Preparing 35mm Film for Scanning

When you get your 35mm film back from the lab, it should return with a good amount of leader attached to the head and tail. If this is not the case, or if you've hand processed the film in the darkroom, please refer to the article below on how to attach leader to your film prior to scanning. AT THIS TIME, EMERSON COLLEGE CANNOT SCAN 35MM FILM THAT HAS BEEN HANDLED AND EDITED EXTENSIVELY. Film needs to be freshly processed or cleaned in order to be scanned. Email for inquiries regarding transferring edited 35mm film. 

Equipment Needed

You will need...

  • a 35mm guillotine splicer
  • white 35mm leader
  • portable rewinds (optional)
  • a 35mm take-up reel
  • a 35mm split reel
  • an editing kit


The process is similar to 16mm in that you want the film to come back to the proper orientation when finished. To do this, orient your film to where the head is coming out on top on both the feed and take-up sides. DO NOT PULL YOUR FILM TO THE UNDERSIDE OF EITHER REEL. This has the potential to reverse the film and will cause problems during playback and scanning. 

Portable rewinds are needed to work with 35mm film, as the rewinds in the DFL are not long enough to use safely. You may also use the rewinds in any of the Steenbeck rooms, or the ones outside Ansin 603. 

Pull the film from the feed to take-up side, leaving the core empty. Either by hand or from another split reel mounted on the rewinds, unspool 8–10' of leader and cut it using the splicer. Line the tail of the film up with the leader and splice them together on both sides. Pull the leader with the tail back to the core (making sure you're pulling to the top of the reel). Once the head is out, splice one wingspan of leader to that end as well.

Final Steps

Label the head with your name, email address, course number, and professor. You may also put a title if your film has one. Take the film to the annex and drop it off with the staff: you will receive the file within 3 business days, and be sure to come back and get your film when complete!

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