No. 307

Dr. Love's Tips - My Kingdom for Some Opacity

Patrick Tobin | Feb 27, 05:00 PM

The good doctor.

Hello again, Love Patients! This week Dr. Love explains a little about Impossible films’ light sensitivity…

Some of you may wonder why Impossible film needs to be covered from light when it first comes out of a camera when Polaroid film didn’t. If Polaroid film could be exposed to light, why can’t Impossible’s film be?

The short answer to this is…“Opacification Layer.” This is a layer within the film, that upon the spreading of the developer chemistry, reacts in a way that blocks out almost all light from affecting the lower (still light-sensitive) layers…of the film. As instant film has a regular film negative at its base, will still be sensitive to light until it’s been fully processed. Think of the Opacification layer, or opacifier, as a chemical curtain that needs to be drawn over the film to protect the image you’ve created.

Now you might be thinking, “What’s hard about this?” Well the answer to that is the fact that this layer that has to block almost all light, even strong sunlight and has to then dissolve away and become completely clear in order for your image to appear on the film.

So herein lies the challenge…it’s simply one of the most sizably complex of all the challenges in making the film, and it’s expensive. It’s thankfully not an issue that renders the film unusable, as many of you may know from using a PX Shade or Frog Tongue…or even simply a dark slide, there’s always a way around it, but…

…How did Polaroid do it?

Among other components, Polaroid used one ingredient called ‘Titanium Oxide’ or TiO2 as one key component for their Opacification layer. Being that the number 1 reason Impossible couldn’t simply keep making Polaroid film is that the lion’s share of materials were all gone and literally impossible to recreate. Now TiO2 is not entirely ‘extinct’ in the supply, but is scarce enough it’d be like trying to base a new diet around the dodo bird when you’re looking at the last one. It is also incredibly expensive to recreate, like “blank check” expensive, so to build a series of films on it would be expensive, and not last. It also wasn’t 100% perfect, that’s why Polaroid put their own, shorter ‘frog tongues’ on all cameras since the plastic-bodied SX-70 OneSteps, to protect the film in those first moments of ejection.

Impossible is working on finding a more sustainable solution to this issue. With some time and a lot of R&D, there will one day again be the chance to watch your images develop before your eyes, even outside. For a sense of scale, it took Polaroid 17 years to initially develop their first integral film, let alone the years of refinements, so at about 2 years in, a little bit more patience should give us all that satisfaction once again.

Keep your rollers clean, -f

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Comments:

  1. @Doug: you are right that TiO2 is still available. and you are absolutely right about the complex, near chaotic interactions between the different reagents from the negative and the receiving sheet. however you are totally wrong with your assumption that we thought or think of the imperfect opicification layer as being “good enough” and didn’t bother to get it right. in fact we are working very hard on improving this point and getting the opacification layer of our films to the standard of the good ol’ Polaroid films. in fact this has been one of the top priorities of our R&D team since 2010. since we are using new colour dyes, completely different to the old films, among other new components, the original recipes and sollutions are no longer applicable and new sollutions have to be found.

    said Andi Hentschel/ Impossible Vienna | 1519 days ago
  2. I call BS on this. Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) is a commonly available pigment that’s found in many products.
    The reality is that there was a complex interaction between the acids in the negative layers and the alkaline opacifier that allowed for the protection and reveal of the image. My impression is that IP took a this is good enough approach and never bothered to get the interactions right.

    said Doug Winfield | 1522 days ago
  3. Very interesting info, thanks!

    I would hope somebody still has the recipe filed away somewhere but even if there was a chemical company that could make the ingredients for the opacifier, they wouldn’t want to be bothered unless Impossible could commit to large batches, on an ongoing basis. (like Polaroid would buy when they were at their peak)

    said Mark Johansson | 1525 days ago
  4. Thanks for explaining a lot of the working of Impossible film, without giving away the complete recipe (in this and other articles).

    TiO2 almost extinct? I thought it was still present in a lot of paint and even sunscreen.
    http://youtu.be/Q-ZypI1qlS0 at 3:40

    said Martin | 1558 days ago
  5. Andre, the Instax exposes from the back of the camera, and a thick black layer forms a permanent opacifier on that side. The image diffuses through a white backing on the other side.

    said Nicholas Rapak | 1604 days ago
  6. Hello there!

    A question (maybe a naive one): what about the Fuji Instax? What product they use for they opacification layer? Isn’t an option?

    Tks!

    said Andre Correa | 1627 days ago