lengths (2481 Black and white, or 2443 color). Has anyone had experience (hopefully recent) shooting infrared (not still photography)? Any hints or tips? And where can the film be ordered from (Kodak Hollywood doesn't deal with it)? Thanks in advance.......

Mike Most

Okay, first of all you need to realize that what the infrared film sees is different than what the electronic infrared camera sees by a long shot; the High Speed Infrared peters at at 8500 A and can't deal with non-actinic sources at all. But it _does_ look different and your viewers probably won't know the difference.

High Speed Infrared is available as a Graphics product and can be ordered from a Kodak Graphics dealer.... make sure you get the right perf because it comes in a bunch of goofy perforations. Don't shoot 2443 unless you have access to an ME-4 lab and are ready for a nightmare.

Scott Dorsey

I just shot a whole mess of the black and white infrared film (2481) last week with good success.

Here's what I learned:

The film is available from Samy's Camera in Hollywood in 150 foot lengths on "100 foot" daylight spools. (It is a 4 mil polyester base, 2 mils thinner than your usual base, so they are able to get 150 feet of the stuff onto a "100 foot" daylight spool) The company I worked for bought Samy's out, so you might have to wait until the next shipment comes in. You must re-spool the film on to cores in the absolute dark. You must do it slowly to avoid static, about 10 minutes per roll. You can not load the film into magazines using a loading bag on location, the cloth of the bag transmits IR energy, it will fog the film. Only a loading darkroom on a camera truck will do. Black plastic sheeting or black painted glass windows might block visible light, but will transmit IR energy and fog the film. The film must be kept at 50 degrees F or below. We put a small refrigerator on the camera truck and used dry ice in coolers for the magazines. Put a couple of layers of space blanket over the camera when you are shooting to avoid stray IR light leaks. The film's polyester base conducts IR light like a fiber optics do. You should try to load the magazine on to the camera in subdued light.

The film has *no* anti-halation backing, nor does it have a gray dye in the base like the B&W films do. Any camera with a polished chrome pressure plate will *not* work. We had Clairmont Camera modify an Arri 35-3 by installing a black plated pressure plate into the camera. It worked well.

You can not use the normal witness mark for focus. The infrared light falls in different plane that the visible light. We had Clairmont put special temporary IR witness marks onto a set of Zeiss prime lenses, we measured the distance then used the special IR witness mark to set the focus. The longest lens you can hope to have focus with, even with the special witness mark, is about 35mm.

It is recommended to use as deep a stop as possible, at least a 5.6 or 8. We did most of our shooting with the 10 and 14mm lenses. Anything longer and you can't guarantee focus. It is almost impossible to put IR witness marks on a zoom as the new witness line needs to be in a different place for each discrete focal length. Still zoom lenses do it with a curving IR witness line off to the side of the primary witness line.

You must put a Kodak Wratten 87 or 87C filter on the lens. The filter looks to the eye like *tar paper*, absolutely BLACK. Harrison and Harrison can make the filter in very short time after you request it. We got some in 2 days! You can not see through the lens with this filter on. Fortunately, B&W CCD video taps *can* see through the filter. We used a "bumble bee" video tap from Clairmont with the IR cut filter removed.

Exposure is a guess, as no light meter is measuring the IR energy, only visible light, which the film does not see. I used the recommendations in the spec sheet for daylight exposures, you know, "Sun over left shoulder...., Cloudy bright...." and got good results. You can get the spec sheet from Kodak's "Fax-back" system. (800) 242-2424 the document you want is: 150602 F-13 ver. 4/96 "High speed infrared film" You call and select the document, give the system your fax number, and it sends you the tech sheets which have a lot of useful information.

Since you are simulating a FLIR surveillance system, I would recommend you contact the people that make the actual airborne FLIR systems. Contact the Burbank / Glendale Police aerial support unit at Burbank Airport and get the name of their system supplier. I would bet money the manufacturer or their rep would lend you the system, and install it on the helicopter for you, in return for credit. I know that KCAL channel 9 News flew with a demo FLIR system during the big fires a couple of years back, it was a company demo system, gratis. I believe the output is NTSC video, recordable on a standard recorder.

The problem you are going to have using the IR B&W film is you need to use a long lens to simulate the point of view of an airborne helicopter. It will be impossible to focus the long lens. Also, the FLIR systems see much farther into the IR spectrum than the B&W IR film does. It can truly see a hot engine through a car's hood, and the glow of a person's body hiding in a bush, something the B&W film can not do.

Hope this helps.

Bill Bennett

I did some research on infrared when I still worked at Schumacher Camera (Chicago). Never shot it myself, though. Call the KODAK people. They have a bunch of literature on IR. Some of it is not in print anymore; I was able to talk the representative into making me a photocopy of some material.

Here is a list of KODAK publications relating to IR film:

- KODAK Infrared Films (N-17)

- Pictorial use of Kodak's B/W high speed infrared film, 2481/4143 (no number)

- Applied Infrared Photography (M-28)

- An excerpt from the KODAK "Basic Scientific Photography" book, pages 27-30 (N-9)

All these contain cross-references to other IR publications. Especially useful is M-28, since it has many examples of color IR photography in it. If you can, get the original or a color copy. Looking at a B/W photocopy of a color IR photo tells you very little.

Since shooting IR is VERY different from shooting normal neg, definitely shoot tests. Also be aware that the temperature of the film can (and will) change exposure! Leaving a camera with IR film loaded in the sun will dramatically change what you are getting.

When I researched IR, I asked around this board, and got an answer from

Denny Clairmont:

"On February l5, Marc Shipman-Mueller asked about using infrared film in motion picture cameras. Lately, Clairmont Camera has had several customers do this. There are several things that need to be done.

First of all, the Kodak black and white film has no anti-halation backing and because of this, a camera with a totally black pressure plate needs to be used. This leaves the Arri 2C, the Mitchell cameras with rollers on the pressure pod and certain Eyemos. If you have a pressure pad with a shining chrome bar or anything in the picture area that is light colored, the light will pass through the film and reflect forward and be photographed. We recently had this happen with normal black & white film.

You can check with Kodak but I believe only l00' daylight loads are available in 35mm black & white infrared. Remember you will need Bell and Howell perfs l866 on both sides which is the standard perfs used in most of the world.

You can use infrared filters #87, 88A or 89B in front of the lens which will not let any visible light through - only infrared light. Reflex viewing on the camera will, therefore, do you no good. This filter is available from Harrison and Harrison. You can use a red #25 or RD-5 filter that will let infrared light pass through as well as visible light. Shoot a test to determine the look and exposure you're after .

Infrared light is a different wave length than normal lenses have their back focus adjusted to. Most still lenses have either a red dot or some sort of a red mark near the normal witness mark and with these you should focus by eye to the normal mark and then shift the position you have focused to the red mark. If you focus by tape measure, use the red mark to set the engraved distance on the lens. A lens technician, using a collimator, could put red marks on your lenses by comparing a still lens that has the red mark with the same focal length cine-lens and, using the collimator, mark the red mark using the same back focus offset for the same focal length still lens. I would not use zoom lenses. Even though I have not tested them with infrared, I would be surprised if there wasn't focus problems. As far as heat is concerned, I don't know of any problems normal film wouldn't have. All film should be processed as soon as possible and I don't know of any problems that normal film wouldn't have.

Kodak has a pamphlet on using black and white infrared film. There is color infrared film and you can get all kinds of odd colors depending on what you are photographing and the color of filter you are using. Commonly you use a yellow filter for the color film. When using black and white infrared, anything with chlorophyll in its surface photographs white (if you photograph a forest, it would appear to have snow on the trees and grass).

Tungsten light has a lot of infrared light and it actually increases if you use a dimmer and dim the light. "

Marc Shipman-Mueller

Hi Everyone,

Has anyone shot with Kodak's new colour infrared stock? This is the still film that can be special ordered for larger quantities for motion picture use. I know people who've talked about using it, but no one has yet. What kinds of filters work best with it? How do you rate it? What special handling issues are there to deal with when using this film in a motion picture camera?

I just bought a roll of it for my still camera, and I plan on taking it out this weekend to capture the vivid autumn colours that are out now - just to test out the stuff and see what it does.

Also, anyone have any experience with the new Ilford SFX B&W 'pseudo' infrared stock (motion picture-wise)?

This has been floating around in my head for a while, but I've never has the chance to use the stuff.


Jeremy "F3" Benning

You want a #12 yellow filter for general purpose photography, just like the older ME-4 color infrared material.

The stuff does behave differently when processed in E-6, VNF, and Aerochrome chemistry, with the E-6 having the highest gamma of the lot

I recommend the book "Applied Infrared Photography" available from your local Kodak dealer. Very good introduction to infrared work.

Scott Dorsey

I found the Ilford SFX extended range film to be very disappointing in terms of an infrared look (in stills), certainly compared to the "regular" true Kodak infrared B&W film. The Ilford film just gives you a little haze penetration but none of the obvious white foliage look.

Their was an issue of a British still magazine a few months ago that tested various colored filters with a Kodak color infrared film. At that time I wrote a message describing the results of that test. I can't find my copy of that issue at the moment.

Perhaps Geoff archived that message ... ?

Recently both Otto Nemenz and Clairmont Camera had infrared shoots take equipment out of their facilities. You might check with them ...

I know you need to use a black pressure plate, have an infrared focus witness mark added to your lenses. Using a 435, (or of course Panaflexes) you can use the visually opaque infrared gel filters in the camera so that you don't have to use an infrared sensitive video system to operate off of.

Mako Kowai

Shot some stills with it a couple of months ago. Then tried a lot of pure colored filters and wedged it a bunch. From memory, here are the results: The two best looks are with a yellow (12) filter or with no filter. All living plant life turns red so best shots are outdoors. I processed in E-6 for a very contrasty look. It is very unforgiving film. a half stop difference is pretty significant. Lastly and most frustrating is, I found no good way to determine proper exposure!?! There may be a way out there, I'll let someone else figure it out, the stuff is VERY expensive.

Eric Swenson Loading IR in the dark.

I tested the SFX 200 with the Gel in the gate of the 435 and thought that it did give a good IR effect.

See the frame grabs on the website


Geoff Boyle


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