Darkroom/Rapid E-6 Film Development

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Arista Rapid E-6 is a rapid, four-bath process for developing E-6 colour slide film. It comes as a kit; there's about a dozen little bottles in the package, which you have to mix with some amount of water. E-6 chemistry is a lot like C-41 in use, except that there's an initial "developer" stage, the colour developer has a fogging agent, and you have to wash the film between stages since the reversal development process doesn't tolerate carry-over. The chemistry only lasts about two weeks once mixed, and I get about eight 135-36 filmsworth out of a 500 ml Arista Rapid E-6 press kit.

All E-6 film needs the same development, so there's no complicated film-specific developer time matrix of doom; but, as the first developer gets depleted slash oxidized slash just plain tired, you have to bump the time a little. Arista says you should add 4% for each successive development cycle, but I'm not sure this is in any way accurate. You should use your own judgement.

[edit] Before You Start

  1. Make up your chemistry according to the instructions. You'll need three bottles to put it in.
  2. Mark your bottles: First Developer, Colour Developer and Blix. Don't mix them up.
  3. Make up a tempering bath and heat it to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Put your chemistry bottles in the tempering bath and wait for them to get to temperature.

[edit] Basic Instructions

  1. In complete darkness, roll your film into a tank.
  2. Turn on safelight or house lights, as your paranoia permits.
  3. Fill your tank with water at the process temperature, and let it sit for a minute or two. Agitate it a bit. This, and all following steps save the wash stage, should be done with the tank sitting in the tempering bath. This is really super important for E-6.
  4. Empty the water out; marvel at the funny colour it went. (Velvia 50 water goes green, except the 120 format which goes purple!)
  5. Add first developer to tank. Knock it on the table, then stand it in the tempering bath. Agitate for the first thirty seconds, then do four inversions every thirty seconds. You'll soup your film for a total of six minutes and thirty seconds.
  6. Pour first developer back into your stock bottle.
  7. Wash the film by filling the tank with process-temperature water and emptying it seven times. You need to do this promptly; delay will make your slides come out thin and awful.
  8. Add colour developer to tank. Same as the first developer, except this time go for four and a half minutes.
  9. Pour the colour developer back into your bottle. Make sure you get the right bottle.
  10. Wash the film again, same as the first. You can, if you want, look at the film now, but you won't see anything.
  11. Add blix to tank. Agitate it the same way as the developer, but this time for ten minutes.
  12. As your film is blixing, it will produce a little sulfur dioxide. You will have to burp your tank a couple times.
  13. Pour the blix back into the bottle. It stinks of ammonia and sulfur dioxide: don't breathe this.
  14. Immediately rinse with running water at process temperature, for five minutes.
  15. Empty out the wash water, and wash with photo-flo or virgin blood or whatever. Probably not virgin blood.
  16. Drying and praying against the anti-dust gods. You may also want to use the film dryer.
  17. Before you put your chemistry away, squirt some Dust-Off into each bottle to displace the oxygen that will destroy the chemistry while you sleep.
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