Making Your Film Reel: A Comprehensive Step-by-Step Guide from Start to Finish

Making Your Film Reel: A Comprehensive Step-by-Step Guide from Start to Finish

If you have 8mm, 16mm, or Super 8 film that’s not on a reel of some kind, it’s susceptible to fading, water damage, dust and debris, heat, and other elements. Over time, this could ruin everything in your film including actor demo reels, student films, or your most precious memories. 

 Since Capture has been preserving precious memories for over 20 years, we put together this guide on how to make a film reel. That way, you’ll be able to roll your film and protect it from rapid deterioration while also having a decorative way to display love for analog cinematography. 

Read on to see what you will need for your DIY film reel, step-by-step instructions for creating one that’s sturdy, extra tips for storage and decoration, and some common mistakes you’ll want to avoid. 

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Necessary Materials and Tools

necessary tools to create film

Since film only lasts around 10 to 15 years and can start showing signs even earlier, it’s smart to follow best practices when creating a film reel to store and protect the videography and priceless moments contained in your film. 

What is a film reel? It’s a circular sprocket that rolls your film up, stores it, and, in some cases, attaches to a projector to display great videos, sizzle reels, vacation memories, self-tapes, and production company highlights. This is not to be confused with a demo reel compilation demonstrating an actor’s best work to a casting director. 

While this guide will help you create a great storage or decoration wheel, if you want a completely function wheel to go with a motion picture projector, then we recommend buying one. 

For creating this storage film reel, you will need materials for the hub, spokes, center attachment, and other film reel components. Here’s a complete list of what you’ll need:

  • Thick, sturdy cardboard
  • Cardboard tubes (from toilet paper rolls)
  • Utility knife
  • Pencil
  • String
  • Measuring tape 
  • Glue
  • Quarter or Nickle 
  • Paint (optional)

Step-by-Step Guide to Film Reel Creation

step by step guide to create film reel

Whether you have old home movies on 16mm film to view without a projector, need an attractive and protective way for how to store film, or are a filmmaker who uses analog Super 8 film to mimic old TV shows, this tutorial for assembling a film reel will help!  

 1. Get Everything Ready

Make sure you get all your supplies together and leave plenty of room on a flat surface to maneuver as you measure and cut. To make it easier, we recommend having your film rolls or strips nearby as well. 

 2. Create the Outer Discs

The first step for making a movie reel is to cut out the circular discs from the cardboard. You want them to be between 6 inches and 12+ inches depending on how much film you have. 

To draw a perfect circle, find the center of the cardboard piece. Attach the string measured between 3 and 6 inches to your pencil. Hold the inside string piece down in the middle and pull it outward so it’s taut. Then, draw around to make a perfect circle. You can find full videos for how to do this on social media and other places online. 

Then, cut out the outer disc and repeat the process a second time. 

 3. Make the Spokes

Draw a second circle that’s 1/3 the size of the outer discs in the center of the disc. Then, use measuring tape to draw six lines on each disc, all of them 1-inch thick and going from the inner circle to the outer circle. Cut the areas between these spokes out so that you’re left with 3 spokes, each 1 inch thick. 

Then, use a quarter or other circular currency to draw circles around the inner circle and then carefully cut them out. 

Repeat this step for the second outer disc. 

4. Attach the Central Reel

Next, cut four lines on each end of the toilet paper rolls. Bend back these flaps and glue them to the central circle of the outer discs. We suggest using super glue or another strong adhesive, but make sure that it never comes into contact with your long or short film reel. 

 5. Decorate (Optional)

If you’re using this film reel as a decoration for a film school, your home, or as a showreel project, then you can spray paint it or use other paint to add on details. Even if you’re using it for storage, it will look better if you paint it. 

We also recommend writing your contact information on it so that if it gets lost, someone knows where to send the film montage, acting reel, or family memories contained on the film. 

Tips for a Successful DIY Film Reel

film reel

Now that you have your Hollywood style film reel complete, here are some tips that can help you protect your film. First, try to wind your film tightly so that more of it isn’t exposed to light because that can impact the color grade. Tape the end very carefully to the inner rolls and tightly wind up. 

When it comes to transitions between one film strip to the next, we strongly recommend storing them on separate reels. However, if you do store them on the same reel, you can use dedicated splicing tape for 16mm, 8mm or Super 8 film. 

Even though the template instructions about detail how to make a film reel, it’s not extremely protective like a cinematographer film kit. Because of that, we still recommend keeping it in a cool, dry, and dark place. That’s because humidity can damage it or contribute to mold and mildew while heat and sunlight can break down the film components and leave you with poor quality that will need to be fixed by a professional video editor. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

films

There are a few common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid. The first is using materials that could permanently damage your film. This includes paint that comes in direct contact with the film or using a different type of tape other than dedicated film splicing tape. 

Another common mistake is to wind too loosely. Even during storage, a loosely wound reel is bound to continue to loosen up, which can threaten more of your film, and you may grab it one day and wonder, “Why is my gear exposed and fading?”

Finally, one of the biggest mistakes that our potential clients make is trying to do their best work to store their film before preserving it. We strongly suggest figuring out how to digitize Super 8 film and other film types before any long-term storage or film reel use. Not only does this ensure your precious memories are protected for future generations, but there are tons of other benefits as well. 

You can use video editing software to add an intro, make a music video, enhance the quality, upload to Vimeo, add to a podcast, add voiceover, and work on modern sound design. Plus, with a digital copy, you easily store your home movies on any device like a hard drive, iPhone, or cloud storage. You can even share them over social media and email. 

Conclusion

Now that you know how to make a film reel, you can start preserving your analog films. Film reel crafting is important for both professional and amateur videographers that want their original film copy to last forever, but the truth is that DIY film reel creation doesn’t completely protect your film from deterioration.

That’s why we recommend digitizing your film because you embark on the steps to create a film reel or movie reel construction. Capture offers professional digitization for an affordable price that also includes cloud storage and automatic upload to Google Photos. Click here to learn more about our film transfer services! 

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