Making KODAK Film – Robert Shanebrook

Making KODAK Film, The Illustrated Story of State-of-the-Art Photographic Film Manufacturing by Robert L. Shanebrook.


Robert Shanebrook © Robert Shanebrook

The technology required to make photographic film has been a secret held by a few companies. This book explains, for the first time at this level of detail, how Eastman Kodak Company made film in 2009 and makes it today. Photographic film is one of the most technically sophisticated chemical products that is used in everyday life. Over 200 very pure chemical components are combined and then coated with great precision on to film base in up to 18 unique layers that in total are half the thickness of a human hair.

This insider’s view explains in simple terms how the operation works. It is a 94-page 8.5 x11 inch picture book with over 25 diagrams and over 130 photographs of Kodak’s production processes, materials, and equipment. Sixty percent of the printed surface area is illustrations. The book is unique; nearly all the illustrations were made specifically for this book.

I began investigating the possibility of the book in 2002 before I retired in late 2003. I discussed the idea with photographic experts at George Eastman House and Kodak Management. The Eastman House historians were very interested my doing the project. Kodak agreed that it would be useful to have an easily understandable documentation of the technology used to make film but they strongly opposed making this information available to the public and especially not to their competitors. With time and the decline of the business, their objections softened. Eventually I was given approval to start the work but the resulting document was to be kept by Kodak for release “some time in the future”.

Kodak was generous in giving me access to information, Kodak experts, and the manufacturing facility. Since I had been involved in film manufacturing for over 20 years I was familiar with the process but there were still details that were not fully disclosed to me while I was an employee. For this project I was given permission for full disclosure of the technical details and permission to photograph anything of interest to me in Kodak Park. I spent over forty days photographing the film manufacturing factory and many more days in discussions and gathering information from the experts.

In 2008 I was given permission to distribute the result without Kodak approval. As I prepared for printing I decided to obtain Kodak approval of the final manuscript. This was a self-funded project, if after printing Kodak decided to object I would take a financial loss. I submitted the manuscript. Then after nine months of review and discussion Kodak agreed “not to interfere” with my distributing the book. The review process provided me with an additional benefit. Kodak had fifty engineers and managers review the manuscript. They made very few changes but this gave me assurance that the information was technically correct. In addition I had it reviewed by an accomplished technical editor, a chemical engineer, a photography teacher and an art history teacher to make sure it could be easily understood by interested readers with a wide range of backgrounds.

Then in August 2010 I was ready to print and distribute the book. In order to obtain the printed quality I desired I used a local commercial printer rather than a book printer. This was more expensive but it was worth the cost. It was printed on quality paper using a Heidelberg 6-color offset press.

To promote the book I have been interviewed and had the book noted in NY Times, Wall Street Journal, der Spiegel, Aljazeera, CBS, NBC, German TV, French TV’s Capital and many local papers and photographic publications. I have sold books to individuals and institutions in 45 countries. I personally fill all orders. Ordering information is on my website:

Robert Shanebrook © Robert Shanebrook

The opinion of a few well respected authorities:

“The book accurately describes every aspect of the film manufacturing process. It is the most comprehensive coverage I have read.” Dr. James Patton, Retired, Vice President, Chief Technical Officer Consumer Imaging, Eastman Kodak Company and former Film Manufacturing Manager, Kodak Professional, Rochester, NY.

“This book explains how this common yet complicated product was made. This volume will no doubt prove invaluable not only for the photo historian, but for those curious about how things are made.” Todd Gustavson, Technology Curator, George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography, Rochester, NY.

“This book will be of interest to anyone who enjoys photography. It will provide professional and amateur photographers with a better understanding of how their films are made.” John Sexton, Photographer, Carmel Valley, California.

“It will be of great interest to film archivists and other professionals interested in the basic manufacturing process for one of the most important industrial products in history.” Patrick Loughney, Ph.D., Director, Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation.

Photographer and author:

Robert Shanebrook graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology and worked at Eastman Kodak Company for 35 years before retiring in 2003. At Kodak he worked as a commercial photographer, researcher, product development engineer, manufacturing manager, and for over twenty years was a Worldwide Product-Line Manager for Kodak Professional Films. Now, Robert consults in the fields of silver halide technology and photographic history at George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography, Rochester, New York.

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Please Note: The book is out-of-print meaning that I do not have any plans to print more books. As noted on my website I will stop shipping books September 30, 2013.  It appears that I will have some books left after September 30, 2013.  I will be able to resume shipping a limited number of books from the first printing January 6, 2014.