View Full Version : 4-up film developing tricks?

Richard Wasserman
18-Aug-2010, 08:02
I have a small sink line with 1 gallon tanks that I want to use for processing 4x5 B&W and C-41. I just got some 4-up hangers and before I use them I am wondering if anyone has any helpful hints for insuring even development. I have read that some people can't seem to get them to work while others have no problems. I assume they wouldn't have been used for decades in labs is they didn't work properly. I'm hoping they don't require nitrogen burst.....

I've used single hangers with success. Any tricks of the trade?

Gem Singer
18-Aug-2010, 08:22
An effective agitation method: Lift the hangers and tilt them 45 degrees forward. Lower them back into the tank Then lift them again and tilt them 45 degrees backwards. Lower them into the tank and let them sit motionless until the next agitation cycle.

This operation takes about 15 seconds. Do it once a minute.

To decrease contrast, agitate every other minute.

Jay DeFehr
18-Aug-2010, 10:17
Lately I've been wondering about vibration as a means of agitation, as an alternative to nitrogen burst, rotation, or inversion. Not sure it's feasible, just mental wanderings. I imagine how convenient it would be to discover that agitation could be accomplished by vibration, and the degree of agitation controlled by the frequency and/or amplitude of the vibration. I've seen vibration cause ripples, and even violent disturbance on the surface of water, and wonder if it would sufficiently break up the boundary layer of developer on the film's surface. I mention these things on this forum hoping someone smarter than myself will confirm my suspicions, though I'm always skeptical when they dis-confirm them! Human nature, I suppose, or maybe just my own stubbornness.

practically speaking, I've always used the method Gem describes above, with good results.

MIke Sherck
18-Aug-2010, 10:28
The first thing that comes to mind regarding agitation by vibration is air bubbles. I'd be sure to test thoroughly, in light sufficient to view the surface of the film in processing, in detail. Perhaps there's a frequency and/or magnitude which works, or which doesn't, which I imagine would have to be established by trial and observation?


Rick Moore
18-Aug-2010, 10:56
I have used Gem's method very successfully. I add one other small thing - during the initial agitation, I lift the hangers about an inch and let them drop onto the tank rim a couple of times to dislodge any bubbles.

Jay: I have also wondered about this, specifically, using an ultrasound transducer to produce the vibrations.


Jay DeFehr
18-Aug-2010, 11:51
Then I'm not alone! That's good to know.


I wondered about air bubbles, too; it's the first thing that came to mind. I don't think air bubbles are inevitable or unavoidable, but they're certainly a concern. I also wonder about patterns forming on the film. We've all seen (presumably) the ring pattern made by vibration (remember Jurassic Park?) on a liquid surface. I can imagine all kids of potential patterns, but I can also imagine ways they could be cancelled by alternating the wave forms, etc.

Gem Singer
18-Aug-2010, 11:54
When I was in dental practice, we used ultrasonic vibration with a solvent to clean our instruments. It was a very effective way to remove debris before sterilization.

I have the feeling that using that type of vibration for film development would eventually lead to separation of the emulsion layer from the film base.

The technique that I described calls for slow, gentle agitation, instead of violent shaking or vibrating, allowing the developer to exhaust in the denser highlight areas before refreshing it by agitating.

Jay DeFehr
18-Aug-2010, 12:43

You make an excellent point! If vibration can separate the emulsion from the base, it ought to be able to disturb the boundary layer enough to effect a change of developing solution at the film's surface. Vibration need not be violent, or continuous, just sufficient. Maybe we're on to something!

Mark Woods
18-Aug-2010, 13:25
I find that the process Gem mentions works for 4x5 and 5x7 (most of the time), but totally causes edge build up in 8x10 (on hangers). I've thought about the ratio of movement of the 4x5 in relation to the 8x10. The 8x10 is double the movement and it shows up in uneven development. What I do now (besides the drop the hangers about an inch to dislodge bubbles), is to gently move the hangers right and left and alternate moving them up in a circular motion. Alternating each minute. Some may say that it's very similar to stand developing -- but taking less time. So far I've had very little if any edge build up on the 8x10 negs.

Hope this helps.

18-Aug-2010, 13:59

You make an excellent point! If vibration can separate the emulsion from the base, it ought to be able to disturb the boundary layer enough to effect a change of developing solution at the film's surface. Vibration need not be violent, or continuous, just sufficient. Maybe we're on to something!

A few things to consider here. Surface waves on the top of the water (the ones that crash on the beach or ripple across a lake from a tossed stone), do not travel below the surface of the water. So surface waves are out for agitation of fluids around submerged film.

There might be some merit to a LOW frequency acoustic source producing enough agitation but what you are really after is fluid velocity and not acoustic pressure and you can't have large acoustic velocities (read fluid flows) with out large pressures. While velocities of sound traveling through water are very fast, they are different from the fluid particle speed resulting from the wave propagating and the particle speeds only localized. Plus, any fluid that moves from an low amplitude acoustic wave just returns to its exact same location. So there is very little agitation such that it would clear the surface of the film.

Ultrasonic cleaners are just for that - cleaning. Their energy is so large and at such a high frequency (ultrasonic) as to cause cavitation and micro bubbles. These bubble expand and collapse creating localized shock waves that remove the debris on surfaces. Technology aside, ultrasonic cleaners are out due to their destruction.

If you look at ultrasonic humidifiers, I think this might be the best possibility there. Their energy is large but not as destructive as a US cleaner. However, because their energy is still so great, as the energy leaves the acoustic transducer, the fluid is entrained with the energy and actually moves great distance. This might be the best acoustic solution.

But what you want is fluid flow that has a displacement that is the same magnitude as the film size. Remember we are trying to simulate the lifting of film out of water and returning it to the tank at an angle so the fluid swirls and mixes around the film holder as it is returned.

Acoustics is neat and also my job, but what is needed here is a propeller or pump or just a plain stick to stir the fluid.

18-Aug-2010, 14:23
I also use the developing method Gem mentioned for 4x5, trays for anything larger....

Quick thought, I know the focus has been vibration of the fluid itself...

Maybe simply moderate vibration of the film hangers would be a feasible solution, rather than the fluid.


Jay DeFehr
18-Aug-2010, 14:39

I assume the vibration would vibrate everything, but the transmission mechanism could be through the holders. I'm thinking in very broad terms, about everything that might comprise a development system based on vibration agitation. How do you imagine a vibrating holder might work?

18-Aug-2010, 14:55

I'd probably look at a separate frame unit unattached to the tank itself, probably slotted to hold the hangers securely/uniformly, and attach a vibrating mechanism to the frame unit. Switched for intermitent intervals, or controlled via timer possibly.

Flow patterns should be somewhat equal across the film as compared to vibration of the fluid itself....

But I'm surely not an expert....


18-Aug-2010, 15:08
Another thought -

A good amount of control may be possible through positioning of the vibration unit on the frame, or multiples, possibly even through mounting opposite units....


Jay DeFehr
18-Aug-2010, 15:10
I like it! If I imagine the hangers as leafs in a book, connected to a common spine, I can visualize how the pages might vibrate as a result of vibrations in the spine. Not necessarily a direct interpretation of your suggestion, but it helps me to visualize the concept. Interesting!

One of the issues that came to my mind when considering the potential benefits relative to other methods of agitation was the use of minimal solution volumes permitted by rotary agitation. It doesn't take much solution to cover a sheet of film lying flat. If the holders had a thin profile, several sheets could be stacked with a small space between them. If the sheets were held in tension, it would seem like a matter of vibrating a membrane, which is fairly easy for me to visualize. Great ideas, gentlemen! Thank you, and keep them coming!

Richard Wasserman
18-Aug-2010, 15:23
I think I'm going to pass on the vibrational developing and do what Gem suggested. It's basically what I do with single sheet holders and it works fine, it's simple and doesn't require electricity.

Jay DeFehr
18-Aug-2010, 15:43
I'm sorry, Richard, I didn't mean to hijack your thread; I felt your question had been answered, and so I didn't think our tangential discussion would be disruptive. This subject and the ideas generated here are very interesting to me, so I think I'll start a new thread. My apologies for any interruption.

Richard Wasserman
18-Aug-2010, 15:51
I'm sorry, Richard, I didn't mean to hijack your thread; I felt your question had been answered, and so I didn't think our tangential discussion would be disruptive. This subject and the ideas generated here are very interesting to me, so I think I'll start a new thread. My apologies for any interruption.


No hard feelings–I thought my question was answered also. Please continue with the discussion here if you wish, I'm finding it interesting. It's not for me, but interesting none the less.

19-Aug-2010, 02:44
If the tank is open at the top exposing the hanger supports, you could lay a vibrator (dildo) across the hangers and test the vibration effect on development. They come with adjustable speed controls I've been told...

Mark Sampson
19-Aug-2010, 07:28
Back to the OP's situation... in the late '70s I worked in a custom lab, where we processed 4x5 b/w in 3-1/2 gallon tanks,using single 4x5 hangers and the Gem Singer/Kodak agitation method. It worked fine. In the mid-80s I went to work for a large corporation- in those days we shot a great deal of 4x5. We processed film in a 3-1/2 gallon Calumet setup with the Kodak nitrogen-burst system.
And the 4-up Kodak hangers. I was surprised that there were all kinds of surge marks on the negs... I thought that I was making mistakes, but the old-timers on staff told me 'that always happens, just don't compose out to the edges, and crop in the enlarger'. Needless to say I wasn't satisfied by this and tried for quite a while to get perfect development, varying agitation pressure, burst time and frequency. Never got perfect negs, took a fair amount of grief from the old-timers, and eventually gave up. (about 1990 we converted to a Wing-Lynch 4E.) I thought then that the problem was with the 4-up hangers, and have regarded them as the work of the Devil ever since... except for the fact that some people use them successfully. So from my distant perspective, I'd guess that the lift-and-tilt agitation method has the most chance of success.

Richard Wasserman
19-Aug-2010, 07:59
Thanks Mark,

I'll be trying it out this weekend and will report back.

I was reading Kodak's instructions for hanger developing, and they say that when using nitrogen burst to also agitate by hand periodically for even development (which is the system they strongly recommend).

I have fingers and toes crossed...

Jerry Bodine
19-Aug-2010, 21:13
This may not be germane to your objective, but FWIW ...

My only use of 4-up hangers was for developing film in highly dilute HC-110 to achieve compensated N-3 and N-4 results, as suggested by AA in The Negative, whereby the hanger is submerged in an 11x14 TRAY (to accommodate the large volume of solution) and agitated at long intervals after the initial agitation for about 18-20 minutes and cautioned about finding the minimum amount of agitation to avoid uneven development/mottle. I found the best agitation technique was to keep the hanger submerged in a horizontal position and slooooooowly raise and lower it one time at each interval. Tray rocking produced uneven results.

I'd also experienced problems initially with single hangers where the developer would jet through the holes in the hanger frame causing local overdevelopment at the holes, and found that the problem was solved by lifting more sloooowly then tilting then lowering more sloooowly back into the tank.