They paint the surface with a light sensitive coating, expose it with the film, develop it to wash away the appropriate area, etch and repeat..... I was the guy who created the film (yes, old school film.....) as multi-level usually. Never done it digitally. If you are able to make film positives, just set them up as explained above or ask your diemaker what he needs to do it. The place we use now, still images with film but use an imagesetter now instead of a camera or vacuum frames. So, I guess if I had to do it now, I would just give them pdfs of solid black with the method described in my previous post.