>Adventures in Film Scanning

5 Jul

While I had those old Super 8 films out, I thought I’d have a go at scanning them with the flatbed scanner I bought last year. The Canon Lide 500F has a highest resolution of 2400×4800 dpi, so assuming the Super 8 frame to be around 5mm wide, then this ought to give a scanned image that is around 500-900 pixels in size. The scanner comes with a Film Adaptor Unit (FAU) that scans with additional infra-red to perform dust and scratch fixing automatically, and the images came out pretty well.
The strip scanned here (see left) is as much as the diminutive Lide 500F FAU can scan in one go; it’s designed for scanning 35mm stills of course. Scanning a movie this way could become very tedious.

Some folks out there have tried this already; some have even devised home-made frame advance mechanisms to automate the process, scanning a strip of film at a time, then using software to break the strips into separate frames. My scanner only scans a short strip of around 10 frames at a time, so it might be better to scan individual frames (avoiding the need for custom-made software to split-up the images). I might possibly then need to use After Effects to stabilize the images afterwards.

I’ve made a few first moves on this project, but it’s a long way from working yet. Firstly I’ve acquired a stepper motor from an old Microtek flatbed scanner. The stepper motor has a step size of 1.8 degrees and came with a handy gearing mechanism which ratios this down even more. (I looked online to find out how the 6 wires should be connected up). I’ve made a film channel to fit inside the 35mm film tray of the FAU from strips of card that guide the 8mm film down the centre of the film unit. I’ve glued an old 35mm film core onto the stepper motor’s output gear and this happens to fit very snuggly onto the FAU tray such that a rubber band on the film core contacts the film and slides it across the scanner glass. Now I’ve just bought a USB stepper motor driver board (StepperBee) and have used the Autostep software it came with to successfully transport the film through the unit.

The mechanism actually does advance the film! It takes approximately 13 steps of the motor to move the film one frame. The problem though is that; ‘approximately’… Unfortunately the mechanism isn’t accurate enough to transport the film repeatedly by the required distance. The distance the film should move is somewhere inbetween 13 and 14 steps (4.23mm to be precise). The 35mm core I have used has a large diameter of 75mm so transmits too much rotational movement with each step; a much smaller drive wheel might just work though…

>Music: Jim Noir

12 Jun

I’m liking the groovy sounds of Jim Noir.

>Narrow Gauge Capture

19 May

>I had those Super 8 movies transferred a few years back and the best format I could get them back on from my chosen supplier was miniDV tape. Still … it’s been lots of fun cutting them together. I believe these were captured using the MovieStuff Workprinter.

I’ve been trawling the web for other possible (DIY) ways to digitise these tiny frames. Home-made telecine devices usually seem to consist of a modified projector then video camera frame grabbing to hard disk. Maybe a stepper motor frame advance and DSLR camera (with a macro lens) combo could do the trick, and at much higher resolutions.

Some folks out there have been using flatbed scanners or 35mm film scanners (There’s a Nikon film scanner that takes strips of 16mm film too). Surely some manufacturer could make a high res. yet affordable scanner for digitising roll films.

>The Rights Stuff

5 May

>My projects are always in need of inspirational yet usable music tracks. Copyrighted CDs are a no-go area and the licensing T&Cs of library music don’t seem very flexible either. I spent some time checking out the Creative Commons options. This seems to be a new-ish system of more flexible licensing agreements enabling use under the ‘some rights reserved’ principle. I spent some time checking-out a couple of resources where much CC music can be found…
Jamendo is a bit of a mess; users upload their material (of wildly varying musical quality) and the one keyword at a time searching makes finding anything worthwhile really quite tedious. However, anything found here can be used for non-profit projects at no cost at all.
Magnatune is a much classier operation. The music is hand-selected and sorted sensibly into meaningful genres. For non-profit use, tracks can be used under CC terms for merely the cost of downloading the tracks (min $5.00 per album). The best thing here is that the tracks are also available for profit-making production work too under numerous types of licensing agreements. This is a very open and scalable solution; a project could start out on a non-profit basis but further licenses are obtainable should the need arise.

>Super 8 Film: "8mm : early 90s"

2 May

Some old Super 8 films from my long-gone student days…

>Low Blog Activity

30 Apr

>There’s not been much blog action here for a good while. Work, life and tending an ailing PC seem to be keeping my hands full, so not much time for creative stuff. Hope to get back on track as soon as…

>Hep Cat

14 Mar

>Nice to see Tandem colleague Simon Tofield win his British Animation Award at last night’s ceremony at the NFT. The Simon’s Cat films are getting rave responses over on the YouTube channel … www.youtube.com/simonscat.

>Random Abandon?

4 Mar

>Well I still like the idea of utilising some randomised film-making techniques, despite one of my Tandem colleagues bringing this to my attention.


26 Feb

>Run your own TV channel? Public access TV never really happened hereabouts, but along comes YouTube. One can select and curate a neat bundle of ‘found content’, schedule together a playlist then publish the finished programme via blogs and such.

The ‘Project’ YouTube channel is now set up www.youtube.com/projectmedia. For now this is a place to view playlists of selected YouTube favourites. The first three (mainly thematic) episodes are …

Project_001 “Intros & Outros”
Project_002 “Trainspotted”
Project_003 “Space Rocks”

>Gimbal Rally

6 Feb