Cassette Nest: Tracking Film Photography

TL;DR

I’m building a web application to track your film inventory before and after it’s been used. It’s called Cassette Nest. It’s pretty rough so far, but I’ve been using it to track my own stuff. I hope to have it ready for other people to test soon. I plan on having a “freemium” model of some sort: there will be a (probably annual) subscription fee for some nice bonus features but the basics will be free.

If you’re interested in such things, keep reading!

Purpose

Over the last few years, I’ve come up with a system of tracking how I use my film. This has entailed a few different pieces of software (a fairly fiddly spreadsheet as well as Trello) and a physical notebook (the incomparable PhotoMemo by Mike Padua). I’m attempting to build a system to allow me to track of all this information a little more easily.

The index page of my latest PhotoMemo book
The index page of my latest PhotoMemo book
Printouts of a spreadsheet and notebook pages
Printouts of a spreadsheet and notebook pages

The System

The core of this system is having a unique “code” for every roll I shoot in the course of a year. Here’s the system:

  1. Format (35mm, 120/medium format)
  2. Type
    • Black & White
    • C41 (standard color negatives)
    • E6 (slides/color reversal)
  3. Number (the sequence number for each combination of format + type in the given year)

So, for example:

  • A roll with the code “35-c41-11” would be the 11th roll of 35mm color negative film in a given year.
  • A roll with the code “120-e6-3” would be the 3rd roll of medium format color slide film in a given year.

(I got the seed of this concept from Cameron Whitman on the Cameras or Whatever podcast.)

I then use that number in a few places: my PhotoMemo book, in my spreadsheet, and the notes written on the Print File sleeves themselves.

One of the first things I needed Cassette Nest to do was to auto-generate that number as you load a camera with a particular film stock. I overcame several obstacles in getting such a seemingly simple thing to work, but it’s so nice to have now!

Software is (usually) frustrating to write.

That’s one of the reasons why this project is so special to me: it almost never feels frustrating. I’m solving problems in a way that feels good—rewarding even. Part of that is surely that this is work that I want for myself. Maybe another big part is that I’m clearly defining the boundaries in a way that’s conformable to me. But those were true of my work with ComicBinder, and I never got as far with that as I have with this. To be fair, there is far less structure needed for this compared to what already exists with 100+ years of published comic books. This is a truly personal dataset.

Archival

The data in Cassette Nest is both personal and archival. I want the data you create in this app to outlive the app. I want the metadata for a roll of film to last as long as the actual negatives. That means a physical aspect of this is very important. Hello, print stylesheets! (I need to start working on that.) I’m under no pretense that this app will exist for decades and lifetimes, but it’s important to me that your data does.

Visual Design

After building out most of the basic functionality, I decided to step back and look at the user interface from a new perspective. I’ve started using Glitch to build out individual mobile page views. I’ve posted a couple of screenshots from this process on Dribbble.

How the actual app looks now
The design prototype of a mobile-optimized homepage/dashboard
A prototype of a possible homepage/dashboard

Now

Things have stagnated a bit over the couple of months because of the holidays, lots of travel, and interviewing for (and getting!) a new job. However, I hope to jump back into this with both feet and have something ready to beta test soon.

I’ve been working on this in a vacuum. I can’t wait to see what other people think about Cassette Nest once they start using it!

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