DIY Viewmaster Reels

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Introduction: DIY Viewmaster Reels

About: I'm a social-worker, working with 12 - 23 year-olds. I used to be a printer. In 2018 I opened a small makerspace (www.imdib.nl) in my house, where I have lasercutters, 3d-printers, Arduino's, Mindstorms and ot…

Perhaps you remember the virtual reality glasses from the previous century? Well we've found a viewmaster viewer in a box with old discarded toys. Because there where no reels with the viewer, we came to the idea to make our own.

We ended up with our own, analog, old school, 3D pictures.

We've learned a lot and we are blown away by the great results.

Step 1: You Will Need

Photo stuff

Shooting day

  • Bright weather
  • Little or no wind
  • Places with depth and without people or animals

For the reels

  • Cardboard
  • Lasercutter (or a makerspace with one)
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Pray glue
  • Sharpy
  • If you have it a light table

To see the result

  • A viewmaster

Step 2: The Pictures

No step was really easy with this project. It was harder than I thought to get an old analog SLR camera that still works. It was also hard to get the right batteries for this camera. And it was also hard to get the 35 mm dia (slide) film.

But finally we managed to get all the camera stuff. We already made a slider for the tripod with a ruler on it and it was a bright day.

There are a couple of things to think about when you make your pictures.

The settings on the camera

  • You want everything in focus, so you need to use the A-setting (aperture priority) on your camera and use the smallest diaphragm. We used 22.
  • Because of this small diaphragm, you will get long shutter times. So you will need to use a tripod. To get the shutter times a little bit down, we used ASA 200 film.
  • In the end you will cut only a very small piece out of your slide, so you will want to take your pictures with a wide angle lens. We used 28 mm.

The weather

  • Because you will have to take two pictures that needs to be (almost) the same, you need weather without wind.
  • The slow shutter speeds will demand a bright day.

The scenery

  • When you choose what to shoot, you want to choose something with a lot of depth. So something close by, something far away and something in the distance.
  • You also need a scene that doesn't move. So no people or animals. Trees and clouds are ok as long as there is no wind.
  • You also need to take in account that you will use only a very small part of your picture, so zoom in in your imagination to imagine what the result will look like.

Shooting the picture

  • When everything is set, it is time to shoot the picture(s). You will need to shoot two pictures for every 3D image you want to make. These pictures need to be taken from a position just a little bit next to each other. We took most of our pictures 10 - 12 cm (4 - 5 inch) from each other. If your image is farther away, the distance between the two pictures needs to be bigger.
  • To not get confused, we always first took the left shot and then the right.
  • Take your time to frame the first shot and then swiftly move the camera and take the second. (You don't need to frame this second shot, just move the camera and shoot) The faster you do this, the less change that something moved in your scene.

(because it was a learning experience for us, we kept notes of all the settings)

Waiting

  • When all the (36) pictures are taken, you need to bring the roll to a shop where they can develop it and wait for a couple of days for it to return. I had forgotten how great the feeling is to open the envelope and see how the pictures came out.

Step 3: The Reels

While waiting for the film to develop, it is a good moment to get the reel cards made.

  • I first designed the viewmaster reel in Adobe Illustrator. (if you don't have Illustrator you can open it in Adobe Acrobat Reader by simply changing the .ai at the end in .pdf)
  • I don't have a lasercutter (yet) so I went to a fablab (Waag society in Amsterdam) to get the reels cut out of card stock that I brought with me from home. I used two colors so that it would be easy to see what the front of the reel is on the final result.

The reels came out great and they did fit perfectly in the viewmaster.

Step 4: How the Reels Work

We have learned this the hard way, but there are some things you might need to know before you start putting the pictures in.

  • A reel can show 7 3D pictures, so it will need 7 left and 7 right frames, 14 in total.
  • Every time push the lever on the viewmaster the reel will turn two! frames clockwise.
  • The frames always have to be pasted in the holes above the small rectangular holes.
  • The pictures will endup, when you go around, straight, upside down, straight, upside down...
  • Every finished reel is two cardboard reels with the pictures sandwiched in between.

Step 5: Choose Your Pictures

The great moment when the pictures come back from developing!

We used a bathroom lamp from Ikea as a lightbox. You could also use a window during the day.

  • First we choose and sorted the pictures.
  • Make sure what frame is the left and what is the right. (it won't work when you get them mixed up)
  • Use an empty reel to choose witch part of the slide you are going to use.

Step 6: Montage the Frames

  • Spray one empty reel board with spray glue.
  • Use the other cardboard part of the reel to decide on your cutout and mark this with a sharpy.
  • Cut on the marking.
  • Push the picture on the glue in place. (you might want to add a small piece of tape, to be sure)
    Make sure you use a spot above a small rectangular hole.
  • Now take the other picture with the same image and frame it on exactly the same height. Take a point as far in the distance on the scene as you can find, to align it sideways. Glue this frame also in place.
  • Now turn the reel two frames clockwise and put in the next picture.
  • Keep on doing this until all 7 pictures (14 frames) are in place.

Step 7: To Finish

  • Spray the other reel board also with spray glue and glue it on the reel with the pictures on it.
  • Put the reel in the viewmaster.
  • Be amazed with the result!

We where very amazed. The result was amazing.

What did we learn the hard way?

  • It is difficult to get 35 mm dia (slide) films.
  • Old camera's have death batteries.
  • You will need a wide angle lens.
  • You will only use a really, really, really small part of your slide. (remember this when you frame your scene)
  • Not every developer still knows that there is a different between developing normal film and dia (slide) film.
  • You'll need to turn the reel two frames for every next picture.
  • Sometimes you can cut two pictures out of one slide.
  • People and animals will not stand still.

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    34 Discussions

    0
    Viewmasternerd
    Viewmasternerd

    4 months ago

    This is absolutely brilliant! I'm keen to print some images for my reel and would absolutely love your help. How do I go about printing for the reels on my inkjet to get the closes "authentic" images? DO you know the best paper to use? Also what camera do you recommend? As I desperately want to print in 3D but like to do it in house so not sure how it all works? Do I get old fashion camera on roll, get the rolls scanned then cut the original scan and insert? Seem for a simple thing I'm very confused haha love all your helpful input on camera, process, printing especially

    0
    kenyer
    kenyer

    Reply 4 months ago

    Hi, We used an old analog camera with real film. If you use positive (dia) film that people used to use for slides, than your film is directly usable after it is developed. It was a bit hard to get the film, but very easy and cheap to find a place where they could develop the film. You might be able to use a digital camera and print on a overhead projector sheet, but I have no experience with that. You do want to use a wide lens because you only cut a small piece from the film.

    0
    Viewmasternerd
    Viewmasternerd

    Reply 4 months ago

    Thank you! The search continues as I'm now obsessing on how it could be done haha
    : )

    0
    kenyer
    kenyer

    Reply 4 months ago

    250 or 300 gr/m2

    0
    pheenix42
    pheenix42

    6 months ago

    Ahh, one of the best pieces of DIY entertaiment! Sadly, the original slide punch from Sawyer's is now considered a collector item with resulting sky-high prices. But, thanks for the information for an analog fellow in a digital world!

    0
    kenyer
    kenyer

    Reply 6 months ago

    You are very welcome. :)

    1
    onilx
    onilx

    2 years ago

    This looks awesome! Thanks for posting the .ai file for us!!!

    0
    kenyer
    kenyer

    Reply 2 years ago

    You are welcome. We've made new viewmaster reels two weeks ago, and they came out perfect.

    0
    LisaChidley
    LisaChidley

    Reply 11 months ago

    That file won't open for me..

    0
    kenyer
    kenyer

    Reply 11 months ago

    Try to change the .ai extension in .pdf
    That often works.

    0
    rachel7989
    rachel7989

    1 year ago

    I just made a view master reel cut out thee of Cardstock made three of them to make up the a single reel I cut them out using my Cricut explorer air 2 and glued them together but i didn't make the photos in the reel because i dont have a analog camera it worked great it worked in my view master pink cardstock i used

    WIN_20191029_00_32_05_Pro.jpg
    0
    NicolasU12
    NicolasU12

    Tip 1 year ago

    Great article! Thank you very much. About 40 years ago I went through a 3D photography craze. I found that it was perfectly feasible to photograph people if you warned them to remain absolutely still. (Remember that in the early days of photography exposure times were something like 20 minutes!) Also, I got very good results even without a tripod or slider. I simply moved the camera to the right for the second exposure, a distance that a judged was perhaps 5 or 6 inches. Try it! Do NOT limit yourself to still life, as truly interesting subject matter involves PEOPLE.

    0
    alyjump
    alyjump

    1 year ago

    Hi! This is great, thank you so much. I'm just wondering what kind of card stock you used?

    0
    kenyer
    kenyer

    Reply 1 year ago

    I'm not sure, but I think it is 250 grams or 300 grams. (that is 250 or 300 grams per m2) I have no idea how they measure paper weight in the USA.

    0
    alyjump
    alyjump

    Reply 1 year ago

    grams is great; thank you so much!

    0
    krossmann
    krossmann

    2 years ago

    Hi, thank you for this article!
    I really love the View Master system and I made few reels with a Personal View Master Camera and all the original tools. I have to admit that paper reels are the more difficult part in the process so I have one question for you: what kind of cardboard did you use for these? I mean, what paper weight?
    Also thank you for the technical draw!

    P.S. Maybe you'll find interesting this video I made about the View Master system https://internoinbakelite.wordpress.com/2016/06/13/video-tutorial-obsoleto/

    0
    kenyer
    kenyer

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hi Krossmann,

    I liked your short video. I used 250 gram card in two different colors for the reels and that works great. I didn't do any research for that. It was just what I could get.

    0
    krossmann
    krossmann

    Reply 2 years ago

    Great, thank you again!

    I'll try this too.