DIY 35mm Cinema Camera – YMCinema

Have you ever thought of making your own camera? Yes of course. However, have you ever thought about building your own 35mm motion picture camera? Well, mechanical engineer Yuta Ikeya did. And it works quite well. Look at this marvel of cinema, a 3D printed camera loaded with 35mm photographic film, and which works (almost) like an ARRIFLEX 🙂

DIY 35mm motion picture camera. Image: Yuta Ikeya

Yuta Ikeya, designer and mechanical engineer, had a dream. “Can we enjoy analog filmmaking more easily? Can we do this without investing in expensive used equipment and motion picture film inventory that you don’t know if your local lab accepts? he wondered. Therefore, he decided to take up the challenge and build his own 35mm motion picture camera. “I designed and built this camera primarily with 3D printed parts. You can load 35mm photographic film or assemble multiple rolls together to shoot longer footage. This camera could be a good starting point for your experience of analog filmmaking,” he says and adds, “Although this prototype isn’t perfect yet, it opens up a lot of possibilities for building an analog motion picture camera on your own.” “Let’s have a look.

DIY 35mm motion picture camera.  Image: Yuta Ikeya
DIY 35mm motion picture camera. Image: Yuta Ikeya

Can we enjoy analog filmmaking more easily? Can we do this without investing in expensive used equipment and motion picture film inventory that you don’t know if your local lab accepts?

Engineer Yuta Ikeya

Yuta’s goal was to create a new concept of lightweight, affordable and easy to use analog camera. “I designed this product to be the first step into the world of analog cinema. The user splices 35mm photographic film to make it longer and loads it into a dedicated cartridge to shoot short sequences. By using readily available film (C-41) instead of professional motion picture film (ECN-2), the whole process is much easier to get started.” Yuta elaborates. The whole process (design, modeling, manufacturing, assembly and testing) was led by Yuta. The project was initiated by his interest in analog cinematography. “I knew that shooting a film with film is incredibly expensive. Even just trying it was too difficult because I didn’t know the people doing it, I didn’t know a lab to process the films, and I didn’t have the right equipment first and foremost,” says Yuta. Additionally, he says Super 8 is relatively available and widely used by analog photographers/videographers, but its limited resolution makes results difficult to achieve. This was the reason for focusing on 35mm photographic film.

DIY 35mm motion picture camera.  Image: Yuta Ikeya
DIY 35mm motion picture camera. Image: Yuta Ikeya

I designed and built this camera primarily with 3D printed parts. You can load 35mm photographic film or combine multiple rolls to shoot longer sequences. This camera could be a good starting point for your analog filmmaking experience.

Engineer Yuta Ikeya

After building a few prototypes to test different film transfer mechanisms intermittently, Yuta decided to go with the mechanically synchronized gear and cam mechanism driven by a single DC motor. The motor is controlled by Arduino. Light from the lens is split by the half mirror before the rotating shutter, allowing the shooter to see the image in real time through the viewfinder. This decreases the amount of light projected onto the film, but this can be offset by the high ISO sensitivity of high speed film. For this functional prototype, almost all components are 3D printed in reinforced PLA. For those unfamiliar with how a film camera actually works, be sure to read our article which shows the precise workings inside a film camera using ultra slow motion footage (Look at the beautiful guts of a film camera at 1000 fps with the help of Phantom Flex4K).

Loading the movie.  Image: Yuta Ikeya
Loading the movie. Image: Yuta Ikeya

The user splices 35mm photographic film to make it longer and loads it into a dedicated cartridge to shoot short sequences.

Engineer Yuta Ikeya

As for Yuta’s camera, check out the BTS below:

As for the end results of Yuta’s project, explore the video below:

Although it’s not sharp and crisp like an ARRIFLEX/ Aaton/ Panavision, Yuta’s cinematic camera can be defined as a marvel. The simplicity of smart engineering and design is right there, and that’s the brilliance behind it all! Also, the images look quite special. What do you think about this?

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