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Tips for using 400ft film magazines (Aaton 16mm) from ACs, etc


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#1 Stephen Perera

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 09:50 AM

Hi there....will embark on my first 16mm film project soon but wanted to gather as many tips as possible from seasoned pros in this forum.....

 

Would like tips on how to:

 

.....tape up all the seams of the magazine.....what to do and avoid doing?....how to label the mags etc...what to write etc....

 

and what about handling the camera.....I find it more natural to me of panning. etc by holding the magazine as opposed to the tripod lever......is this a no-no or is this normal......

 

basically anything and everything that would result in good practice from day one.....thanks!


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#2 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 01:47 PM

From start to finish:

- Pull the tape off the sealed 400ft roll of film and store it on something that isn't going to get it dirty
- Put the roll in the changing bag, with the magazine on top of it, with the take up core in place and the footage counter locked
- Seal up the changing bag
- Take the black cap off the magazine and open up the supply side
- Take the roll of film out of the can, put the tape into the bottom of the can.
- Put the roll of film into the supply side and close the door
- Put the black bag back into the can and put the top on it

Now I load the entire magazine in the bag. This is mainly because finding a dark place to load the other side, can be tricky on location. I'd rather the mag come out of the bag ready to go onto the camera.

- Thread magazine. Remember, it's nearly two fingers between the pressure plate and the film, but not exactly two fingers. So I just learned what it's suppose to feel like after repeated tries. You should take some dummy film and do this process in the bag repeatedly until you get it right. I think it saves a lot of time to just get it done in the bag so the mags are good to go when you take them out.
- Double check both doors are locked
- Put magazine on top of can (this identifies which can you loaded incase you've got multiple can's in the same bag)
- Put the black cap back onto the magazine
- Open up changing bag and pull mags and can's out together
- Take the sticker from the can and put it on the side of the magazine with a few pieces of tape. This quickly identifies which roll of film goes into what can. Thus, if you have "left overs", you make sure you put it back into the proper labeled can. This is important for short ends and knowing how old they are if you don't re-use the film right away.
- Put a piece of white camera tape above the film can sticker, label it the roll number and date. That piece of tape will transfer to the can when done.
- Put two pieces of black camera tape over the door levers. It requires two because the levers don't quite match one another. Then wrap a piece of wide black tape around the outside of the magazine from the bottom to the top. This helps prevent direct sunlight from perhaps peeking through. I haven't had an issue, but ya never know.
- Take the piece of tape from the can and put it back ON the can for safe storage.

When you put the magazine onto the back of the camera, pull the film out from the edges, that helps make it mate better onto the gate. Flick the "test" switch once, hear a "click", that's the engagement of the magazine drive. If you hit it a 2nd time and hear nothing, then it's most likely good to go. If on the second test, you hear another fainter click, that's the pull down claw missing the perf. So you probably have to pull it off and put it back on again to re-engage the perf. I've found if you do the same proceedure over and over again, it always engages the perf, especially on the XTR Prod.

When unloading, it's the same procedure backwards, remove the camera tape first, remove the tape from the can, put the magazine on top of the can in the changing bag, etc... If you're breaking down the film as in you wanna remove film from the magazine, but you haven't shot it all, then you need to identify the two can's beore you put them into the changing bag. You always want to put the left over unexposed film back into the original can with the original sticker on it. The exposed film will go into a new canister for processing. So what I do is the same process, only I leave the magazine on top of the original can, unload the exposed side and put it into the new can. Thus, it's impossible to muck up which can is what.

In terms of labeling. Film that goes to the lab, will get the tape you already put on the side of the camera with a roll number and date. This is all you need when you put the film back into the original container. If you put the film into a spare container, make sure you also write the stock number on it as well. This is just to help with confusion at the lab because you could be delivering B&W for all they know.

I also do a "camera report" for the day which includes a big fat sticker that you put onto each roll of film with the title of the project, what post work is to be done (push/pull/transfer.. etc) This will travel along with the film to the lab, so when you fill out the lab paperwork, each can has all the pertinant information on it. This isn't so critical if YOU do all the work and you're only shooting a dozen rolls or something. If you're shooting more then a dozen, I'd think about doing a real camera report and organizing better. We just shot a 35mm short on 200ft re-can's, so we had like 30 rolls of film total and without some sort of camera log and sticker system, it would have been a nightmare. When we got the film back from processing, we knew exactly what was on each roll and I put together telecine transfer reels based on our camera reports. This may sound over the top, but the more data you have on each can, the less likelihood there will be a muckup in the lab. I've seen everything from lost film to film sitting on shelfs for weeks because nobody knows what it is, even though the lab has labeled it.

In terms of operating... no... you don't wanna operate by grabbing the magazine and pulling it. That magazine is held onto the camera body by a little tapered screw, that's it! It feels strong and robust, but I wouldn't be caught dead trying to move the camera with it. Maybe the reason you're using the magazine could relate to how the camera is sitting on the tripod. Maybe it's too far back? Maybe the tripod isn't of good quality so the weight of the camera is too much for it? There are a whole host of reasons, but DO NOT use any part of the body for camera movement.

You will find, the viewfinder will get loose on the body if you put too much pressure on it. All of my Aaton's do this and it gets annoying. A dab of blue locktite on those screws helps, but don't grab the viewfinder either, it's super delicate.
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#3 aapo lettinen

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 02:16 PM

Now I load the entire magazine in the bag. This is mainly because finding a dark place to load the other side, can be tricky on location. I'd rather the mag come out of the bag ready to go onto the camera.

 

this is not necessary with most 16mm mags, for example SR or XTR mags (one will only expose a small amount of film if loading the mag transport/takeup side in daylight) but it may be very handy if loading the mags in dusty conditions.

 

if having for example the Eclair NPR (feed roll on the transport side of the mag) then one needs to thread the film completely in changing bag too to avoid ruining the roll. same of course with 2c/35-3/435/arricam/moviecam/Kinor/Konvas/Cameflex/Aaton35 etc mags. 

 

taping the whole mag seams may be necessary in dusty conditions though one would also need a rain cover or similar for additional protection. most cameras don't need the door seams to be fully taped to be secure but some older models may require it, especially if having lots of vibrations etc


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#4 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 03:00 PM

I never once loaded an Aaton or SR mag take up side in a bag.. totally no need.. its about 3/4 feet of film.. thats the whole point of the design.. esp Aaton.. no sprockets on the load side.. easy..  ..  never heard of needing to do that in a dark place..  ?


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#5 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 03:12 PM

Yeah, +1 to what Robin said. I don't see any point to loading the take up in the bag. That's one of the Aaton's best features.
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#6 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 03:16 PM

I didn't get to read all of Tyler's contribution...I just hope he is not still insisting that we wear white cotton gloves when loading.... :rolleyes:


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#7 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 05:40 PM

I never once loaded an Aaton or SR mag take up side in a bag.. totally no need.. its about 3/4 feet of film.. thats the whole point of the design.. esp Aaton.. no sprockets on the load side.. easy..  ..  never heard of needing to do that in a dark place..  ?


Why are you so negative against practices that work perfectly fine, don't effect time/schedule and are an added safety measure. I shoot on film every week and these are the tricks/tips that I have found to work very well and VERY safe. There wasn't a single piece of dirt on the last 16mm promo I shot for a high-end fashion clothing line few weeks ago. Every frame was perfect for every single load. It was so perfect, the director complained and said he thought S16 would be dirty generally no matter what. I have a thing for dirt because it can be avoided through good practices.

Here are the reasons why I always thread the XTR magazines in the bag.

- When you put the magazine on the camera, you immediately get a picture. This may not sound like anything, but when you're shooting documentary and commercial work like I do, you rush and grab magazines, throw them on and keep shooting. You sometimes don't have the forethought to pre-roll the magazine past the spot of exposed film. Yes, you loose around 6 frames no matter what, but that's A LOT BETTER then over a second worth of loss. Ya never know what you're gonna get IN that second.

- The changing bag is THE CLEANEST PLACE ON A FILM SET. You will never find a cleaner place to load a magazine on set. I blow my mags out before I put them in the bag and that's the only time they ever see the light of day, when they're empty and getting prepped for re-loading. This keeps the possibility of contaimation down to a minimal. Even if you're a super fast loader, that door is open for quite a while.

- The XTR latches are weak sauce. It's VERY easy to swipe them with your finger and open up the supply side when loading the take up side. I haven't had the latch fully open, but got very close a few times because of where it's positioned. If you pull a magazine out of bag already loaded, then you don't even get near those latches, you put tape on them and then you're secure. The older LTR magazines don't have this problem, it was introduced with the magnetic drive magazines which use a rubber gromit to hold the lever in place instead of a bunch of plastic shims. Evidently the shim design didn't work, though it locked A LOT better.

- The order of operations is A LOT cleaner. One magazine to one can of film, goes in the bag, comes out of the bag as a single unit. The moment you pull a magazine out of a bag and separate it from the can, then you forget to label stuff and you wind up upside down very quickly. It's far better to pull out a finished magazine, put the labels on it and the can as the next step and then move onto the next magazine. There is far less room for error, especially if you're in a hurry, which seems to always be the case on film sets.

- Finally, I pay attention to loading a lot more when I do it in the bag. I can do it just as fast as outside of the bag, but I also make less mistakes. I got use to loading this way because it's how I've always loaded my Bolex cameras. I never want even the slightest potnetial of light leaks on my film. I want it to come out of the camera perfectly, so I always carry around a little changing bag with my Bolex for loading to this day.

Overkill? yes... but it does make for a better image with less chance of contamination.
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#8 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 08:52 PM

That's a bit mean of Tyler or his shadow cadre to red arrow my comment above.  If anyone want's to expunge that you just click a green arrow........

Ahh..(sighing)..the sweet wistful sense of suffering arising from a gesture towards common sense.....


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#9 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 11:35 PM

That's a bit mean of Tyler or his shadow cadre to red arrow my comment above.


FYI twasn't me. I don't believe in giving a red arrow for someone's opinion like other people :cough:
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#10 Stephen Perera

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 03:17 AM

thanks for all the great information and especially my friend from many thousands of km's away Mr Tyler Purcell a true gentleman and putting the money where his mouth is with our beloved film......


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#11 Stephen Perera

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 03:21 AM

I have a normal photography changing bag thats too small in my opinion and clingy when it gets a bit sweaty what bag do you all recommend of more space etc...what brand specifically.....


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#12 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 03:48 AM

I have a normal photography changing bag thats too small in my opinion and clingy when it gets a bit sweaty what bag do you all recommend of more space etc...what brand specifically.....


Yea, I have extra large photography bags for loaners... but my main changing tent is a harrison. I have a large one for 1000ft 35mm magazines, but you can just buy the smaller one, it works fine. They're super nicely made and very robust. I never setup the "tent" part of the changing bag, it's a pain in the ass and I'm always on the move. So I just unfold it, get my changing done quick and move on.
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#13 Stephen Perera

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 04:04 AM

https://www.youtube....h?v=xitWvTThYyg

 

this one looks pretty good from calumet....only doing 16mm Aaton magazines by the way:


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#14 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 04:30 AM

this one looks pretty good from calumet....only doing 16mm Aaton magazines by the way:


Not bad, but I get scared about recommending things I've never seen. The Harrison tent is the industry standard for many reasons, one of them is double arm sleeves, which basically prevents any light from getting in no matter what. This is one of their trademark's and it's something that is super beneficial in my eyes.
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#15 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 12:27 AM

I challenge whoever is giving me the red arrows to declare themselves and explain why.  C'mon now,  grab your gonads,  reassure yourself and step forward....


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