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Is this type of film scanner viable to use or is it too far out of date?


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A modern mirrorless camera should work well for the affordable good quality sensor solution as I mentioned if frame rate is not an issue. Can be inverted as well if shooting negative...filtration and image processing are used for that anyway and that is pretty basic for every camera.

The sprocketless design can be challenging to make diy. It will most likely be very slow in any case but you may need to do some kind of diy machine vision system to run the sprocket hole counting and sprocket hole recognition to be able to make it precise enough to be usable. That would still require doing diy programming and possibly fpga or may be possible with a fast microcontroller if it is cleverly used

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I am sure a sprocketless machine vision system could be done with a infrared linear ccd/cmos and cortexM0 running at close to 300MHz but the framerate would be slow. If using the mirrorless camera as a pickup device the speed could be ok because the camera would be slow anyway but for 24fps speed would be extremely challenging and most likely would need the something like spartan6 or 7 to run the machine vision image processing and timing

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I could probably do the 0.5fps version of the machine vision system using the microcontroller approach and having enough time but I'm not familiar with spartans or other higher end fpga yet so high framerate cannot be done by me 

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1 hour ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Is most of the final film scanning that's actually done these days done on realtime scanners?

My impression is there's still a lot of Northlights in use.

P

I think most of the lower end stuff is done at least... just because of economics. The film scanning tends to be the biggest cost when shooting film if wanting reasonable quality output.

Another thing is though that low budget indie filmmakers shooting shorts and hobby users never shoot enough film to justify a real time scanner so a frame by frame slow one would definitely work for most users. It is just that people THINK they will need a real time one in all cases (or just because it is neat) and thus reject every other viable option. It is not a projector after all... it is not meant for watching the shot footage in real time "to project it on the video screen for evaluation". 

To think about it further, one could easily scan a low budget indie filmmaker's daily footage overnight with a frame by frame scanner if taking into account that the said indie filmmaker does not have a fortune to spend on film and developing costs each day and the other budget of the film project seriously limits the overall footage available to them. there is other stuff though that may make it less useful to have your own scanner if trying to make a low budget feature with tight schedule.

The diy frame by frame scanner is extremely useful if you are shooting small amounts of b/w film often and developing them by yourself in small batches so that you have very short b/w rolls to scan every couple of days. It makes no sense to send one 50ft or 100ft roll to 4k scanning abroad if you can scan it at home in reasonable quality with a frame by frame scanner and it takes a hour or two maximum to scan with the said unit. This is the kind of application I am developing my own scanner for because it is the most ideal use for a DIY scanner and one can get very good quality and great savings with it in that application. If shooting a feature film it makes not sense to scan anything by yourself because there is no enough time (because you need to sleep between the shooting days) and you need to concentrate on actually shooting the movie instead on handling the "lab work"

Edited by aapo lettinen
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17 hours ago, Tyler Purcell said:

Yep, you're mostly paying for speed in the long run. If you want a system that has no software and is just a 1fps solution with a camera and a animation gate, it's not difficult to do.

What is difficult is to make a scanner that can actually make high quality scans on par with commercial machines.

You need to figure out a flat even light source(RGB lamp system hopefully), camera triggering and synchronization, create software for light and drive controls, find a great copy lens etc.

Then when you start seeing images you have to find solution for dense negatives, dusty scans, steadiness, multi formats 16/35 and a lot more stuff you didn't think about. It is difficult but VERY rewarding when you get it right.

And it's expensive to make great scans. There's a reason why commercial machines are so expensive.

9 hours ago, dan kessler said:

Projects like these can run into months and years.  I've been at this game a long time.

 I'm 5 years in and upgrade my scanners every year with new features. Pandemic was great for that last year.

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I see this company has done a lot of the work and is selling kits including the projector. Unfortunately, only for 8, S8mm. So this is a different approach with a video camera rather than a still camera. So what is the weak link here? The stability of the film? If the same could be done with a S16mm projector, then this is a potentially good solution. 

https://en.film-digital.com/product-page/1015-super-8-set-für-die-eigene-dslr-kamera-oder-filmkamera-mit-bauer-t610

 

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14 hours ago, Raymond Zananiri said:

Could you provide more insight into that? What kind of equipment would be needed to achieve the best quality possible if time is not an issue at all? Especially the transport coupled with the camera part. 

I mean the easiest way to do it is with an optical printer, because then you can easily change gates and they already have film path taken care of. All you do is buy a used/old optical printer and then figure out a lens/trigger solution. Pretty easy to do without much effort, it just needs a new switch so when the film lands in place, it triggers the camera to take a picture. In fact, an optical printer could run up to 3fps and changing formats would be as simple as changing the gate. A lot of people underestimate the power of doing it this way, but of course its down to moving such a big machine around ya know? 

The hard part is the camera and the lighting system. You really need something specialized, a standard video camera won't work well. The lighting system needs to also be LED based with color adjustments of course, but that's easy. 

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That super-8 system is more like a telecine than a film scanner.  It won't be as steady or have the greatest image quality, but it depends on what you need.  Are you just digitizing home movies or something comparable, or do you need the best quality available?

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  • 3 months later...
Posted (edited)
On 2/8/2021 at 1:53 AM, dan kessler said:

"Not difficult to do" needs to be qualified

Ain't that the truth. 

  1. You need to figure out a mechanism to move the film through the machine (motors, rollers, sensors, hardware to mount it on, controllers to orchestrate everything)
  2. You need to come up with a stable light source, Ideally one that's matched to the type of film you're scanning (pos or neg) and a way to trigger that light source at the right time and intensity.
  3. You need to select the correct camera and optics to ensure you're getting a good match for the resolution of the film at the distance your camera is from the gate. Yes, you can get cheap 4k cameras. They're cheap for a reason. Lenses really matter here too.
  4. You need to write software to interface with items 1, 2, and 3, and also deal with processing the images once they're captured (either exporting to a file that you deal with later, or handling all the color science stuff in the scanner. 

We've been working for 3 years on a scanner for in-house use that is very near completion. Max res is 14k and it'll do large formats from 35mm through 15p IMAX - 1-3fps at max res, 16bit sequential RGB, faster for smaller gauges down to about 8k. Building this was not a simple process, even though all the parts are available off the shelf. I am currently neck deep in the software side of this machine, and while it's coming along, every day brings up something we hadn't considered, or that we didn't quite anticipate. 

Yes, building one is an order of magnitude easier than it was 20 years ago. But building it right is hard. 

Edited by Perry Paolantonio
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On 2/8/2021 at 8:50 AM, Phil Rhodes said:

My impression is there's still a lot of Northlights in use.

 

I don't think there are very many of these in daily use anymore but I could be wrong. We've got one we haven't turned on in some time - (it's for sale!). Beautiful machine, but slow beyond belief. A modern scanner doesn't need to be real time, but it's a big difference between 4fps and 4spf (seconds per frame)...

 

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1 hour ago, Perry Paolantonio said:

I don't think there are very many of these in daily use anymore but I could be wrong. We've got one we haven't turned on in some time - (it's for sale!). Beautiful machine, but slow beyond belief. A modern scanner doesn't need to be real time, but it's a big difference between 4fps and 4spf (seconds per frame)...

 

The last ones I saw were... eh... click... click... click... about 1fps?

But yes, not the fastest thing ever.

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1 hour ago, Phil Rhodes said:

The last ones I saw were... eh... click... click... click... about 1fps?

Yep maybe 3 seconds per frame sometimes! EEEK. That's the only problem with real pin registered scanners, they aren't fast, but they are super accurate. 

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Posted (edited)

I built a 3K 35mm scanner in 2008 to restore 6 Alice Guy Blache Films for the 2009 Whitney Museum retrospective. 

Used an Oxberry Optical Printer Projector head and a mono/panchro camera sequenced with custom software that scanned each frame RGB to TIFF files via sequential LED exposures at 1.5 seconds per frame. 

Down-rez to 2K, Clean up, stabilization and CC were done in After Effects (2K was the "ultimate standard" at the time).

It damn near killed me and a divorce resulted from my 18 hour a day, 7 days a week 10 month schedule.

I still have the bones of that system in my basement as a reminder to be careful of what you wish for...

Edited by Frank Wylie
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12 hours ago, Frank Wylie said:

It damn near killed me and a divorce resulted from my 18 hour a day, 7 days a week 10 month schedule.

Ouch, yea this is why real-time modern scanners are kind of the way to go. Many companies lease them as well, so not a horrible start up cost. 

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I've had lots of film scanned on a Shadow. In the hands of a skilled colorist, it does a great job. But as mentioned all those machines are insane to maintain and suck an ungodly amount of electricity. Shops would fly in techs to make adjustments and pay crazy amounts of money. But back in the day these machines MADE lots of money since most decent commercial projects were shot on film. Not the kind of thing you want in your house for personal projects unfortunately.

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