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How to Load a Film Camera – Arriflex 16SR

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Howdy ya’ll!

Recently we discussed 10 Lessons Every Filmmaker Learns When Shooting On Film and as a follow up to that article, I thought I’d piece together something on how to load a Film Camera – specifically the Arriflex 16SR.

arri sr v.2

Arriflex 16SR

It goes without saying that digital cameras are superb, but for many filmmakers (including myself) shooting on film is still something to aspire towards. And if you’re one of those filmmakers thinking the same, then you need to know your way around a film camera and know how to load it.

This isn’t meant to be a pro-film/bash-digital article — everyone has their opinion and they’re entitled to them — this is purely and simply a walk-through on the best techniques for loading film with some handy does & don’ts, if you are interested in giving film a go… or generally just interested.

Below is a video tutorial we produced for our REEL DEAL YouTube Channel while we were shooting our 16mm short film The Mysterious Disappearance of M.M.Bayliss.

This video is a step-by-step demonstration on how to load 16mm film into a magazine for the Arriflex 16SR (a similar, if not identical procedure to the SR2 and SR3), and also shows some vital tips and techniques for keeping your magazine and loading bag clean and dust free. These ‘rules of thumb’ are applicable to every film camera system, and form the backbone of your duties when working with film — maintaining your equipment is essential as a Camera Assistant or Camera Operator.


"Good ol' Arri"

“Good ol’ Arri”

This video has also recently featured on the ever-reliable NoFilmSchool website (big thanks to Robert Hardy for the shout out!).

While I’m at it, I also thought I’d include a little info on the Arri 16SR – I’m lucky enough to own one from the 1970’s and I’m proud to say that it still keeps time like a Swiss watch, working as well as the day it was built.


The Arri 16SR camera series was first introduced in 1975, designed for 16mm filmmaking in the Standard 16 format. With a reputation for durability and reliability, the 16SR is believed by many as the most well-rounded camera Arriflex has ever produced; a true industry benchmark and workhorse — in it’s prime, the 16SR was the most widely used 16mm camera in the world.

The SR camera system has a silent running design; the ‘SR’ standing for Silent Reflex. The camera features a narrow, lightweight body design, coaxial magazine and a ground-breaking swing-over viewfinder — allowing the camera to be operated from either side of the body.

In 1982, Arri released 16SR2 with improved function and the 16SR3 in 1992 as a Super16 format variant of the earlier models, featuring the PL lens mount system and the Advanced and HS (High Speed) models for the high speed shooting.

Here’s a great video showing the SR3 in all it’s mid-90’s glory!

… did anyone ever find that guy’s cooler…?

The 16SR camera series was widely used internationally in feature films, TV drama, TV commercials, music videos, natural history and documentaries, only being superseded in 2006 with the introduction of the S16 Arriflex 416.

Although the 416 has adopted some popular features of 35mm cameras, such as lens compatibility and accessories, it clearly has 16SR DNA — a true testament to the 16SR design that has served the test of time.

For those keen-eyed Super Bowl fans amongst us, I’m sure you’ll have noticed the NFL Films crew roaming around with SR3’s on their shoulders — proving that even after almost 40 years of service, these Arriflex cameras, as well as the Super16 format, still have a place in 21st century filmmaking.


Zand & Ell

Zand & Ell

Thanks for dropping by and hope to see you soon.


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