Tutorial - 70mm Film to 120/220/620: A Guide on Hand-Rolling Medium Format Film (with PICTURES!)

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MCB18

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Introduction

Hello everyone!

As most of you are aware, we are seeing film prices go up again. And while you may be aware of 35mm bulk films that decrease the cost per roll (for me rolling Vision3 by up to 80%!), Medium format film is does not have a similar option, so we just need to suck it up. Or do we? There is actually a way to bulk load 120, 220, and 620 film! While this process only works with a small number of films, in this tutorial, I will show you what I have learned since starting this process, as best as I can. The images here are of me making a 120 roll, but the process is identical for a 620 roll, and only slightly different for a 220 roll.


Things you need:

Backing paper
Tape (3M Masking tape)
Scissors
Empty 120 spool
70mm film
Cotton lint free gloves
Film slitter (Curtesy of Goat Hill Film Slitters)
Exposed and Unexposed roll seals (these can be tape)
Wrapper (cardstock or tin foil work well)
A darkroom (not a dark bag!)
A way to measure 32.5 in (825mm) in the dark


Preparing the Backing Paper

Let's start with the elephant in the room: The backing paper. Almost as unique as photographic film itself, backing paper is a very special product. This is also why most folks say you can't bulk roll medium format. However, it is relatively easy to get hold of large quantities. Simply ask some medium format shooters for it! While some just throw the paper and spool away, others hoard it for reasons they can't even figure out. I got almost 100 rolls of backing paper from 2 individuals who gave it to me for free (as long as I paid the postage). I'm sure the medium format section of the forums are a good place to ask for it.

Now that we have the backing paper, we need to prepare it for the film. Remove any adhesive labels to avoid the possibility of your camera jamming from sticky label paper goop. Once this is done, you need to place the tape that holds the film onto the paper. The film starts 7.5 in (190mm) from the start mark. While you can measure this out every time, thankfully you don't need to! Manufacturers have put markings on the backing paper that indicate where the film is attached.

IMG_5522.jpg


You can see in the image that each film manufacturer (Kodak on the left, Ilford/Fuji Across II in the middle, and Foma on the right) marks it slightly differently, but they are all easily identifiable. The red marking added to the image indicates exactly 7.5 inches from the start mark, and where the film needs to be attached.

Once the place where the film needs to be attached is identified, make a crease along the backing paper, to make attaching the tape easier.

IMG_5523.jpg


Then, add the tape to the back of the paper. I use 3M masking tape, as it is very similar to what most manufacturers use. It is approximately 2.25 in (55mm) long, and 1.5 in wide.

IMG_5524.jpg


The tape is folded over along the crease you made to allow the film to be easily aligned in the dark. Try to make sure sure that the tape does not cover more than 0.75 in (20mm), as it may impinge on the first frame past that.

IMG_5501.jpg


Finally, stick the exposed label (discussed further in a bit) onto the backing paper. Repeat this procedure for the number of rolls you wish to make.

The backing paper is now prepared, and it is time to move to the film.


Preparing the Film

The film is the most important part of the entire process. The most continent place to get this film is on eBay, where Agfa Aviphot Pan 200 film, and Kodak Plus-X 200 ISO film are the most readily available. There may be color stocks occasionally, however all this film is expired, so that might not be the best option. You can also use 65mm Vision3 stock, however the short ends are harder to find, and they are more expensive than 70mm B&W film. The film I purchased was Aviphot 200, as it is an IR capable film, and also costs less than Plus-X.

Once the film arrives, I would recommend slitting all of it down to 61mm. to do this, you do need to purchase a film slitter. Goat Hill Film Slitters makes lots of options, but the one we are looking for is the 70mm to 120 (61mm) slitter.

IMG_5527.jpg
IMG_5526.jpg


Once that is in hand, head to the darkroom. Be aware that the slitter uses 2 razor blades to slit the film, so watch your fingers! Put on cotton gloves, open the film, and untape the end. Place the film into the slitter, and put the top on untill it is flush with the 4 pegs on the corners. this will force the film through the blades. Pull the film straight through, trying not to pull to one side or the other, as this could cause the film to misalign and jam, giving a poor edge. Once the entire roll has been slit (this might take a bit...), discard the edge trimmings, and put the finished 120-width film back into the container it came in. Don't worry about putting it back on the spool.


Preparing Other Materials

There are a few more things we need to prepare before we can roll the film. We need a way to measure the film length, a way to seal the film before and after exposure, and a wrapper to protect the roll from light if you aren't going to shoot it for a while.

To measure the film, I use a table with masking tape indicating the correct length for the film. I can line up the film and get an accurate measurement in the dark this way.

The seals for the rolls can be made of a piece of masking tape, however as I am trying to make my film look professional to sell, I designed labels for the film. You certanly don't need too. The unexposed sealer is a piece of printer paper with some double sided tape, allowing it to be peeled away much like the seal on a roll of Kodak. The exposed label is made of a 1 x 4" Avery label, with wax paper on the back to protect the adhesive untill you are ready to seal it.

Finally, the roll needs a wrapper. A piece of tin foil rolled up and folded at the ends works well, as does a piece of cardstock. You can put a label describing the film on the outside of this as well.

Now, we can begin rolling the film.


Rolling the Film

IMG_5503.jpg


Now, gather your materials, head to the darkroom, and organize so you can find everything easily. Put on cotton gloves, and measure out a length of film 32.5 in (825mm) long. For your first roll, I would suggest sacrificing this bit of film, and doing the rest in the light to practice and get used to the process.

Line the end of the length of film up with the tape on the backing paper. Also line the film up with the backing paper, making sure the film isn't at an angle. You may need to take the gloves off to do this. Once the film is lined up, tape the end of the film down, making sure the tape is flat.

IMG_5528.jpg


Roll the film onto the spool, tape end first. This might not make much sense at first, however due to the film and paper having slightly different spirals, rolling the film free-end first immediately would cause the film to kink at the taped end. Be sure you are rolling the film as tightly as possible.

IMG_5529.jpg


While in the light, you should note that this shows the exposed end of the paper. Don't stop here! thread the paper through the empty 120 spool and begin winding onto that. When the film appears, be sure it is wound onto the empty spool as well. Keep both rolls as tight as possible. When you are done winding the film onto the new spool, make sure it is as tightly spooled as possible.

IMG_5506.jpg
IMG_5507.jpg


Attach the unexposed label, and then wrap up the film.

Congratulations, you are finnished making a roll of 120!


Other Film Formats

120 is not the only format you can make in this manner. You can also make 620 in the same way, just replace the 120 spools with 620 spools. You can also make 220 in a very similar way.

To make 220, cut the paper 7.5 in (190mm) away from the start mark, or where you would tape the film to the paper with 120. This makes the paper header. Next, cut the paper 14 in (356mm) from the exposed end, or just after the 120 frame numbers end. This makes the paper trailer. Put 2 peices of tape, one on the header, and one on the trailer. Fold the tape on the leader over about 1/8 in (4mm) from the edge of the paper. Stick the exposed label onto the end of the backing paper to finish preparing the backing paper.

Go into the dark and put on cotton gloves. Measure out 65 in (1,650mm) of film. Line up the ends of the film with the paper, and make sure it is straight. To avoid the camera jamming or catching the film, put the film at the trailer under the paper and tape, overlapping the film and backing paper about 1/8 in (4mm), and the film at the header between the paper and tape, butting the end of the film against the folded tape.

Now, roll the film up, making sure the header is facing the outside of the roll. Tighten the roll and add an unexposed label and wrap the film.

You are now finished with a 220 roll!



Thank you all for reading! I really hope that you guys find this interesting! Feel free to post any questions or feedback below!
 
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Cholentpot

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I've used this method with a few changes for a few years. I suggest keeping rubber bands on your wrist.

I roll from the end of paper to beginning. In the light I unroll just until I see the film peak out before frame 1 and tape it down. You can take two black 35mm film holders cut the bottom off one and jam them together for a 120 film holder.

The most trouble I have is sourcing 70mm film. Some people have issues finding the razors.
 
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MCB18

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I've used this method with a few changes for a few years. I suggest keeping rubber bands on your wrist.

I roll from the end of paper to beginning. In the light I unroll just until I see the film peak out before frame 1 and tape it down. You can take two black 35mm film holders cut the bottom off one and jam them together for a 120 film holder.

The most trouble I have is sourcing 70mm film. Some people have issues finding the razors.

70mm film is pretty abundant on EBay right now, there is an Indian seller that has a crapload of surplus Aviphot that they say has been cold-stored since new. I got some that expired 12-2012, pretty recently compared to other options. Not sure if they still have any of that though, I think I might’ve bought the last of it.
 

Cholentpot

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I got some Plus-X from him a while back.

I see the Agfa up there. Still kicking around. Might have to get 85 meters of the stuff...
 

Sirius Glass

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Thank you even though I do not expect to use this process.
 

Cholentpot

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Thank you even though I do not expect to use this process.

It's the only way I could afford to shoot 120 these days. After some practice I can roll about 5 rolls in an hour with setup and everything else. Any more than that and I start making errors.
 
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MCB18

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I got some Plus-X from him a while back.

I see the Agfa up there. Still kicking around. Might have to get 85 meters of the stuff...

I got the 2 pack of 45m rolls. Easier to handle, and you get an extra 15 ft or so.
 

xkaes

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I've found that with long rolls a "dispensing reel" can be constructed to make things easier -- kind of like the old 16mm movie reel-to-reel gear/editor. Come to think of it, an old dead movie projector could probably be "re-assigned" pretty easily.
 
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MCB18

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What are you shooting it at and how are you developing?

I’m shooting it in my RB67. Waiting on an IR filter to shoot it with next. Planning on processing it in HC-110 to see if I can remove the very slight base fog. If I can, I’m going to try making slides!
 

Cholentpot

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I’m shooting it in my RB67. Waiting on an IR filter to shoot it with next. Planning on processing it in HC-110 to see if I can remove the very slight base fog. If I can, I’m going to try making slides!

What ISO setting have you found it works at?
 
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MCB18

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What ISO setting have you found it works at?

Shot it 100 as per the stop per decade rule, turned out superb! Got that deved at the lab, but other than the lab guy giving me a funny look and asking “where did you get that film?!”, went great!

Shot it at 200 ISO next just for laughs, and deved that at home. Turned out really well, so I’ve stuck with that ever since. IR I’m probably going to rate it at around 12.
 
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MCB18

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Thanks! I was hoarding backing paper for a while thinking of doing this. I might do it for 220? Cheers.

That’s what I do for personal use. I just rolled 120 because someone bought a few rolls of it.
 

Cholentpot

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Shot it 100 as per the stop per decade rule, turned out superb! Got that deved at the lab, but other than the lab guy giving me a funny look and asking “where did you get that film?!”, went great!

Shot it at 200 ISO next just for laughs, and deved that at home. Turned out really well, so I’ve stuck with that ever since. IR I’m probably going to rate it at around 12.

What times and dilutions did you use for 200? Sorry for picking your brain on this.
 
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MCB18

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What times and dilutions did you use for 200? Sorry for picking your brain on this.

You are all good, after all, that’s what this place is for, right?

I used the same dev time for 100 and 200, D-76 1+1 for 14 minutes. It turns out very well. Going to try and dev in a higher dilution of HC-110 in a bit, probably 1+50 for 20 minutes, and see how that turns out. If the base is clear enough, I’m thinking about trying some reversal processing.
 

Cholentpot

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You are all good, after all, that’s what this place is for, right?

I used the same dev time for 100 and 200, D-76 1+1 for 14 minutes. It turns out very well. Going to try and dev in a higher dilution of HC-110 in a bit, probably 1+50 for 20 minutes, and see how that turns out. If the base is clear enough, I’m thinking about trying some reversal processing.

Excellent. Got any examples? I've only shot one roll of IR film before.
 
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MCB18

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Excellent. Got any examples? I've only shot one roll of IR film before.

Not of IR, still waiting on the filter for my RB, it is backordered. But I do have images shot as regular film:

Apologies for the atrocious home scan quality, I do not have a dedicated scanning setup. The actual negatives look much better.
 

bernard_L

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Thanks a lot for taking the time to write up this excellent tutorial.

A small caveat. Some adhesive tapes are tribo-electric, meaning, when pulled off, will generate static electricity, sparks, and therefore light. This used to be an issue when I started photography; nowadays, manufacturers seem to have addressed this by proper choice of tape/adhesive. Might come back in DIY film spools. When separating the exposed film, pull the tape slowly and be alert for light generated along the separation line. Or just cut the taped end, but for me I don't like having tape+adhesive in the developing tank.
 

Cholentpot

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Not of IR, still waiting on the filter for my RB, it is backordered. But I do have images shot as regular film:

Apologies for the atrocious home scan quality, I do not have a dedicated scanning setup. The actual negatives look much better.


Not bad, it's got nice contrast.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to write up this excellent tutorial.

A small caveat. Some adhesive tapes are tribo-electric, meaning, when pulled off, will generate static electricity, sparks, and therefore light. This used to be an issue when I started photography; nowadays, manufacturers seem to have addressed this by proper choice of tape/adhesive. Might come back in DIY film spools. When separating the exposed film, pull the tape slowly and be alert for light generated along the separation line. Or just cut the taped end, but for me I don't like having tape+adhesive in the developing tank.

I've run into this. I used painters tape now and I pre measure it out.
 

Fredrixxon

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This kind of pull-through slitters always looked barbarian for me. I've built a slitter that has pairs of foam covered reels inside to transport the film.
But whatever you use - your biggest enemy is dust.
 
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Cholentpot

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This kind of pull-through slitters always looked barbarian for me. I've build a slitter that has pairs of foam covered rolls inside to transport the film.
But whatever you use - your biggest enemy is dust.

It always feels a little crazy doing it. I've not had major issues with scratches though. Some people use a piece of backing paper to pad the plastic.
 
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