Atkins Technicolour outing – 4-Aug-2011

A wet, miserable night was brightenned for many BPC members with a memorable outing to Atkins Technicolour on Fullarton Road. Paul Atkins showed us around his families excellent facilities, describing how Atkins had developed from a company producing images of horse race winners and aerial photographs to a colour processing laboratory to the current multimedia service.

We were shown the preview room, where photographers can check their images on colour calibrated equipment at no charge (but there is a time limit). As we wandered through the front of the premises, a fridge stocked with film got Matt and Ashley a bit excited – funny that.

Moving to the working areas we saw the locally built classic C41 dip and dunk film developer tank (with full manual control in the event of failure – a crank handle!). The smell of the chemicals brought back some fond memories for this little black duck :lol:. This was custom made for Atkins in 1970 and still works today, though with less frequency than in it heyday. A Danish Refrema dip and dunk E6 slide processor completes the film system, carefully tended by the highly experience John Clarke from Duckpond. As we moved through I noted a lovely poster size image of Venice – and immediately thought of Arthur…..those who know of Arthur’s frequent visit there will appreciate the comment.

In the printing/colour correction room Paul explained how printing with the Kodak Pegasus (Peggie) and a Noristu 3203 (Sue) allow silver halide prints to be produced efficiently in a range of sizes and formats. The colour correction for the images is, interestingly, performed by women. It seems that colour blindness issues and the skills required aren’t up to the mark in the male population.

As we left the printing room Paul pointed out the stacks of CDs and hard disks that stored all the images they had printed from digital. It was a reminder that digital storage technology is changing – and we need to have secure, backed up storage that will be readable in the future.

The lamination equipment demonstrated led to a discussion about printing on other media – with Paul telling us he is looking into a print system that can print on any shaped surface – including corrugated iron!

We also saw some fascinating equipment, including Atkins BetterLight slit scanner for reproducing fine art images. This device uses a 4″x5″ back on a view camera with a scanning slit of over 10000 pixels in a 72mm width that scans the image – producing over 100 megapixel images in either 8 or 16 bit colour. Time to throw out the dSLR I think. It certainly had Ray excited!

An examination of the large format Epson printers (which allows enormous prints to be produced) completed the review of printing equipment. This can work in 16 bit colour, and Epson claim a life expectancy for their prints of 200 years (theoretical of course – if anyone is around in 200 years we can check that!). The difference with inkjet printing is that light colours are generated by printing fewer dots on the white paper – a bit like newprint. Regardless of the method – it still looked good.

We finished back at reception with a look at the photobook business that Atkins now offers. This certainly looks like the way to go with digital images – rather than leaving them lying around on hard disks or CDs waiting to be lost.

So all in all, a great night. Many thanks to Paul for his time and sharing his wealth of knowledge. The visit was well worth the effort – it generated a lot of discussion afterwards (despite the rain). And don’t forget to check out Paul’s blog and the Atkins web site for more details.

Chris 😉

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