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Bolex running without film

Andrew Hamilton Watts

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Hey all, 

Sorry for the question but I am new to this. I was out shooting with my Bolex Rex 1 and lost track of the remaining footage and ended up shooting for probably a minute or less with no film passing by the gate. I was shooting at 24fps and am wondering if and why this is bad for the camera? I know running at fps rates above 48 is bad without film (or so I have heard) but is shooting off a minute of blank footage at 24 bad? Other than the loose take-up reel which will probably now have light-leaks...

Also, I noticed a number of red/brownish fibres that had collected around the gate/pressure plate area, what are these from and why are they there? Is it static that builds up around the gate the causes these to collect? 




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It’s fine to run the camera without film at normal speeds. 

Unlikely you’ll have any light leaks with the pressure plate in, but even if some light did reach the spool, it would only hit the outer layer - the last foot.

If you’re finding emulsion shavings (red/brown fibres) near the gate, then something is scratching the film. Could be scraping the side of the film if you can’t see any marks on the surface.

You can do a quick scratch test to check. Run a few feet of fresh film through, then cut it at the feed spool and remove the unused film and put it back in its bag. Then mark with a sharpie where the film left in the camera is positioned ie mark where it enters each sprocket and the top and bottom of the gate. Then remove the film and see if you can see any scratching. Use your marks to determine where the scratches begin - that will be the area of your camera that needs looking at. Could be a sharp edge protruding, a misaligned guide, or a burr somewhere.

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It is okay to run the camera without film at normal speeds but not recommended to routinely dry run it to end of spring tension. 

As mentioned in another reply, the brown fluff will be emulsion being scythed off by a sharp edge in the film path. If there is no black fluff, it will be the path the emulsion passes over. 

If the upper loop is too large, the film may be springing forward over the upper edge of the gate path and emulsion coming off where that edge overlaps the case. The film may also be momentarily touching the edge of the upper loop former but I would expect to see short strands of fluff accumulating more broadly through the path.

Culprits for the scratches may be a piece of chrome plating flaking off, past cleaning of edges in the film path through the gate itself with a metal object raising a slight spur, a tiny piece of film caught in a gap between the gate plate and the camera case. 

It may be sufficient to polish the film path with a piece of dry cloth. Do not add anything like car polish or jewellers rouge to the cloth. 

Perhaps if you could load film and post an image of the film path, this may assist readers. 

You may have encountered this youtube guide for the RX1 camera. The operator does not use the small inbuilt scissor cutter in the bottom of the camera to trim the angular lead into the film until he wants to insert it into the slot in the take-up reel.

My personal preference is to trim the angular lead-in before autoloading the film through the path. I think it helps the film feed through without snagging straight edges, slightly buckling then springing free and going long on the upper loop. 

When loading, turn your camera speed to slow. This will make momentary snatches of the film's progress more apparent. 


Edited by Robert Hart
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Not sure but maybe you meant that the takeup spool while running without any tension from the film, may cause the film to become loose ?  Normally this shouldn't happen but if if you open the camera and find the outer part of the film is loose then of course some fogging is likely.  So it's necessary to tighten it properly on to the spool asap.   It goes without saying it's best to do all this in a shady place.

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