A 3D Printed 35mm Movie Camera

Making a camera can be as easy as taking a cardboard box with a bit of film and a pin hole, but making a more accomplished camera requires some more work. A movie camera has all the engineering challenges as a regular camera with the added complication of a continuous film transport mechanism and shutter. Too much work? Not if you are [Yuta Ikeya], whose 3D printed movie camera uses commonly-available 35 mm film stock rather than the 8 mm or 16 mm film you might expect.

3D printing might not seem to lend itself to the complex mechanism of a movie camera, however with the tech of the 2020s in hand he’s eschewed a complex mechanism in favour of an Arduino and a pair of motors. The camera is hardly petite, but is still within the size to comfortably carry on a shoulder. The film must be loaded into a pair of cassettes, which are pleasingly designed to be reversible, with either able to function as both take-up and dispensing spool.

The resulting images have an extreme wide-screen format and a pleasing artistic feel. Looking at them we’re guessing there may be a light leak or two, but it’s fair to say that they enhance the quality rather than detract from it. Those of us who dabble in movie cameras can be forgiven for feeling rather envious.

We’ve reached out to him asking whether the files might one day be made available, meanwhile you can see it in action in the video below the break.

19 thoughts on “A 3D Printed 35mm Movie Camera

  1. *looking around my office at the empty film cans and the ancient reloader*
    Can you not buy 100 ft rolls of film any more?

    … looking at BHPhoto… Yep. Dozens.
    Betcha Yodobashi has it too.
    And yes, probably even in Eindhoven.

  2. Pretty neat! But how common is “commonly available 35mm film” really?
    A while ago I started drawing up CAD files for repopping the ESTES Cineroc model rocket camera from the 1970s. There wasn’t any real point to it, just for idle fun as the film cartridges are long since extinct anyway.

    1. There are some film labs around still. Also ultra hobbiest ones like the Worm Filmwerkplaats in Rotterdam. They dont produce film rolls but share knowledge and equipment. Look them up.

    2. It’s easy enough to buy online, I just saw tons of it on the Walmart app. Getting it processed is another story. I checked my local Walgreens a while back. They could do it but they had to ship it out, it took 2 weeks and was $15 a roll. Not to mention he’s not using a standard frame size. I don’t know if that would affect it.

      1. Any decent place will leave it as long strips or a roll if you ask instead of mounting as slides. I’ve had them do that for homemade cameras with weird frame sizes, sprocket exposures, etc.

    3. It depends on where you are and what you want. Here in Arnhem, the Netherlands, we have ASA, where you can buy camera’s, film, have it developed in a few days for 5 euro and scanned for another 10. Oh and he has a darkroom you can rent.
      Only the demand for film is bigger than the supply. 35mm color film is scarce atm. Bw is ok and Kodak is revving up production and just released color 200 in 120 film format. But you can still have it processed at the HEMA or Kruitvat shops around the country as well, although they all send it to a central lab.

      The reason he choose the ultra wide screen format is that he can fit more frames on a roll of film. :)

    4. I have rolls of 35 and 120 in my fridge. There’s at least 4 places in town that process C-41 35mm, though probably only one will handle 120 (and will do E-6, push, xpro, etc). That said, that’s the only one I’d trust to process anything.
      One of the other places nearly forced open an unprocessed 35mm can in front of me, trying to find where they could plug USB into it 🤦‍♂️

  3. This is awesome!
    Love the frame size (I’m guessing that gives a longer runtime on a standard 35mm film), and the aesthetic of the final film – the decision to stabilise on the image instead of the sprockets is interesting! Not sure if that suggests something a bit lose inside? But very nice!
    Definitely looks like there’s a bit of a light leak or reflection though – would be worth resolving that.

  4. If it takes 36 exp. rolls it is similar to Lomography’s Lomokino camera. With that it’s the same 2 perf frame but you have to hand crank it, which gives about 4-5 fps. Makes about a 30 sec. clip. The automation here is nicer ofcourse, as well as the lens (although I have seen people use devices to automate the Lomokino as well).

  5. Speaking as a resident of Rochester, NY I can vouch for the extreme reduction, near elimination of the manufacturing lines for 35mm motion picture film. A coworker of mine had a spouse that worked on the Q.C. for motion picture up until about 2005. So if there’s is film available, it’s not much. And if you buy it, you have to buy in movie studio quantities (minimum 100,000 ft. not 100ft.)

    1. There are countless photo shops that sell 35mm film. On BH Photo Video there are at least a couple dozen options of film stocks in 100′ lengths and several choices of motion picture stock in 400′ or 2000′ lengths. I just had 400′ of fresh film delivered to my house today. There is no shortage and it is very much around.

    2. A few months ago I was driving home listening to Marketplace on NPR *, and Kai Ryssdal was explaining that the show was doing a 3-day location broadcast from Rochester, New York, where they’d be talking to people about Kodak, telling the story of the rise and retreat of one of America’s great manufacturing companies.

      He said that he fully understood how far the market had shifted when he told his 12 year old son that he was going to be gone for a few days doing a story about Kodak, and his boy looked at him and asked “OK. What is ‘Kodak’ ?”

      I, having spent way too many hours of my youth in a darkroom working with Kodak film and paper, could only sigh.

      * For those outside the US, Marketplace is a 1/2 hour, business news program broadcast daily on American public radio

      1. 👍the biggest activity Kodak engaged in for the last 20 years is imploding a record number of former manufacturing buildings (23 in total) all on the west side of the city. And it all kicked of in 1994 when they laid of 20,000 people. Only down hill from there.

  6. And if you read this little promo from Kodak, even when someone like Speilberg demands film,…https://www.kodak.com/en/motion/blog-post/west-side-story, at the end of the day how many people are watching it AS film? All through that article, the cinematographer keeps referencing scans, scanning of the film. This film is being turned INTO a digital artifcact. No one will see it as film projected on a screen in a movie theatre. No one.

    1. That’s because it’s easier to edit a film when it’s scanned as a digital image. Filmmakers can still request prints to be created for distribution (ie Christopher Nolan who permits exclusive early screenings to theatres if they display the film on a film print). However, with the number of mega-chains it’s more convenient to display films on digital images.

  7. I find it interesting that he isn’t using the standard 35mm motion picture film aperture nor is he using motion picture film. I would love to see what the internals look like–especially the film gate.

    1. I think the point of this project is that he doesn’t need to use motion picture film – this gives a lot of options to people who want to get a feel for shooting films on film so that they don’t have to go through the hassle of procuring large 100 foot rolls of Vision 3 film and can just load in a canister of Gold 200. Personally, I’ve wanted to know what moving images shot on Kodak Ektar or Portra would look like to compare them with Vision 3 stocks.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.