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Instructions for getting to Chinook’s At Salmon Bay Restaurant
If you follow the directions to SFW (see below), just continue north on Elliot Ave (it turns into 15th Ave W as you pass under the Magnolia bridge) past Galer to W Emerson St. The interchange at 15th Ave W and W Emerson is a bit complicated. You will need to exit 15th Ave W as if you were going to Nickerson, but instead you loop back on the overpass over 15th Ave to W Emerson St. Then head west on W Emerson St. Make a right turn onto 19th Ave W and you will see CHINOOK’s straight in front of you.
Click here for a map.
Seattle FilmWorks is a world leader in innovative Photography and Digital Image processing. They were the first to offer Prints and Slides from any type of 35mm film. The first to put your Pictures on Disk at an affordable price. And the first to deliver your pictures to you instantly over the Internet.
Our hosts for the evening will be Michelle Christman, the night manager for SFW, and Jack Paden, a consulting engineer who designed much of the sorting and handling machinery used in the facility.
Instructions for getting to Seattle Film Works (SFW)
The address is 1260 16th Avenue West. SFW is located between Myrtle Edwards Park and the Magnolia Bridge on the Seattle Waterfront.
From Interstate 5, take the Mercer Street exit. At the first light, turn right on Fairview, then turn left on Valley (at Burger King).
Follow Valley to Denny and turn right. Continue on Denny which merges into Elliott (aka 15th Ave W) and continue north to Galer. Turn left on Galer towards the waterfront. Cross the railroad tracks, and turn left at the waterfront to 16th Avenue West.
SFW is the second building on your left.
Call 281-1394 if you get lost!
Click here for a map.
We toured the film processing facility at Seattle FilmWorks on the evening of November 12th.
Seattle FilmWorks has been processing film for customers around the world for over 20 years. On a typical day, over 800 employees at SFW process more than 20 miles of film in the state-of-the-art 65,000 sq ft photo-processing lab.
The Seattle FilmWorks Print-Ops department has nine fully computerized multiscanning printers which cost over $400,000 each. (A one-hour lab photofinishing machine costs about $60,000.) They automatically analyze each-and-every frame from your film and adjust for the best color and contrast. And each unit is calibrated daily before production begins by a quality-control technician. This is the kind of technical sophistication a storefront lab can't match.
For years SFW has been offering features the rest of the industry is now touting as "advanced". SFW can provide slides and prints from any C-41 or "chrome" film (including Kodak, Fuji, Konica, and Agfa). And they were the first to put photos on floppy disk at an affordable price. The SFW photo-indexing system has set the standard in the industry. Every photo that's printed has the frame and unique roll number printed on the back, so that you can quickly and easily find the matching negative for reprints. And their handy Pictures Plus Index makes it a snap to catalog your pictures. They even wrap your negatives in a sleeving which protects them from scratches and fingerprints.
The film processing begins with a sorting machine that takes rolls of film received into the plant by mail or other forms of delivery and sorts them into tote bins based upon the type of film. The film is dumped into a large bulk hopper and is fed into the sorting mechanism by a vibratory feeder to a shuttle tube that gravity feeds the film roll to the sorter mechanism. The sorter can sort at better than one roll a second (750 milliseconds). It’s quite an impressive machine in it’s simplicity and low cost given it’s throughput performance. The sorting machine has a name, it’s called "Electric Wanda", which is derived from the name of the worker who used to sort the film manually.
The sorted film rolls have all been tagged with barcode labels and are now carried to the splicing operation, where the bins are emptied into loading mechanisms which feed the film canisters one at a time into the splicing machines. Several splicing machines operate in parallel in this phase of the film processing due to the different film types that come from the sorting operation. These machines remove the film from the film canister and splice the film from many rolls together to form a continuous reel of exposed film a thousand feet in length. Each splice includes the barcode label which identifies the film for subsequent processing. The reel of spliced film ends up in a magazine.
Once the film has been spliced, the magazine is carried into the darkroom where it it’s loaded into a developing machine. This operation is done in the dark, so the operators wear hi-tech infrared goggles in order to see what they’re doing.
Developed film passes directly out of the darkroom in a continuous stream to a washing and drying operation. Each reel is visually inspected at this point to check for flaws in the developing process. In particular, the inspectors are looking for defects such as scratches in the film. The film is in the form of a negative at this point in the process. The developing process generates chemical waste products which contain significant amounts of silver, so a silver recovery system is used to reclaim this valuable by-product which is sold for recycling.
The developed film is then carted to the printing room , where the prints are made from the negatives at one of the many printing machines. The printing machine is basically a camera that transfers the image from the film negative to the film paper. It also automatically adjusts color balance. Now there are two streams of film to keep track of, the negative film and the print film, or paper. The printing room also houses several notching machines which cut small notches into the print film to act as index markers on the film. The notches are important at a later stage of the process.
The print film proceeds on through a developing process similar to the way the negatives were developed, and it comes out as a large continuous roll of developed prints. These large rolls go through a set of identification printers, which place the film roll and print numbers on the back side of each print for identification. Then the large rolls of prints are carried to visual inspection stations to check the print quality. Here the inspectors are looking for scratches on the print, color imbalance, other defects, and even illegal activities captured on the photograph!
If the prints make it past the inspections, the rolls of prints are taken to the cutting machines, which automatically cut the film into separate photographs. Remember the notches that act as index markers? Well this is where they are used to identify the boundary between pictures on the large roll of print film. The cutting machines also cut the negatives simultaneously. This is the point in the process where the negatives and the prints are re-united. They end up in a small packet, called a wallet, which is picked up by a conveyor system and transported to a set of stackers (also called "stack-o-matics"). The stackers are ingenious mechanisms that feed the wallets to a packaging station where they are combined manually with new rolls of film and sales literature and placed into an envelope. The envelope is placed into another conveyor which acts like a chair lift to transport the envelope on the final segment of the process to the mailing room.
In the mailing room, the conveyor drops the envelopes into one of several hoppers which feed into associated sorting machines which resemble small gantry cranes. These devices travel in X and Y directions over a matrix of mail bags mounted on hand carts. When positioned over the correct mail bag, the envelope is dropped into the bag. Each bag represents a zip code, so there are dozens and dozens of them. However, they are packed very densely, so they take up relatively little space. The motion is relatively fast and very accurate. These machines are now doing the work that once was done by up to 50 individuals dropping envelopes into tote bins.
The film processing business hits its highest volume around the 4th of July, at which time the Seattle FilmWorks plant is processing approximately 50,000 rolls of film a day! (A "big" one-hour lab may process several dozen rolls of film a day.) At this time of the year (Nov) the demand has dropped off to a mere 25,000 rolls per day. With the amount and variety of handling machinery involved in an operation of such magnitude, it’s truly amazing to see it running so smoothly.
Seattle FilmWorks is renowned for its innovative techniques and the second floor of their Film Processing Facility is where the newer film digitizing processes are performed. Unfortunately, this area was off-limits and our time was short anyway. Perhaps we’ll be able to see "the rest of the story" sometime in the future.
If you would like to see some of the machines described above, visit the Seattle FilmWorks web site and view their tour page.
Many thanks to Michelle Christman and Jack Paden for hosting a great tour! Thanks also to Jack Paden for describing his intricate designs to us!