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Film Changing Tents


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#1 Michael Collier

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 09:00 PM

So I purchased 4200 feet of 7217 (first film purchase ever) for an upcomming short called 'SLEEP'. I need to buy a changing tent and wanted some recomendations on brand and size. I will likely shoot on a CP-16, but there is a possability of using an Eclair NPR. We will be using 400foot mags. What size is recomended for this use? Are there any handling tips (other than obviously keeping it clean and dust free) Do I need to change in a darkened room, or can I just find a shaded area to change? I will only have 2 mags so I would like loading to go relativley quickly.
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#2 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 09:38 PM

First, I would suggest going with a changing BAG rather than a TENT as a first purchase, mainly because of the price point (approx. $20 compared to $150+ if memory serves). Loading and unloading a CP16 (aka "The Tank") is actually very easy, considering that you only have to load the feed side in the bag and then can take it out to thread the camera and take-up reel. Just make sure that the locks on the CP16 mag lock properly and won't pop open in the light, which is a problem I've experienced with this camera.

The best advice is to take your time, and eliminate any external pressures (don't load on-set!!). Make sure that you're not wearing an Indiglo or other luminous watch, because even that small amount of light can fog the film. Take as little with you in the bag as possible, and keep track of those items while in there. Don't use scissors in the bag, as you can cut a hole in the material (possibly without knowing it) and ruin the bag and your film. Make sure that the bag doesn't get stuck in the mag when you're closing it, as it can make it pop open when removed.

You can load in a lit room with a changing bag, the lights don't have to be off or subdued really (although you should be careful of strong direct light striking the bag, like film lights if you're near them, just to be on the safe side).

Good luck!
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#3 Daniel Stigler

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 12:13 AM

The only brand of changing tents i ever came across is Harrison (http://www.cameraessentials.com/). Like Rory said, it would be a smart plan to start with a bag. When using the bag slide in both arms, point one arm up on the inside and open the sleeve of that arm with the other hand. You will feel air streaming into the bag; then let the seam close again. That way you avoid vacuum effects, that make working in the bag a little harder. At least for me.
Get a shortend to practice loading and unloading.

Edited by Daniel Stigler, 21 July 2006 - 12:14 AM.

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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 06:48 AM

I'd also put tape around the edges of CP mags once loaded, the latches can pop if caught accidentally.

They're very easy to load. However, be careful when unloading the exposed film, sometimes the core catches and drops out of the centre of the roll if you rush.
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#5 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 09:10 AM

When using a changing bag, do keep the inside clean and free of lint and debris. Use a vacuum cleaner or adhesive lint roller to remove any loose hairs, lest one of them ends up as a hair in the gate.

When carrying film onto an airplane, you need a changing bag to allow airline security to open and hand inspect the film, so it doesn't get x-rayed.
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#6 Michael Collier

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 04:09 PM

When carrying film onto an airplane, you need a changing bag to allow airline security to open and hand inspect the film, so it doesn't get x-rayed.



Thankfully this will be a local shoot, so I don't have to trust TSA to handle the film.

My only hang up with a bag is my perception that it would be hard to keep the bag from brushing against the film and scratching it. But since all of you recomend them I will take a look at them, and put the money I save into lights for the film.

This should sound like a dumb question, but just to check my thinking: To start (after assuring the bag is clean) I put my arms into both sleeves, unzip the bag (I assume they unzip from the inside?) and put in everything I will need and then make sure when I close it I create a space with my arms so the air keeps the bag inflated.

Do I need to wear gloves? I am sure latex powder would be bad, what about the other kind of gloves? or is this unnecissary since I shouldnt be touching the emulsion anyway? Should I be wearing a grounding strap to prevent static discharge into the film? I see a lot of static being created by hands brushing against the bag.

Thanks for all your help. I have been reading a lot about mag loading and stuff, but I always like to check my info against people who have done this before. I am very excited about the story and about having a chance to make a short on real film. I want to make sure this comes out as I see it in my mind, so I am very vigalent about the areas I am not familiar with. Either way I am very very stoked to have this chance. I will probably post a link on this page once its done so people who have helped me so much can view my work.
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#7 Alex Haspel

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 05:05 PM

My only hang up with a bag is my perception that it would be hard to keep the bag from brushing against the film and scratching it.


well, even if the bag scratches something, it's most likely gonna be the first half meter or so.
there will probably only a slate recorded on it if your'e fast (or just record 30 secs color bar, to prevent this. (sorry, extremely stupid joke)).

This should sound like a dumb question, but just to check my thinking: To start (after assuring the bag is clean) I put my arms into both sleeves, unzip the bag (I assume they unzip from the inside?) and put in everything I will need and then make sure when I close it I create a space with my arms so the air keeps the bag inflated.


well, my bag (which also is the only one i've yet worked is to be zipped and unzipped from the outside,
so this is how i do it:
.)open the bag.
.)put my stuff in.
.)close it per zip.
.)put my arms in.
.)increase the volume of the bag with my right hand, while opening the armhole for the right hand with the left hand. (to make sure there is enough air in it, a slighly vacuumish atmosphere can be very bothering, as already mentioned by daniel stigler)
.)make sure everything is closed.
.)do my job.


Do I need to wear gloves? I am sure latex powder would be bad, what about the other kind of gloves? or is this unnecissary since I shouldnt be touching the emulsion anyway? Should I be wearing a grounding strap to prevent static discharge into the film? I see a lot of static being created by hands brushing against the bag.


of course you'll touch the emulsion, but only the first 30-40cm of the reel.. (see first answer)

conserning the staitic discharge i can only speak from personal experience.
i never used gloves, and never had any problems...

Edited by haspel, 21 July 2006 - 05:08 PM.

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#8 Hal Smith

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 05:16 PM

conserning the staitic discharge i can only speak from personal experience.
i never used gloves, and never had any problems...

What brand/make bag do you use? It sounds like you're pretty happy with yours.
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#9 Alex Haspel

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 05:24 PM

What brand/make bag do you use? It sounds like you're pretty happy with yours.



it's a dedo weigert one.
i am not sure if this is common, but it also is two layered and has two zips with the first layer's "close"-position on the opposite side of the zip as the other layer's "close"-position. (which i happen to find rather clever)

Edited by haspel, 21 July 2006 - 05:25 PM.

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#10 Chris Keth

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 06:18 PM

it's a dedo weigert one.
i am not sure if this is common, but it also is two layered and has two zips with the first layer's "close"-position on the opposite side of the zip as the other layer's "close"-position. (which i happen to find rather clever)



That's pretty standard as changing bags/tents go. Just develop a routine for loading and unloading and do it exactly the same every time. Keep track of everything in the bag such as the tape from the outside of the can and from the end of the film. Don't use scissors inside the bag, you might make nicks that could render the bag light-leaky and not even know it.

My routine for loading is as follows:

1. After I unpack the bag/tent (I use a jumbo harrison pup tent, BTW. I love it) I check it for light leaks by putting a flashlight inside the tent and examining it in a dark-ish place. If there are pinholes or anything, gafftape them.

2. Unzip the bag and place your magazine and your can of film in the bag. I usually place the magazine right against the front (closest side to you) of the bag and the film can farther back.

3. I take off the tape from the can and invert the lid of the can beside the bottom of the can. I wad up the tape and stick it to the inside of the lid. Then, I reach inside the black bag and get the tape from the end of the roll and stick it to the inside of the lid as well.

4. Next, I pull the end of the film out of the bag. I just leave the full roll inside the bag in the bottom of the can. It keeps it clean and protects against pinholes in the bag a little more.

5. I thread the end of the film however the particular magazine needs to be threaded. For a CP mag, I'll thread it out of the feed side only at this point.

6. Now I'll take the roll out of the bag and bottom of the can and put it on the spindle in the feed side.

7. Close the feed side, lock the locks, and give the lid a good tug to make absolutely sure it's closed.

8. Take everything out of the bag and finish the mag. Toss the tape from the inside of the lid and set the can aside with the black bag folded neatly inside it. Put a label and camera report on the mag and go to the next mag.

Unloading is about the same deal. Just try to limit your handling of film to a minimum and keep calm. If possible, load/unload in a nice shady spot a little away from the set. There's nothing worse than loading in a hot place with the AD on your back to hurry up, though you should never be the source of a delay...ever.

Edit: I forgot to mention one thing. Keep organized! Don't keep unexposed film near short ends, stick to your routine staunchly so you don't get confused as to whether the roll in your ahnd is the exposed stuff or the short end, et cetera, and don't ever have a can of film or a magazine without a label and a camera report.

Edited by Christopher D. Keth, 21 July 2006 - 06:21 PM.

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#11 Daniel Stigler

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 12:55 AM

From what you wrote so far i can see that never before loaded or unloaded a mag. So i have to say again: Get a shortend and practice loading in daylight without the bag until it feels safe. Then practice in the bag. It won't take you that long to figure it all out but it is time well spent.
When labeling the mags use a different color of tape for each emulsion; that way it's easier to avoid mistakes. There are a lot a differences in what people write on the mag labels. I like to have the emulsionnumber, the sensitivity and kind of stock, amount of film loaded, batch number, mag number and roll number(for example 100T, 5212/046014.014.13/122m/Mag2/#26). Write the roll number on the label when you thread the roll.
This might seem like a lot of numbers to some people, but in case something gets wrong it makes it easier to findout what might be the reason.
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#12 Chris Keth

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 01:28 AM

From what you wrote so far i can see that never before loaded or unloaded a mag. So i have to say again: Get a shortend and practice loading in daylight without the bag until it feels safe. Then practice in the bag. It won't take you that long to figure it all out but it is time well spent.
When labeling the mags use a different color of tape for each emulsion; that way it's easier to avoid mistakes. There are a lot a differences in what people write on the mag labels. I like to have the emulsionnumber, the sensitivity and kind of stock, amount of film loaded, batch number, mag number and roll number(for example 100T, 5212/046014.014.13/122m/Mag2/#26). Write the roll number on the label when you thread the roll.
This might seem like a lot of numbers to some people, but in case something gets wrong it makes it easier to findout what might be the reason.


Just for some variation in what people do, I usually leave most of those things for the camera report I attach to the mag. I generally just have each mag labelled with a magazine number (serial number is what I use) and then, on an appropriate color tape write the ASA (as in 500T, so it also effectively insludes the color balance) and the roll number. If it's a short end I'll attach a bit of white tape with the footage for the first to put by the footage counter. Then I'll attach a camera report that has everything filled out that can be filled out before you start exposing a roll.

About tape colors. Usually red or orange is for the high speed tungsten stock, I'll use blue for the daylight stock. Anything after that varies. Just make sure that your tape "code" is consistent.
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#13 Hans Engstrom

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 09:55 AM

I would recommend that you go for a tent instead of a bag. As you are an unexperienced loader it will make everything much easier. Any problems you run in to are much easier to fix in a tent. And if you think that it is to expensive to buy a tent then rent one. I own a bag that I keep as a backup or for emergency situation but I would never go into a production without a tent.

As for loading procedure every loader does it differently. The one thing to remember is that it´s your resposibility that it´s done without errors, so practise hard and take your time in the beginning.
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#14 Chris Keth

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 12:36 PM

I would recommend that you go for a tent instead of a bag. As you are an unexperienced loader it will make everything much easier. Any problems you run in to are much easier to fix in a tent. And if you think that it is to expensive to buy a tent then rent one. I own a bag that I keep as a backup or for emergency situation but I would never go into a production without a tent.

As for loading procedure every loader does it differently. The one thing to remember is that it´s your resposibility that it´s done without errors, so practise hard and take your time in the beginning.





BIngo. If that means being there way early to start while the first builds the camera, so be it.
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#15 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 01:57 PM

It also means being aware of exactly what you have left (how many rolls, how many feet, etc.), even when you're away from the loading area. When I 2nd I make a list at the beginning of every shoot counting every roll being used for the production, then amend the list as the shoot continues (including what mag the roll goes into, if there are short ends, etc.). This is especially useful if we are supplied short ends from the beginning, as I can match up loaded mags with appropriate scenes (and I don't load up a 200 foot short end for a shot lasting 3 mins.!). This list stays on me at all times, so if the DP or 1st has any questions regarding stock I can answer accurately, instead of relying on my (somewhat unreliable) memory.

Never be afraid to ask the 1st or DP to walk off set and load/unload. Obviously you should try to do this at an appropriate time, such as an intensive lighting set-up, but any DP worth their weight in silver-halide will know the importance of having a fresh batch ready to go and will let you do your job.
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#16 Robert Hughes

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 08:19 PM

If the tent you get is big enough you can invite that cute little PA in and, uh, see what develops...
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#17 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 01:03 AM

If you go to Ebay you can find a deal on a tent if your patient. I bid on like 4 of them before getting one at the price I wanted to pay. The ones with supports generally are more expensive than the collapsible one which is what I got and actually prefer. they have more interior room and seem to be easier to deal with. I even looked at the changing boxes which went surprisingly cheap but they didn't look like they had enough room inside to get a film mag into and I though they would be a pain to carry on the set as they are the size of a small microwavw and just as unwieldly. Anyway Good luk on finding something. I'm sure it will work out what ever you choose. B)
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#18 Michael Collier

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 02:54 AM

Thanks for all the advice. The film arrived yesterday. Asside from one can that was labeled 7218 instead of 7217, everything was fine. I will be getting the camera in a few months so I can start practicing with the leader I have. Everything is going great and I am looking forward to getting on set.
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#19 Davon Slininger

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Posted 28 July 2006 - 10:59 PM

If you are serious about shooting, which it sounds like you are since you are buying a camera, I would get a changing tent over a bag for sure. I did large format still photography before I got involved in motion picture. I always used a changing bag for 4x5 and 8x10 film holders and hated it! When I loaded my first 35mm magazine in a changing tent I cursed myself for not having invested in one sooner.

I think the Harrison changing tents go from medium, to large, to jumbo in sizing. I recently bought the jumbo size and ended up exchanging it for the large. I work on commercial productions and if i'm unable to use the camera truck darkroom to load then I have to bring the tent to set somewhere and set myself up a little station. That usually means i'm working off of a table that I've bummed off the PA's that comes from a production supply house. Its almost always a 6' plastic folding table (catering style) and the jumbo tent hung off the edges and was a little too unwieldly. I ended up borrowing the 2nd's large size changing tent and it was perfect.

There is one benefit however to the jumbo, you can both download, and reload a 1000' mag in the same session, shaving off a couple minutes of your load time. A couple minutes helps if you've got 3 units cranking through mags. With the large I have to download, unzip, tape it, label it, and set it in the inventory, then get the rawstock ready, put it in the tent, zip up and load the new one. I actually prefer the latter because it helps me keep the exposed film safe by just completeing that download process. I guess it all just comes down to loader preference.
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#20 Doug Hart

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 08:52 PM

All of the replies posted here to your questions contain useful info, but no one has mentioned one of your questions - how big a bag (or tent) to buy.
Since this is a significant purchase for a beginner AC, and you don't want to have to buy any other bags or tents as your career evolves, buy the largest bag/tent available.
You can easily load a small mag in a large bag, but not the reverse.
Buy the largest model available, and you will never be disappointed or inconvenienced while loading any mag.
Take care of your bag/tent, and it should last you a lifetime. Always keep it clean, inside and out, keep it in a storage bag or case, keep it out of direct sunlight, and be careful where you work in it.
I own my own bag and tent, but I always add one to the rental house camera list, in case mine gets wet or dirty. It should rent for very little.
Taking a rental house bag/tent (after carefully examining it for tears, dirt, etc.) is the cheapest insurance you can get for your job.
It is too dumb a thing not to have a backup for.

Doug Hart
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