Introduction: Laser Etching Images Onto Black Film

By Anjan Sapasetty :)

List of Materials/Parts

- 16mm Black Film, at least a couple feet.

- 16mm Film Projector

- Access to Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator

- USB flash drive

- Wooden stencil (Optional)

- 16mm Film Template compatible with Adobe

- Access to laser cutter instruments

Step 1: Brainstorming the Image

First I brainstormed this idea. I got inspiration from this concept because I was interested in how we still use projection as a method of visualizing today. I liked how we were using modern technology and software to create the images that we would be sharing through an analog medium. I wanted to employ the image of a cursor in my animation because it is an image that has become very familiar to us in our modern digital age. I was hoping that seeing this familiar image in the context and filters of a film reel would visualize the distance and gap between these two eras.

Step 2: Creating the Animation on Adobe Photoshop

I created the animation using the STM-DV film, template on Adobe Photoshop. I created a video layer and slightly moved the image along the screen, creating a new frame for every slight movement, to create the animation. The animation I chose to create was a simple one, with a relatively large cursor simply tracing along the screen diagonally and then circling back. After creating this animation, I followed Sabines video instructions to export the images and get them in the correct format.

Step 3: Integrating With the Template

Using the provided template I dragged the image from before on top of it, lining it up with the outlines. I then removed all of this templates layers and saved the resulting image. This is where my work on my computer concluded.

Step 4: Barron's Template

It was cumbersome to remove the large bed of the laser cutter everytime we wanted to use it, but it was necessary that have a flat surface to attach our film to. Barron created this wooden stencil so that we could easily line up our film by adhering it to the stenciled sprockets, and then simply placing the attached objects on top of the bed. This saved us a lot of work, and likely just made for a better project for all of the class!

Step 5: Actual Printing

After attaching the blank film to the wooden plank and inserting it into the bed, we then calibrated the machine and prepared it to print. We slightly altered the settings to the appropriate material and maxed-out the power to 1000 PPI. We then lined the height of the laser to the appropriate level and made sure the pointer was accurately reflecting the placement displayed on the screen. We then let the image print horizontally and crossed our fingers.

Step 6: Tape It All Together, and Watch 'em Loop!

We then taped all our pieces together and inserted them into the projector. We turned the lights off, popped some popcorn, and watch our creations in motion!

Step 7: Celebrate, and Reflect!

Unfortunately, the image I had hoped for didn't fully replicate. I still really enjoyed the process and viewing other peoples creations. If I were to do this project again, I would probably still work towards a similar image, as I'm still interested in creating this digital-analog image. I would, however, not go a white cursor with a black outline, and instead, go for an all black cursor with no outline. This would make for an easier, more full, image for the laser cutter to create. All I really tasked the printer in producing was the very skinny black outline of the cursor and that was too fine of an image for the printer to create. This being said, I still really enjoyed the project, and walked away from it with a greater understanding of hand-made animation, film projectors, and even photoshop!