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Grant Romer, on:
flexible film

Grant Romer Q: What were the difficulties of coming up with a good flexible film?

The concept of flexible film had two great advantages. One is the avoidance of a lot of weight and breakability that comes with glass. The other advantage is the idea of having multiple exposure capacity in a single magazine. The necessity to load and unload the camera every time you wanted to make the picture was a limitation of the camera's ability to make multiple images with ease. And therefore the roll film concept, more than anything, has its great advantage in its multiple exposure capacity. The challenge was, of course, not only to have a flexible transparent material, but to be able to coat it with gelatin, to have gelatin stick to such a material. That was the manufacturing challenge. And it's in the late 19th century that the technology to produce such a plastic and to coat successfully efficient photographic emulsions to that material, that was the main problem that had to be solved by the manufacturer. And of course, Eastman by that time had put together the type of team, if you will, of technicians, chemists, engineers, that made it possible for him to achieve this desiderata, if you will, of photography.

Q: Over the years, he was able to expand his organization to have so many people that he really had access to the creative and imaginative people in science.

The demands of the manufacturing of a reliable dry plate drove Eastman to develop really a team, a congeries of resources in photography that no other company quite equivalent had put together. Therefore when the necessity for a flexible film became very clear, he did have the elements to solve that problem, which is a congeries of problems too. It isn't just what plastic, but how do you make enough of it; how do you make it of the right quality, consistently, and enough of it; and how do you coat material on it; and how do you get that to market–that was already in place. And of course the challenge of that then strengthened the company as well. So that you go through a series of expansions, if you will, of capacity of the [country], based upon the challenges that they undertook, that other companies just didn't have the wherewithal to achieve as well as Eastman did.

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