This tutorial demonstrates how to bulk load film, specifically 35mm, into reusable cassettes. Rolling your own film cassettes allows you to determine the number of exposures per roll. This can be handy if you want to develop a short roll sooner, rather than wait to fill up a full 36-exposure roll. It can also save you up to 30-40% (or more) in film costs. But there are some caveats, too. We talk about those in the video.
Bulk Film Loading
I recently acquired an old Lloyd’s bulk film loader, so I decided to use it to demonstrate how all of this works. Previously, I’d only ever used a Watson-style loader and was very happy with it. The Lloyd, however, looked much simpler and straight-forward in its design, so I figured, why not?
You don’t need that much to get started with rolling your own film cassettes. Technically, you don’t even need the bulk film loader, but it makes everything much more convenient and fool-proof. So, get a bulk film loader, some reusable 35mm film cassettes, some tape, scissors, and a roll of your favorite film and you’ll be set. Just remember, you MUST load the main bulk roll itself in TOTAL DARKNESS (or use a changing bag). That’s 100′ of film you can ruin in one quick moment of carelessness. Loading the individual cassettes can then be done under normal lighting conditions.
By the steps, here’s what you do:
- Remove the spool from the cassette and carefully secure the film to it with tape.
2) Slide the cassette over the spool and place the cap over it to make it light tight. Close the loader door.
3) Turn the winder handle to load up the desired length of film on the cassette spool. The bulk film loader I used here displays a handy chart telling you how many turns you’ll need for the number of exposures you’d like.
4) Open the loader door and cut the film. At this point, you’ll probably want to cut a tapered “leader” onto the end of the film.
5) You can load the film into your camera as you would a factory-loaded roll.
6) Later in the video, I show you how to place the actual bulk roll of film into the bulk loader and feed the film through the light trap. You’ll want to do this IN TOTAL DARKNESS.
Bulk Film Loading Precautions
Well, if I haven’t already made it abundantly clear, drop that 100′ roll of bulk film into the loader in a completely dark room or in a changing bag. Also, make sure your cassettes are clean and in good shape. The last thing you want is a cassette that falls apart or has light leaks. You also don’t want debris getting into the pathway of the film on the loader or the cassette side. This can scratch and ruin your film.
Despite all the scary-sounding things that can go wrong, I’ve never really had any problems in the hundreds of rolls I’ve loaded, even as a kid. So, I’d encourage you to give this a try and see what you think. If you don’t develop your own film, remember to request your reusable cassettes back from your lab.