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Phillip Mosness

Blackmagic scanner

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I'd forgotten about this scanner until I ran across this.

At $30,000 It falls into an interesting niche of the market. Not cheap enough for most enthusiasts, but maybe not right for the bigger post houses either?

I could see a few people pooling recourses, figuring it could pay for itself after a few short's worth of scans, though.

 

Edited by Phillip Mosness

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From what I understand, it's ...problematic.

 

Which isn't surprising for a first-generation Blackmagic product. It's certainly not archival, and it's really limited for 16mm, scanning at just about HD resolution max for Super16. The sensor also had some serious noise issues when I saw it at NAB last April. Don't know if they've fixed that.

 

I'm still slightly baffled with the marketing on this one, to be honest. Who exactly is the target for this thing?

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For not that much more, relatively, you can buy a LaserGraphics Scan Station Personal which does 5K 35mm and 2.5K 16mm and is an obviously far superior mature product that is sprocket free.

 

For about the cost of the BMD you could also build a basic Xena Dynamic Perf with a 4K or 5K sensor and 8mm, 16mm and 35mm gates and a lens travel system which will be a slower machine but with a superior image and true 4K or 5K imaging of each film gauge.

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I actually like the Blackmagic scanner for dailies. It's a real-time device that plugs into any PC or Mac without any special hardware. It runs the standard ol' DaVinci software and because it's real-time, you can be grading as you go along, like an old-school telecine. It will have a keycode reader eventually and allow for relatively inexpensive scanning of 16 and 35.

 

Now, it's not really an archival product in it's current configuration because it's a fixed lens, imager and sprocket drive. They would need to allow for lens swapping in order to make it a good/workable product for archival. I'd also say, they should have made a special imager instead of using one off their cameras, that was a mistake in my view. It will work fine for dailies, but it won't work for your final scan. This is ok though, if you're one of those people who works with film a lot, there is a lot of potential to have your own machine and not pay the $250 - $350/hr for dailies/telecine work. Most labs will only do 2 400ft rolls of 16mm an hour. So that's $5k - $7k, just for a quick low-quality telecine of ONE movie! If you're shooting a lot and work on 35mm, might as well put that money into a machine and scan everything yourself. Standard ol' telecine machines don't scan RAW and they absolutely don't allow for the same accuracy of correction on the fly as the BMD scanner.

 

The only other solutions are slower or a lot more money. For archival, who cares about speed. You can buy an older/slower scanner and let it run 24/7. However, when you want dailies as you shoot, you need the flexibility of having a fast machine, without breaking the bank.

 

I have several hours of "seat time" on the prototype's and final production models. They work great for new film, which is why in my eyes it's really a replacement for the ol' telecine machine.

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You make some good points Tyler, but for $55K you can get the Scan Station Personal, which does 30fps at 5K for 35mm or 2.5K for 16mm. It will write DPX or ProRes444 and for most projects those can be scans to finish from.

 

As for dailies at $250-350/hr I think that is an older economic model, we charge $0.20/ft for Best Light 16mm to HD on the Spirit-2K and $0.30/ft for 2K Log-C or Best Light.

 

As for color accuracy of the BMD tests I have seen looked soft and had poor color compared to 2K scans from a Spirit-2K/4K series.

 

YMMV.

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I didn't know the scanstation was so reasonably priced. $55k is a bargain for that machine, I thought they were in the 100k range.

 

So yea, I mean for $30k you get something good for dailies with the BMD product and for $50 - $60k you get something worthy of making a "final" image.

 

It's a no brainer. :)

 

Ohh and out here, dailies are still $250 - $350/hr, crazy money. I'll still be sending work your way Robert. :)

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Most labs will only do 2 400ft rolls of 16mm an hour. So that's $5k - $7k, just for a quick low-quality telecine of ONE movie!

 

That's ridiculous. Those prices only exist because people are willing to pay them. We've done entire feature films, scanned and graded scene by scene, for less than that.

 

There are multiple ScanStation models. The range of prices is about $55k up to about $200k, depending on the configuration. The $55k version is the ScanStation Personal, and is similar in some ways to the Blackmagic unit, in that the camera is in a fixed position (so 16mm is a crop of the larger sensor used for 35mm). The full scanstation can use the full sensor for everything down to 8mm, by repositioning the camera/lens assembly. That's the more expensive model that we have.

 

The only other solutions are slower or a lot more money. For archival, who cares about speed. You can buy an older/slower scanner and let it run 24/7.

 

 

Actually, you can't use most older scanners because they're sprocketed. So the speed is a bonus. I wouldn't run archival film through anything with sprockets unless it was in perfect condition. Our Northlight can handle up to 3% shrinkage, but in reality I wouldn't put anything in there with more than 1%. Also, leaving old film to run 24/7 may sound like a nice idea, but it's impractical. Splices break, for example. It takes a week running nonstop to scan a feature on the northlight at 4k, and that assumes it doesn't stop for some reason midway through a reel. Which it does, for a variety of reasons.

Edited by Perry Paolantonio

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You may think scanning prices are crazy, just remember, when you work with employees, the equipment is the cheapest factor in your operation. For each Euro that one of my employees takes home, I have to pay 3.68 Euros. These are only the payroll related expenses, there is more than that before you can even start to run the company.

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Dirk,

 

I own a company that does film scanning and the prices that Tyler quotes are nuts. There's a happy medium.

 

Of course there's overhead, there is in any business - payroll, electricity, rent, maintenance, and on and on. We're located on the opposite side of the country, but we do a lot of work for clients from California, simply because most of the facilities out there charge 2-3x or more than what we do, for scans done on the same equipment, with the same quality. The pricing on the west coast for this kind of thing is stuck in time, based on old models that don't really make sense anymore. There are people willing to pay that though (studios, agencies, etc), which is why the rates are so much more there.

 

-perry

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There was a time that dropping close to $1 Million on a high-end Spirit made economic sense. Even in Dallas the companies that spent ridiculous amounts on their scanners made their money back very quickly because film was the highest quality capture medium by far. They spent crazy money on their lounges and color suites so the agency folks would want to work there and bring their clients...a day at the "color suite" was like a vacation at a spa for a few days.

 

Those days are gone...at least in this town. But, since those machines were long ago paid for, scans can be had at reasonable prices everywhere. They just have to post those crazy prices so when advertising clients come in they can get something closer to full price. Just like the prices on the doors of hotel rooms are 2-3x what you actually pay.

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Business is a mixed bag for sure, the big houses like Technicolor, Deluxe Co3 etc. have hundreds of employees, they can respond to big production with a firehose of people and services.

 

Time will tell if that model stays economically viable, as Perry said he offers the same scans for 1/3 the price but I assume he also does not have the staff and accommodations that a higher budget luxury post facility has, like a roof deck and $20K cappuccino machine.

 

As for lab and scan services, I co own Cinelab and we develop film, scan it and record it. I have a price of $250/hr on the rate card for Scene to Scene color grading or sit in grading and we do get customers who come to the lab as with a Grateful Dead doc we are working on now. Most of our work is more "service bureau" style and we feed film processing and or film processing and scans to larger companies.

 

I think film related work will be more of our model in the future, or iLabs London, etc. where there is a relatively small 8-20 person staff serving a niche. And the smaller staff and facility outside of Manhattan or LA allows for the pricing model that makes film processing and scanning a reasonable cost.

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Time will tell if that model stays economically viable, as Perry said he offers the same scans for 1/3 the price but I assume he also does not have the staff and accommodations that a higher budget luxury post facility has, like a roof deck and $20K cappuccino machine.

 

Hey! We have a very comfortable couch, a nice view of the Mass Pike and there's a Dunkin's 5 minutes walk from here.

 

You're right though. We have a small staff, an appropriately sized (and appointed) office, and an emphasis on investment in hardware and software, over creature comforts. We can certainly accommodate someone who wants to do a supervised transfer, but the rates are higher, as with anyone else who does that kind of work.

 

Once you factor out our local archive clients, 90% of the work we do is from out of town, via FedEX and UPS. We could be in a warehouse space in the middle of nowhere.

 

Actually, now that I think about it, 5 minutes is kind of a long way to walk for a Dunkin Donuts in Boston...

  • Upvote 1

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Actually, now that I think about it, 5 minutes is kind of a long way to walk for a Dunkin Donuts in Boston...

Yes, yes it is. :)

 

 

Don't forget Kodak's new business model which will include processing/scanning as one price.

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I had a friend who was a Flame OP at Psyop in NYC, that shop was like our smaller shops, not allot of fancy furniture, allot of "vintage" business desks and chairs I don't think I saw any Herman Miller stuff made after the 90's and it was a bit of a mess, but with 500+ employees ;-)

 

They are more of a VFX house, the big finishing house is another story.. Like the roof deck at Co3 for the social games.

 

Time will tell with Kodak's new business model, wait that was there old business model wasn't it?

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Twin Donut isn't that far from you.

 

I wonder if the same people own it who did in the 90s. In college I shot a film about a local daredevil and his assistant was the daughter of the owner of Twin Donut.

 

On the Kodak thing - to be honest, I'm not too concerned about it affecting our business. Even if they charged $60 for film/processing/scan (which seems low), it's about the same as buying the film from them and sending it to any of a number of labs, then here for scanning (of course there's shipping, but that's mitigated if you're doing multiple rolls at once). last I heard they were talking about doing file delivery via download. So, probably not 4k, and if it is, probably something pretty compressed. Bandwidth costs are going to be through the roof if they're doing ProRes downloads. I'm guessing they're aiming for the home movie market, and the files they scan will either be low res or low quality delivery formats, not suitable for editing.

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My contacts at Kodak say the Super 8 files will be 2k. Remember one roll isn't very long at 24fps, so the files won't be very big.

 

I don't think it will effect YOUR business at all, but I hope it effects those people charging $250/hr for un-colored 1080p telecine, like Pro 8 here in Los Angeles. They've cornered the super 8 market and they're very expensive as a consequence. They claim to have the only super 8 telecine machine around and I'm like, dude everyone has one today. I've done some archival 16mm work with them and not only were the results not very good, but they charged $1500 to transfer an already timed print that was only 22 minutes long.

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A 2k ProRes 422 HQ file is about 2GB/minute. 50' of Super 8 at 24fps is 2.5 minutes, so roughly 5GB per 50' reel. That may not seem like much for a single reel, but if you shoot 10 of them, download is totally impractical for a lot of people. It would take no time to download that on our office connection, but my crappy Comcast connection at home would probably take a day or two, since it's always running at a crawl.

 

If they're doing 2k files, they're most likely offering delivery on physical media for more than a couple of reels, or they're scanning to something like H.264, which would be a fraction of the size of the ProRes file, and not very useful for anything other than home movies. Their bandwidth costs would be a nightmare if they're doing this as ProRes.

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I think they're doing proxy files online Perry, I heard something about that and flash storage delivery of final files with your film.

 

I mean, I'm constantly uploading and downloading 20 - 50GB files all the time, it's just the norm in today's world. We use FTP services and it works fine with standard ol' cable modems. I get around 3 - 5MBps on my modem and it's nothing special.

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We deliver many files by Dropbox and Aspera (for pros) over a FiOS line, works pretty well and isn't too expensive.

 

As for what Kodak is doing with S8mm it must be partially working, we have had more than 900 S8mm carts in the lab over the last 3-4 weeks, most for process and HD or 2K and many going to Perry or Jack at Metro Post in NY.

 

As for what Kodak will do as far as pricing and data delivery I would guess that we will know when they figure it out, which might take them a while.

 

It is funny that Pro8 would be the "only" lab in LA for many S8 shooters, I know Spectra just bought a Golden Eye which will do true RGB 8mm scans, plus Cinelicious has a Scan Station.

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I also think it is great that the crazy guys at BMD bought Cintel and built a scanner, as with many BMD things though it seems to be based on what they had on the shelf and enthusiasm more than fulfilling the technical needs of a person or business that needs a film scanner.

 

The price is ok, but the Sub-HD 16mm scans and sprocket drive and a number of other problems makes me just go "Meh?" otherwise I would have bought one for Cinelab.

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We actually do a fair bit of digital delivery as well - mostly via DropBox or Aspera. And on our 150Mb/s cable modem, it's not really a problem. But it gets clunky rapidly when you start getting over 50GB. In most cases, it's faster and easier for everyone to just fedex a drive then.

 

 

I get the sense that this Kodak project is more of a marketing creation than anything. I mean, they launched it at CES, which is a consumer show, not a pro-oriented one like NAB or IBC. I've got to think there's a reason for that.

 

My hunch is that this is going to be like those kits that Pro8mm was selling at Urban Outfitters, aimed at hipsters and non-professional users, though I might be wrong. Digital delivery of MP4 files makes perfect sense, as long as you're also delivering "real" files on physical media with the film (and it's in line with their old PhotoCD model, only online - remember those?). An SD card or a USB stick would work for delivery of most jobs at 2k, assuming ProRes 422 or similar.

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