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Tips for Loading 16mm Film Magazines

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/20/2010

Here are some easy tips for loading up the magazines in your 16mm film cameras.

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    Stock In Use

    For some people 16mm film for motion picture cameras may feel like an archaic technology, but in the professional and filmmaking worlds this is a common and practical film stock. The process of loading 16mm film has not progressed that much in the decades that the film stock has been in use. If you are using 16mm film for your uses there will likely not be preloaded film magazines delivered to you on set. Instead, you will have to load your 16m film magazines by hand. Here are some tips to help you through the difficult process of loading 16mm film.

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    Who Loads the 16mm Film?

    Conventionally the assistant camera position will load the 16mm film. If you do not have an assistant camera person on your shoot then this job will be taken up by the camera operator or the director of photography. The best tip that you can possibly follow is to make sure that the job of loading the 16mm film magazines is well delegated. Make sure this is the job of a single person and that it does not get strung around to a number of different crew positions. The reason is that this is a difficult job and is part of a standard film production workflow, so it would be out of sync to delegate the task to several people.

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    Learning 16mm Film Loading

    The important thing you are going to have to note about your 16mm film stock is that on location you will have to load the film in perfect darkness. This is often not an option, which is why there are tents made available to you for film loading. You insert the film stock into the tent along with the magazine and load the film inside there.

    Your hands are the only thing to enter into the tent, so you essentially go through the loading process without being able to see. This is incredibly difficult yet standard. To actually be successful in this process you need to know how to load 16mm film stock with your eyes closed. Practice loading 16mm film magazines using a dummy roll of used 16mm film over and over again. Once you get the process down cold begin doing it blindfolded. After you are able to do it with the eyesight barrier you will be ready for the field.

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    16mm Film Canisters

    When you are using several cans of 16mm film stock it can get confusing as to what string of film was exposed and what is fresh. There is a standard color coding system for 16mm film stock that you can use to identify them on set. If there is black tape on a film canister that means it has been exposed and you should not load it. Those with white tape are unexposed and ready to be loaded into a 16mm film magazine. Never deviate from this formula.