What is the difference between Duratrans and Backlit Film?

What is the difference between Duratrans and Backlit Film?

A common question we get asked is “what is the difference between Duratrans and backlit film?”

This can be a complex answer because in current times, most people cannot tell any difference, although the original method of producing each is quite different.

The Endura Transparency from Eastman Kodak

To explain the difference, we need a history lesson. The original duratrans product was invented by Eastman Kodak (the famous and bankrupt film company) in the 1970’s.  It was originally called the “Endura Transparency” but they shortened and trademarked the name in 1982.  Duratrans was the original backlit color transparency film.  To make a duratrans, a photograph or image was exposed photographically and developed chemically using a silver halide process similar to a conventional photo lab.  Think of it as developing film onto a giant transparency, in a dark room.  As you can imagine, this process was very time consuming, prone to development errors, and extremely expensive.

Then came inkjet printing on backlit film.

As large format printing became popular and cheaper, a new media called “backlit film” was created to allow printing on the film with inkjet printers.  Just as inkjet printing has pretty much replaced the traditional photo lab for photo printing, large format printing has also all but eliminated the need for the original ‘duratrans’ process.  Inkjet printers, their resolution, and the ink used now rivals and in may cases surpasses the quality of the original duratrans print at a fraction of the cost.

Is Duratrans Extinct?

Nowadays, most people looking for a Duratrans print are really looking for backlit film because of cost, time, and similarity, it rarely makes sense to order a true “Duratrans” branded print made with the original process, and there are actually very few companies left that offer original method of exposing photos to film to create a duratrans.

Because the term was synonymous with backlit advertising for so long, many people still refer to this outdated brand name.  It’s much like the “Kleenex” brand of “tissue” – because it was one of the first developed and trademarked ’tissue’ names, many people still ask for a Kleenex when really they are looking for a tissue.  It’s the same with duratrans prints and backlit film.

The highest quality backlit film printing.

Backlit film is our most popular item at posterprintshop and our specialty.  We have several Roland solvent printers dedicated to backlit film printing, using the highest quality 8 color UV resistant inks and using original Roland backlit film – the highest quality in the industry.

Learn more about our backlit film, it’s specifications, and see samples of backlit prints on our backlit media page.


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