Would you back this project (Use Film - Help Film) ?
Old 06-16-2012   #1
karlori
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Arrow Would you back this project (Use Film - Help Film) ?

For quite some time I've been contemplating the idea of starting a mail in service for developing and scanning film. (Mostly for EU parts till things get going smoothly )

I have a largeish amount of money set aside for this and some of the equipment and knowledge necessary for it to work.

I'd start a project to create a social community of film photographers with free access to a service similar to smugmug etc - I have 7 servers with over 48TB of space racked and idle in Germany and Finland. Also I have access to community software still in alpha stage that will not be pushed live till they get a small fund injection first (something very promising from the looks of it.)
The whole community would be backed by the developing & scanning services that would go with it. No advertising and absolutely no fees for it's members ( I'd offer free drum scanning to RFF members who contact me).

Now here is the tricky part, the amount of money I have will be enough for 1 or 2 C41 machines(used), 1 E6 machine(used) and the software license if needed for the community website.
I was thinking of starting a kickstarter/indiegogo project to fund a stockpile of developing consumables and a refurb hasselblad x5 drum scanner(i'm in contact with several vendors and could get one like new(demo) with the batch scanning attachments for 1/3 of the sale price).
The idea behind this is that I'd want to give local students a place to work and develop their film for free and the european community a place that will stay with E6 until there are no more chemicals or film to be developed.
The unique part of the service would be the drum scanning where at a price of one scanned frame in lets say UK you'd get your whole roll scanned here ( did I say that the main workforce would be art students working via student services).
The scanned files would be burned to dvd's and sent out via flat rate post from within the Eu, but not only that, as the space I'd provide for this is a part of the business projects space given by our city (10yr lease) the files would be made available via ftp in a matter of minutes after the scanning is done ( the office has a fiber connection). You would mail the rolls to a PO box in Germany, Slovenia or Croatia so the shipping costs would be minimal both ways.

To recap, I'd list what the project if started already has and what it needs :

- a clean newly redone place with installed ventilation, industrial and normal power outlets, fiber internet, water and drain system ready for use
- (for the money i have set aside) 1 or 2 c41 processing machines
- 1 e6 machine
- for the community part, 7 servers prepaid for the next 1 and 1/2 years , 48TB of space and knowledge of amazon services ( if need be)
- filing cabinets, slide mounting equipment (old but usable).
- a business license and a contract with student services from prior jobs
- I'll probably buy at least one plustek 120 (for personal use and if they are sturdy enough give it to the project)
- computer equipment to work the scanners

what is needed :

- consumable materials to keep the processing machines working (I was thinking at least a years supply to be on the safe side)
- scanners ( if possible the used Imacon X5 to differentiate these services from the rest of the offerings available atm)
- funds to advertise it and get the word going

My main thought behind is not to make a place that will be here for profit and be driven by money, but a place that will be driven by love towards film photography. I'm young, I missed out the kodachrome era, but by doing this I think that I'd at least give a chance to us film photographers to enjoy it a bit more and a bit longer that what the big guys want us to.

After you have read this simple plan, if I was to make this project available on kickstarter/indiegogo would you back it and/or spread the word ?
What are your thoughts on this, what would you add and improve or remove from the idea ?

All your insights are more than appreciated !
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Old 06-16-2012   #2
Ljós
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karlori View Post
For quite some time I've been contemplating the idea of starting a mail in service for developing and scanning film. [...]
Thumbs up for showing initiative. A question: could you elaborate on "The unique part of the service would be the drum scanning where at a price of one scanned frame in lets say UK you'd get your whole roll scanned here ( did I say that the main workforce would be art students working via student services)."

If the idea is to keep for example E6 running as long as possible, the question is whether undercutting normal commercial labs is the way to go. And I imagine I am not the only one wondering about what exactly you mean by "art students working via student services" - is the idea that these students get to develop and scan their own stuff free if they do the work on the mail-in film?

All the best, Ljós
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Old 06-16-2012   #3
karlori
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The students get paid for their work the amount of money that is required by the student services contract ( official agency that helps students get part time jobs while studying or for the summer) and as a plus they work with something they are familiar with and get to use the resources for themselves ( be it processing, scanning or just the pc horsepower) oh and students who get a recommendation for employment while studying are more likely to score a better job after they finish college.

As said this is a community backed effort and will service the community, I have no intention of undermining businesses and services around Europe with the prices, I was thinking of offering the lower prices to the community members and normal or partially discounted to everyone else ( free to RFF).
If a large amount of orders are from normal channels the prices drop for the community and the pay raises for the students involved ( one is able to pay out bonuses + the pay in the signed contract) and vice versa.

My reasoning is simple the easier it is for someone to shoot film and get a high quality and somewhat fast developing and scanning service at an affordable price with lots of goodies thrown in the deal ( like free photo hosting, photo backup etc) the more film the person will use in the end giving film another chance for a longer market life.
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Old 06-16-2012   #4
andersju
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I think offering processing and drum scanning that way is a great idea.

Community software/photo hosting/backup, however, just sounds like an expensive waste of time to me. There are so many good options already, and while it can be easy to set up, it's very difficult to do well. I suggest you spend your time on the core services instead.
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Old 06-16-2012   #5
dct
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andersju View Post
I think offering processing and drum scanning that way is a great idea.

Community software/photo hosting/backup, however, just sounds like an expensive waste of time to me. There are so many good options already, and while it can be easy to set up, it's very difficult to do well. I suggest you spend your time on the core services instead.
Kudos for your idea and initiative! I agree with andersju that your marketing plan should focus on reduced rates for high quality processing and scanning (maybe in different resolutions?), because this is exactly the services we have prohibitive prices here in Europe and every film fan would appreciate a more favourable alternative.

Of course you will need some server equipment too, especially if you would like to offer ftp download to the clients. But running a photographic site shouldn't be a priority goal in your setup: There are really (too) much around.

I hope you did already a financial business plan for the first few years to have at least an even result if not a small profit. I strongly suggest you do this homework before you invest any money in this project, because it would be very a real pity if you had to stop your project because the returns wouldn't cover your running costs.
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Old 06-16-2012   #6
karlori
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I agree with the suggestion of just skipping the backup/hosting solution but in todays market giving the bare service just isn't going to cut it for a startup, somehow you must offer additional value and service to your primary one to get interest and fuel an active customer/member base. Then again the software in question is really great and with 7 servers I'd have no problem making a small loadbalance + storage solution for it at virtually no cost for the 1st year.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dct View Post
I hope you did already a financial business plan for the first few years to have at least an even result if not a small profit. I strongly suggest you do this homework before you invest any money in this project, because it would be very a real pity if you had to stop your project because the returns wouldn't cover your running costs.
I did, there is room for profit to be had even with small prices especially if the community would help to partially fund the project via indiegogo/kickstarter. Keep in mind that by doing that only real running costs for the venture would be the consumables and the student pay... The office space and everything else is prepaid by me and my current business venture so i guess i could even keep it going if it was generating a small loss... It really is about making film last longer not filling my wallets.
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Old 06-16-2012   #7
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Hi Karlo,

in general: Thumbs up from me, too !

But some thoughts from me to consider: I guess you will not get much business from the western European countries.
In Germany for example there is an excellent lab infrastructure (probably the second best worldwide behind Japan). You have the drugstore chains shops, ten thousands of it. Even small towns have at least one. There you can get C-41, E-6 and even BW processing via the big mass labs like CeWe, Fuji Eurocolor etc..
The film developemt there is good and ridiculously cheap, often less than one Euro for C-41, and only 1,85€ to 2,55€ for E6 development.
Yo can not beat that prices.
Then you have dozens of Pro labs offering their service nationwide or often europewide. Excellent quality at often very reasonable prices. And excellent mail ordering system (e.g Photostudio 13 or Farbglanz). There are more than 40 professional labs offering E6 in Germany.
We definitely have no lack of E6 or C-41 development options here. Here are more than enough.
AFAIK the same is true for Suisse, Austria, the Benelux countries, France, UK, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Czech Republic.

So my recommendation is as follows:
Make a market research about the states of former Yugoslavia: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia/Herzegowina, Serbia, Montenegro, Makedonia, Kosovo.
Extend this research to Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and Greece. Look what labs are there, which ones offer nationwide or international service and mail ordering.
If you find out that there is a market gap, with no or too few labs, or with low quality labs, or labs with bad mail ordering etc., then I think it makes sense for you to start.
And with a focus on these markets.

And, extremely important: Offering the services in good quality is only one part of your business. The second part is marketing for
- your services
- for film as a photographic medium in general
- getting young photographers interested in using film.

One possibility could be building an analog photo forum for people speaking serbo-croatic. Like apug or aphog (German language).
A film photo scene has to be supported and build up in these countries.
I know that the Lomographic Society International is already active in Croatia and Serbia. You could cooperate with them.

The marketing part is absolutely essential for being successful.

Good luck! I wish you the best!

Cheers, Jan

Last edited by HHPhoto : 06-22-2012 at 04:46. Reason: typo
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Old 07-07-2012   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karlori View Post
For quite some time I've been contemplating the idea of starting a mail in service for developing and scanning film. (Mostly for EU parts till things get going smoothly )
Looks like you are making progress:

http://www.indiegogo.com/pxhut

That's your project, isn't it?

Good luck!

Cheers, Jan
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Old 07-07-2012   #9
Matus
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Karlo I suppose that the PxHut is your initiative (please correct us if we are wrong!). I have briefly checked the webpage and while in general I think our idea is good I would have a few questions.

You have some preliminary prices on y our webpage and while I would expect those to change in the future, I still find your drum scanning prices VERY low (4€ for 4000 dpi scan for any format) - the prices in Germany would be around 100€ or so. I am paying 7€ for Imacon X5 2040 dpi scan of 4x5" which I still consider reasonably cheap, but at the same time I know that drum scan would deliver much better quality.

I know the lab will be run by students in Croatia what makes it a very cheap labor, but would that even cover the scanner, materials and service/repair?
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Old 07-16-2012   #10
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I like the sound of your project. It is great that people are still trying to turn around the slow march to digital!
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