Affordable, high quality film scanner

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^rooker
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Affordable, high quality film scanner

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Short intro:
1) Unfair and unreasonable pricing:
I'm fed up with insanely high prices for everything that even gets near film/production/broadcast.
Especially, when similar (or sometimes even better) quality can be gained (if done correctly), by using already existing components from other domains, putting them together and only add/modify what's actually needed to make things work.

Digitizing moving images is getting more and more necessary to be done.
Video is its own case, but let's stick with film:

2) Entry barrier too high - even for larger institutions:
I've recently visited a national film archive of a european country, and they don't even own a scanner. At all. It's too costly for their budget. Some local film productions (=cultural heritage!) are unavailable for to anyone, because they simply can't afford the transfer.
Even other film-related institutions who do own film-to-digital transfer equipment also often accept compromises, or do questionable things - because of budget issues.

If that's the situation of national institutions, you can imagine what it looks like for the rest.
...and we're not even close to talking about independent artists and film-makers.

3) High price does not guarantee high quality:
Usually, only entities which are able to throw enough money at the problem are "allowed" to transfer their film stock in high quality.
That's a huge business for some out there. Especially, because the believing ist still:
"If it's affordable, it can't be high quality"
or the other way around:
"It was so darn expensive - and has this manufacturer's name on it: It's gotta be good!"
For example, there's a site which shows what video A/D converters do to your frames/fields - and the devices they've tested are from big brands (Harris, Leitch, Snell, ...) - and in the upper price segment ;)

4) Long story short: This situation should be improved.
I really think it's possible, and only requires a handful of people willing to get active.

Ok. Enough ranting - eh, introduction.
Jumping out of an airplane is not a basic instinct. Neither is breathing underwater. But put the two together and you're traveling through space!
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^rooker
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Part 1: A plan, a dream - a vision...

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What would we need to make a high-quality film-scanner?
I'm assuming that we'd get the following entities to join the project:
  • technical schools (for ages 16-19)
  • university- / college-institutes
  • people from film-archives
  • film-makers

Their contribution could be like this:
1) Technical schools - Mechanics & software:

It'd be great to have schools of that kind:
One for the mechnanics and one for the software-engineering.

Win/win for teachers and pupils: These schools always looking for useful, real-life-based projects, so their students can draft, design and build things.
They usually have the knowhow (=teachers), the time and the equipment necessary to really build machine parts.

If was a teacher/student in such a school, and I'd be offered to take part in such a project, I'd totally say "Yes!", because I think it's interesting, cool, fun - and actually: a great way of learning!


2) University- / college-institutes

There should (=will be) institutes somewhere, which are professionalized in dealing with scanning image data - and maybe even with handling film in various stages.
They'd be responsible for providing the science background for creating a state-of-the-art device.

After all, universities are there to work at the bleeding age at the most professional level.
If they're not sufficient for "research & development" - who is? :)

And best of all: By definition, these institutions are publicly funded - and their output should be free and available to the public:
1867: "Die Wissenschaft und ihre Lehre ist frei"

3) People from film-archives

They know about dealing with all different kinds of film material from different epochs and in different conditions.
They also have the greatest experience with "what is actually needed", and what to look out for, as well as what to demand when it comes to the process of transferring film-to-digital.


4) film-makers

Same same but different:
Their contribution would be similar to the input provided by film-archivists, but from a different point of view.


NOTE:
Film-archives as well as film-makers are actually the ones who might be greatly interested in the outcome of this project. It would allow them to finally be able not only to scan, access and preserve their material as good as possible, but there are additional benefits compared to the classical approach:
  • Affordable
  • Higher quality for same (or possibly lower) price than now
  • Open hardware design (=good for: maintenance, support, sustainability, etc)
  • Free Software (=use, study, share and improve)
Jumping out of an airplane is not a basic instinct. Neither is breathing underwater. But put the two together and you're traveling through space!
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^rooker
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Part 2: The technical idea

Post by ^rooker »

I'll return to this part again, later - but here's a draft of the technical ideas:
  • Mechanical film transport: No toothed wheels. Use rubber or plastic rolls instead.
  • The film is transported through at a steady speed. No stop-per-frame.
  • Scanning is done by using the scan-tube-part of a flatbed scanning device (or anything similarily usable)
  • Scratch detection: Film is lit-through for image and lit-on (with infrared) for scratch detection
Rough braindump:
  • Frame-detection is done by counting the holes. Simple: infrared-LED-light-barrier + Microcontroller A/D input
  • Incoming image a continuous 1-line bitstream from the scan-tube. As soon as enough holes have been counted, the current buffer is saved as image.
  • Optional frame stabilization by (rather simple) edge-detection algorithms on: (a) the transport holes and (b) the dark frame-edges.
...to be continued!
Jumping out of an airplane is not a basic instinct. Neither is breathing underwater. But put the two together and you're traveling through space!
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