This article teaches you how to make microfilm and microfiche in 2020.

It shows you how to use a microfilm camera for this, a digital archive writer and even how to create microfiche.

Making microfilm has never been easier and you will easily see why.

The classical approach to making microfilm

The classical approach to create microfilm and microfiche involves the use of microfilm cameras. These are used to copy paper documents directly onto microform rolls. But in 2020 we use digital microfilm writers for this job. These machines transfer digital files to 16mm and 35mm microfilm rolls. 

I don’t want to make microfilm on my own, can you help me with this task? 

Of course, we will. Our company has the tools and the experience to make microfilm for you. Just head to our contact us page and give us a short description. We will make sure to help you in the process of microfilm creation.

The critical 5 steps on how to make microfilm

The critical 5 steps to make microfilm

The critical 5 steps to make microfilm

  1. Prepare the documents and digital files you need to microfilm. Make sure they will fit a 16mm microfilm reel or prepare a 35mm microfilm roll if needed.
  2. Insert an empty microfilm roll into the archive writer. The exposure of the files onto the film should not take more than 15-20 minutes.
  3. Take the exposed microfilm roll and process it. It will go through developer, fixer and back to the rinsing tank exposing all the information that was written onto it.
  4. Inspect the quality of the processed film. If the quality meets your standard levels, put the roll back into the cartridge and mark down what information it contains.
  5. You have successfully created a microfilm roll. You can now send it to storage.


Step 1 – Writing documents to film

As you probably know, microfilm is a micrographic support which stores documents. If you want to make microfilm, you probably want to transfer paper documents on micrographic media. In recent years, we prefer to transfer digital documents to make microfilm. This means we first scan paper documents and then write the digital files to the film.

Create microfilm with a microfilm camera

As we already mentioned, this was the choice in the olden days. We would convert physical document directly to microfilm using special microfilm cameras. These cameras expose 16mm and 35mm microfilm. 35mm Microfilm is great for writing large documents. It featured a microfilm table, with a light source on each side and an overhead microfilm camera. Simply put the document face up, and click capture. While this seems simple enough, it was way too time-consuming.

Also, quality control was nearly impossible, making it difficult to know if the process went smooth or not. A lot of reruns were needed. This means waste and an increase in costs.

That is why digital microfilm writers were created, which use digital files to convert documents to microfilm.

Making microfilm with a digital archive writer

As mentioned above, when you use a digital archive writer you convert digital files to microfilm. This way, you can use both digital files which were born digital, or digital files converted from paper. To be more precise, you can incorporate digital scanning before doing the actual microfilming. This way, quality control is at it’s highest. Using a digital scanner allows you to manage and control what you input in a writer.

Scanning allows for a lot of post-processing and adjustment of images. For example, you can edit or clean images before writing them. This is great to avoid the garbage in garbage out problem the microfilm cameras have.

How to make a microfiche

For creating microfiche, we can suggest trying 2 separate ways, depending on which one suits you best.

  • The first one would be to get a digital microfiche writer. This machine creates microfiche from digital files. Usually, such machines work with 105x148mm microfiche sheets. They feature various writing options, such as different reduction sizes or adjustments to contrast and brightness.
  • The second solution would be to buy a hybrid microfiche system. This machine is a combination of a digital scanner and a microfilm writer. The only difference is that it only writes what you scan. It is an interesting proposition in certain environments but won’t be of much help outside of those.

Step 2 – Developing and processing the written film

In this phase, you will have to process the film. Whether you have written the film with a microfilm camera or an archive writer, processing is mandatory. Because the film is exposed and burned in the writing process, these burns have to be revealed. Microfilm is light sensitive, that is why we use the “burn” term. Still, after the writing process, the film looks identical to its original state.

Using chemicals and water, we reveal the “burns” on the film. The burns on the film will have the shape of your documents. This is just like a photocopy of the document, only at a reduction of 24x. Developer and fixer are the chemicals that we use to stabilize the burns on the film. This explanation is less scientifical but more practical to the whole process.

As we mention above, the 2 types of chemicals, developer, and fixer have to be within the usage period. Sometimes, you can find chemicals that are not within that usage period and the end result might have some slight problems. Usually, these problems are with the quality of the microfilm output. Too light or too dark images may show a problem with your chemicals.

Step 3 – Quality control

This is the third and last step. We recommend you examine and evaluate the quality of each film. For this, you will use 2 basic tools.

The first tool is a densitometer. This reads the level of black and white. The result has to be between two intervals. For each type of document, there are different intervals and values to obtain. If you are not within those values, something is wrong either when you write or when you process the microfilm.

The second tool is a microfilm reader or a scanner. We use it to read the film and make sure it visually looks correct. Most often you will identify blurry images. Also, you can check the reduction value is correct. Also, other general aspects that can be visually inspected can be checked and evaluated.

Conclusions on how to make microfilm

  • The process of writing microfilm is quite complex.
  • There are different possibilities from making 16mm microfilm to writing 35mm microfilm
  • Tonal values should also be taken into account so check if you want bitonal or grayscale microfilm
  • Just like with any other process, good equipment and the vast experience of operators are always of help.
  • Problems can appear at any level of the process so always be cautious.
  • Please try and evaluate whether you want to make microfilm yourself or you want to outsource the service.

You can try our article on the microfilming process, which is more detailed. Also, this link will take you to the guidelines of microfilming in a public institute.

In the meantime, follow our advice on how to make microfilm in 2020 and don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.

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