Thinkin of a master plan
January 17, 2009 11:23 PM   Subscribe

They acquired Polaroid's old equipment, factory and now seek your support. "The Impossible mission is NOT to re-build Polaroid Integral film but to develop a new product with new characteristics, consisting of new optimized components, produced with a streamlined modern setup. An innovative and fresh analog material, sold under a new brand name." They have just 12 months. 7 Challenges (to come). Sign up to be informed and help. [kangol tip]

Check out the creepy giddily brutalistish photos of the old polaroid factory and equipment. By the team that recently launched PolaPremium last year.
posted by cashman (24 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Bring back kodachrome super 8mm too!
posted by sswiller at 12:02 AM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Trying to resurrect some semblance of a company-esque large-scale production line doesn't seem like such a great idea. It seems to me that rather they ought to document and streamline the process of hand-manufacturing the film, if that's possible, maybe with simple tools that could be produced by something like a RepRap fabricator.
posted by XMLicious at 1:30 AM on January 18, 2009

I'm fairly sure that enough people have an interest in film photography to keep it alive as a niche market, much as glass plate photography has survived. But Polaroid? Obviously I can't say for sure, but I doubt it.

XMLicious Interesting thought, but I wonder if it'd work. In the second place, it presupposes we get household fabbers soonish, and I'm a bit doubtful on that one. But more important most of the stuff that makes Polaroid work isn't mechanical, but chemical, and I'd imagine that may be more difficult for a fabber to do.
posted by sotonohito at 3:32 AM on January 18, 2009

The plant photos would be a bunch less brutal if they'd used a proper camera.

Also, I take issue with the project being "impossible". It's clearly possible, as it has been done before. Improbable? Better. Ill-advised? Better yet. (And what the hell are Ilford doing supporting these numpties? Pan F is the future, people.)

When your business plan is based on selling capital-intensive, expensive consumables to fickle, impecunious art-school types, you bring a lot of fail to the table. Teenagers and amateur pornographers went digital years ago, and took the instant film market with them.
posted by scruss at 5:29 AM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

There is a demand for Polaroid film on some level, although who knows how long this will last. I recently sold a 5 pack of Polaroid 600 film that my wife had bought accidentally.

The original price at Costco was around $50. I sold it for nearly $80 on Ebay.
posted by jeremias at 5:32 AM on January 18, 2009

it's an interesting issue. I would think that the first solution would be to buy up and store/preserve as much existing stock of the film as possible. Create a central market that pegs price/value to remaining inventory. Seems like either the demand would drive the value up to a point where re-manufacturing becomes a realistic short term proposition, or demand dwindles, thus ensuring that the remaining stock is preserved purely for historic value.
posted by billyfleetwood at 5:55 AM on January 18, 2009

Step 1: First, make a shiny, self-congratulatory website.

"The Impossible mission is NOT to re-build Polaroid Integral film but to develop a new product with new characteristics..."

And yet, a nostalgic desire for EXACTLY THAT seems to be what fuels the website and, presumably, anyone supporting the effort, no?

Some more internal honesty would help here, I think.
posted by rokusan at 6:23 AM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I thought that the original Polaroid film's characteristics was exactly what people liked about Polaroid film in the first place. Considering they have the original Polaroid factory and equipment, you would think that the best thing to do, at least while they're getting things off the ground, is to go with the tried and true and make polaroid film.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:28 AM on January 18, 2009

As long as I can once again use my suave, leather trimmed SX-70 cheaply and conveniently I'm on board.
posted by Toecutter at 7:04 AM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Agreed dunkadunc. Instead of allowing themselves to get crushed by the weight of their faux-nobility, maybe churn out some film and stop perpetuating a market where $80 packages of file exist.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:06 AM on January 18, 2009

They say they can't do it because the technology is somehow no longer available, probably because of environmental laws that trump the 1960's chemical properties of Instant film. So they want to re-invent the process using more modern processes (both chemical and mechanical). And they expect that there will be a market for this large enough to fund this?

Excuse me, I'm trying to wrap my head around this...
posted by Gungho at 7:09 AM on January 18, 2009

I'd be happy to help and support the company by buying some film, assuming they are catering to the fine art market by making film which can be put through the creative processes that certain polaroid films could be, like image transfers and sx-70 manipulation.

If they're making just instant film, then I'll stay digital, thanks. It's much cheaper.
posted by illovich at 7:11 AM on January 18, 2009

Fuji Photo still makes pack film, which implies it's possible to make something compatible but using modern (read environmentally acceptable) processes and chemicals. However, Fuji is a very large company with extensive experience in photo chemistry. A small company, no matter how dedicated will be hard-pressed to pull of a similar feat. Still, I wish these guys luck.
posted by tommasz at 7:34 AM on January 18, 2009

Another reason they cant just copy the Polaroid process is the patents

Polaroid employs no fewer than 25 patent attorneys, who have erected a blockade of some 1,000 patents around the Polaroid process. Though rights to the original Land inventions in instant photography have long since expired, no would-be competitor has been able to jump ahead of those that are still tightly protected. Thus, to an astonishing degree, Polaroid has no direct competition. - Time

Patent No. 6,227,729 will be in force until August 26, 2019

In the largest patent - infringement award ever granted -- and the culmination of a fierce 14-year battle between two corporate giants -- Polaroid Corp. was awarded $909.5 million from Eastman Kodak Co.
posted by Lanark at 7:43 AM on January 18, 2009

They should develop a film that sees through clothing and walls. The snap shot is not digital, therefore semi-private, and they can give the original to the subject. Teenage boys will keep them in business regardless.
posted by Brian B. at 8:31 AM on January 18, 2009

If the result is a 10 pack that will fit any of me three Polaroids that use 600 film and it will cost somewhere around 10 dollars as it did at Adorama two years ago, then I'm all for it. I love Polaroids.
posted by spicynuts at 10:01 AM on January 18, 2009

Ugh, so I assume this means no more type 55, and no more 8x10 cross toning. Maybe they will come up with a suitable replacement for the 55, but the cross toning was just an accidental by product of the chemistry. So it goes.
posted by Jezztek at 10:28 AM on January 18, 2009

There is a demand for Polaroid film on some level, although who knows how long this will last.

I imagine it could last forever. Painting is no longer the mainstream way of capturing landscapes or portraits or whatever, as it was a couple of centuries ago, but it lives on amongst hobbyists and artists. There's no good reason for most people to give a shit about Polaroids (want instant prints? Get a digital camera and portable dye-sub printer. Want home-made porn? That's what digital cameras and photo-quality inkjets are for, right?).

The only people who are really going to care about Polaroid are nostalgists or artists who want a specific look and effect they can't achieve otherwise (for example, the exhibit I saw a while back where the artist had floated the developed chemical layer off the Polaroid paper and transferred it to other media).

The thing is that those people will likely end up paying through the nose for stock, and people who have a more casual interest will miss out.

Patent No. 6,227,729 will be in force until August 26, 2019

That's just broken - not the patents themselves, but the fact Kodak can dog-in-the-manger a business they longer wish to participate in.
posted by rodgerd at 12:29 PM on January 18, 2009

I don't get why integral film is the priority. The time for that process has come and gone due to small inexpensive digital cameras.

I would think there would be more of a market for pack films like type 55 and 80 series. I can think of 9 or 10 photogs off the top of my head (including me) who would gladly pay a premium for Type 55 in 4x5 and 8x10. Times that by several tens of thousands and I would think there would be enough profit to keep a small and efficient assembly line going.

It's a true testimony to how bad off Kodak, Fuji, Ilford etc. are that no one even bothered to step up to try and keep any of the more expensive "art" films in production. I would have almost expected a company like Epson to make an investment than any of the old players in the film world.

Total bummer.
posted by photoslob at 1:08 PM on January 18, 2009

Is this related to I was toying with getting an SX-70 18months ago until I realised how much film would cost me on there. At the time I was back at my mum's house in a town where you can't even get CF cards, so was convinced it would be hard to track down.

I always really wanted the chocolate film.
posted by mippy at 3:04 PM on January 18, 2009

sotonohito: In the second place, it presupposes we get household fabbers soonish, and I'm a bit doubtful on that one.

The RepRap Project appears to already have a working system that they say costs around €500 in parts to build. I've also seen commercial systems advertised at a $5k price point in just the last few months.

Note that these are "3D printer" technology-based fabricators that basically just construct plastic parts from resin, the sort of systems that are used for prototyping and making one-off dies industrially, but it still seems like a good place to start on the Polaroid stuff. I'm sure that the chemical components would be tough to get correct - but that's why I'm saying that they ought to invest effort in streamlining and documenting the hand-manufacturing process.
posted by XMLicious at 3:50 PM on January 18, 2009

XMLicious, if what people are saying upthread is accurate, it would be a breach of patent law to "get the chemicals correct." In fact, the more correct the chemicals, the more trouble you'd be in.

Also, you're taking an excessively handwavy approach to the problem. Many chemicals involved in photography are nasty ones that need to be handles and disposed of correctly.
posted by rodgerd at 2:01 PM on January 19, 2009

Okay... the guys publishing that web site are proposing to resurrect a consumer-level analog film industry and market in the 21st century which none of the established film or camera manufacturers saw fit to try profiting from, but I'm being excessively handwavy by suggesting that someone sit down and thoroughly document the manufacturing process? ;^)

All I'm saying is that if the objective is to preserve Polaroid film for posterity, perhaps ensuring that the details necessary for small-scale manufacture are preserved is a more certain route than trying to re-establish a viable market and manufacturing industry for such an antiquated technology, no matter how adorably retro it is.

And in fact just working out the process and doing the documentation is far less risky, patent-law-wise, than trying to create a company to actually create and sell a product. Just look at the custom manufacture of parts for early-model cars (or simply obscure or poorly-supported late model cars, for that matter.) Patent law doesn't stop any of that - all the lawyers in the world are no match for a community of technically-oriented car enthusiasts. And that sort of thing is just going to become more and more common now that 3D printing and other custom fabrication technologies are within a price range that makes them accessible to the average first worlder.
posted by XMLicious at 8:46 PM on January 19, 2009

XMLicious, it doesn't make economic sense to reinvent the wheel when its laying there with a For Sale sign on it. Believe it or not but this is probably the cheapest way to go about producing a new instant film to fit inside existing cameras.

Is this related to

Same guy owns both companies.
posted by squeak at 10:19 PM on January 19, 2009

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