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Properly Labeling Your 16mm Film Canister

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

Learn the right way to label your 16mm film canister before you send it to the lab.

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    Film Stock Tips

    There is a common language in film production and post-production that is its own type of professional jargon. This is done so that communication is easy between departments that may not be intimately acquainted. This is especially true with the communication between the camera department and the film processing labs on shoots that use motion film instead of digital video or HD. There are lab letter, special forms, and other documentation that permeates this transfer process at all levels. This even gets right down to the film canister that will be sent for processing and development at the lab. Here is the basic format for how motion film canisters should be labeled when being sent to the lab.

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    Black Gaffers Tape

    Once you unload the exposed film stock from the magazine and place it back into its film canister you are going to seal it up with black gaffers tape. Black gaffers tape is universally recognized as the indicator that this film stock has been exposed in production and needs to be developed.

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    Shot Log

    Once the black gaffers tape is secured on there you will take the camera report, or shot log, onto the lid of the film canister. This is so that the lab has any relevant information that the first or second assistant camera person wanted to them to know. This is going to be especially important if there were any issues in exposure or any changes that the director of photography wants done at the lab.

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    Labeling Film Can

    You are then going to take a piece of special tape or thick white gaffers tape and place it on the film canister in a place that can be seen easily at the lab. You will put the number of the film roll that is in the canister, the number of the mag it was in, how much total footage is in there in feet of film, and how much of that footage is exposed in feet of film. Below that you will list the production information directly on the can. This will include the name of the production, the date it was shot, the type of film stock it is, what assistant camera person loaded it, who the director or producer is, and any company information that is relevant. The information on the tape is going to be unique to that roll, but the production information that you add to the lid will be common to all the canisters of exposed film stock that you send in for development and processing. Make sure that all information labeled on the canisters is the same as any in the shot list or letters sent to the lab. Try to secure the entire canister in another bag or carrying device so that any of the tap or shot lists attached to not get removed from the lid during transfer.