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How to build a film scanner (need advise & help, please)

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Hi. I’m looking for a way to build my own film scanner, but I really don’t know where to begin and what to get do build it. I do know that some people here, somehow, managed to do it or have at least the necessary knowledge to do so. Can those people (like Poita, among others) please help me with this ? It’ll be very, very appreciated.

Thanks in advance

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What is your budget?

You can build a 2K scanner for about USD$1500-$2000 plus the cost of a projector to use for parts, and a Windows based computer with USB3 and an SSD RAID or one of the new fast PCIe SSDs (need at least 700MB/s write speed). If you want to go 4K, then the sensor cost starts getting very high ($3000+)
If that is within the budget, I can lay out how to go about it, but basically you need an LED control board with trigger function and camera control (from memory around $500-$700 or so), A PGR sensor ($500-$750), a hall effect sensor and magnet and some associated components ($25), and a suitable projector, some mounting hardware and a focusing rail/micrometer adjustable stage ($80-$400)

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poita said:

What is your budget?

You can build a 2K scanner for about USD$1500-$2000 plus the cost of a projector to use for parts, and a Windows based computer with USB3 and an SSD RAID or one of the new fast PCIe SSDs (need at least 700MB/s write speed). If you want to go 4K, then the sensor cost starts getting very high ($3000+)
If that is within the budget, I can lay out how to go about it, but basically you need an LED control board with trigger function and camera control (from memory around $500-$700 or so), A PGR sensor ($500-$750), a hall effect sensor and magnet and some associated components ($25), and a suitable projector, some mounting hardware and a focusing rail/micrometer adjustable stage ($80-$400)

A 2k scanner for around $2000 would be more in my budget. I already have a PC with some USB3 inputs, no SSD yet (have to check on that). Althought I don’t have budget for a 4k system yet, that doesn’t mean I won’t have it later, so if something can be done to adapt the set up later, that wouuld be helpful. So, what can I get and work on without the 2k-4k specs ? I guess the projector(s) might be among those (which one and how do I modify it) ?

Thanks to answer

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BTW, I forgot to mention this. The print formats I’ll be working on are mostly 16mm & 35mm, and perhaps 9.5mm (AKA Pathe Baby, if you ever heard of those). Do I need a different projector for each format ?

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Yes, you will need a different projector for each format, as the film is a different physical size.
Updating to 4K is as easy as swapping out the 2K sensor for a 4K one.
The other part I forgot is the lens, it will be around USD200-500 depending on your luck in finding one.

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I’ll write up a full guide once I have recovered, but basically you need to be able to remove the shutter from the projector completely.
16mm projectors I have successfully modified include Bauer and Sankyo models. Super8, the ST1200HD, and the Bauer Super projectors. 35mm Simplex, I haven’t had a 9.5mm to mod.

After removing the shutter, you need to be able to attach a small (2-3mm) magnet to either the drive-shaft, or the frame advance knob of the projector, so that each rotation equals one frame advanced in the projector. This acts to trigger the camera to take an image, and the light-source to flash.
The software included with the LED controller takes care of operating the triggers, and capturing the image, as well as setting the exposure, white balance etc.
The camera/sensor is USB3, so it plugs into the computer, the LED board is USB2, and plugs into th computer as well.
The trigger mechanism consists of the magnet, and the hall effect sensor, mounted on a piece of veroboard or similar.

The hall effect sensor plugs into the LED board, and the camera has a trigger input, which also plugs into the LED board.
The RGB LED light source is approximately the size of a 16mm projector halogen light, you remove the projector light-bulb and replace it with the LED light.

The camera is mounted either on a macro-focusing rail, or a micrometer adjustable stage. The lens is attached (reversed) to the front of the camera, via and pointed at the film gate of the projector.

It then becomes a matter of focusing the camera by adjusting the focus-rail/stage, so that the film image fills the camera sensor as best as possible, you can see the picture on your PC and frame and focus accordingly.

You then set the exposure and RGB mix accordingly to get the best result, set your file format etc. and start the capture.

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Ok then. I’ll wait till you recover before I begin so I can see your tutorial. In the mean time, I’ll see what kind of projector(s) I can get my hand on with the 35mm & 16mm. For the 9.5, I’ll wait. I might even try to get one and send it to you by mail if necessary (if you’re down with this).

So first part, waiting for your recovery and tutorial & getting the projector(s) and magnet(s). BTW, on those projector’s will I need to change the light bulb frequently ? I’ve heard that it can be replaced with some more durable hallogen bulb. Is that true and will I need to do this ?

Thanks to answer

PS: Thx for the pics, I didn’t saw them at first.

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poita said:

Yes, you will need a different projector for each format, as the film is a different physical size.
Updating to 4K is as easy as swapping out the 2K sensor for a 4K one.
The other part I forgot is the lens, it will be around USD200-500 depending on your luck in finding one.

Any examples on those lenses that I hane to get ?

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This is the lens you require, you will also need a c-mount adapter and a selection of extension tubes/rings
http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/like/Schneider-Componon-S-50mm-f2-8-enlarging-lens-excellent-condition-/231697621349

The projectors will no longer work as projectors after the modification, they will only be good for scanning.

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Help get The Original Trilogy preserved!

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poita said:

This is the lens you require, you will also need a c-mount adapter and a selection of extension tubes/rings
http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/like/Schneider-Componon-S-50mm-f2-8-enlarging-lens-excellent-condition-/231697621349

The projectors will no longer work as projectors after the modification, they will only be good for scanning.

So noted.

The link you provided show this: “This page does not exist. Please continue to shop on the eBay.com.au home page.” Any other link ?

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poita said:

I’ll write up a full guide …

Whoa! That is excellent! I, too, would like to know your recommendations for the 2K-to-4K upgrade.

  • How do these captures compare to the awesome pro equipment to which you have access?
  • Do you have any same-source caps of the pro and home-brew hardware to post here?
  • What is the diminishing-returns in the type of components you recommend for the home-brew setup (2K and 4K)?
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Not to rush poita's recuperation (because I’m sure he selected the officers’ ward) …

from The Bridge On The River Kwai:

‘Major’ Shears: " When the Houston sunk, I made it ashore with a real commander. Later on,
we ran into a Japanese patrol. He was killed. I figured it was just a
matter of time before I was captured."
Major Warden: “So you changed uniforms with a dead man.”
‘Major’ Shears: " I thought officers would get better treatment. … I kind of got used to
being a commander, so when I arrived here at the hospital I took a look at
the enlisted men’s ward and then the officers’ ward and I said to myself,
‘Let’s let it ride along for a while’. There were certain advantages. I saw
one of them [a nurse sun-bathing] on the beach."

… but he was going put up a whole new guide for the upgraded film scanner?

That is, if we can tear him away from the beach?
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I don’t know. A few weeks ago I asked him a question that was worrying me a little on how damaged or warped film are gonna work in this scanner. He never replyed (it was in a PM). So I don’t know know what’s happening to him right now.

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There is also a wealth of information on DIY film scanning at the http://forums.kinograph.cc/ forum. One particularly generous contributor reminds me of Poita’s expertise shared here at OT.

If your crop is water, what, exactly, would you dust your crops with?

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camroncamera said:

There is also a wealth of information on DIY film scanning at the http://forums.kinograph.cc/ forum. One particularly generous contributor reminds me of Poita’s expertise shared here at OT.

Yeah, I know. The only problem, is it’s way too technical to the point I couldn’t make sense on anything to begin with. That’s why I asked for some help in order to figure out most of everything. Poita was mostly the only one savvy enough to answer, no question on that. That’s why I would like to continue with him, if it’s still possible. BTW, thanks to remind me of Kinograph. I completely forgot about this. I know I posted once on it, but I completely forgot to check back (thanks to other projects brewing). Let’s just hope that Poita will answer to this thread. Because, apparently, he is the only one here who can provide the necessary answers with his experience & knowledge.

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I was hoping to get this done by March 1st, but am still working on it.

Here is the quick overview.

The lighting setup, hardware and software is under a grand, that includes the hardware to flash the RGB light source, the light source itself, the hardware and software to control of the RGB light mix (very useful for faded prints), adjust the lighting exposure, trigger and control the camera, see the incoming images and adjust LUTs etc. and all the software do the actual capture.

Then you need to choose the sensor, I would recommend the PGR cameras, as they have the lowest noise and best dynamic range. If you are happy with 2K, then they start at USD495 I think, and that will let you capture at 24fps. If you want 3-4K or similar, then they are around USD1800-3500. The lens is around $100, and probably another $50-$100 for extension tubes, adapters and cables. You will also need mounting hardware, and an opal glass diffuser, or you can 3D-Print a light integrating sphere to do the diffusion.

I’d recommend a micrometer sled/sliding stage to mount the camera on for fine focus control. These are available 2nd hand, anywhere for $40 - $300.
You will also need a hall-effect sensor and small neodynimium magnet (around $5 for both)

Then you just need a 35mm projector head, you use the LED light source in place of the Xenon bulb, remove the projector shutter, mount the magnet and hall effect sensor on the main drive shaft. Wire it to the LED control board. (three simple wires to the inout on the board)
Mount the PGR camera and lens on the focus sled, and align it to the gate. Run the trigger output from the LED control board to the PGR camera (two wires). Plug the PGR camera into a USB3 slot on the computer.

Fire up the capture software, and set the fame-rate you require etc. The LED light source will start flashing, and the image from the camera will appear on screen. You can focus and frame the image now. You can also adjust the RGB mix and exposure to suit the film stock, you get realtime feedback, histograms, etc. on screen whilst making adjustments.

Once you are happy with it, you choose an output filename, press ‘Start Capture’ and turn the motor to the projector on, and it will start capturing in real time.

That is it really. One other note, You will need one of the PCIe or M2 fast SSD drives, or a RAID0 array of 3 SATA SSDs to keep up with the data coming in from the camera at 4K @ 24fps.

I can set you up with the LED control board and software through the guy that makes them for me, I’ll check his current pricing, but it is way under what he charges the companies he makes them for, they are used in $50,000 scanners and are fantastic quality.

The software is locked to one computer, but you can get extra licenses if needed for under $100 from memory, he doesn’t make any money of that, it is just what the software dev kit licence costs per machine. All the other parts are readily available. The quality is similar to the $50,000 Scanstation and better than the BMD $30,000 scanner.

It will not give you a damage matte, that is possible but would require a redesign of the LED light source, would also require a mono camera, and capturing the R, G, B and IR frames separately and then combining them, which would make things take 4 times as long and eat up more storage. But it could be done.

My goal is to have a ton of affordable scanners across the globe, I’m working on getting one going in Europe now as well, if we can preserve the films no-one else will or can, then I feel like we are really making a difference.

I will have the full guide up in the next month if there is any interest, I will post it here when done.

EDIT: The new PGR cameras are out, the best value is the new chameleon camera at USD465, with 2048x1536 resolution at 55fps
https://www.ptgrey.com/chameleon3-32-mp-color-usb3-vision-sonyimx265
or the 2448 x 2048 version for USD735
https://www.ptgrey.com/chameleon3-50-mp-color-usb3-vision-sony-imx264-2

2448 x 2048 is more resolution than you will typically get out of a 35mm print, and way more than you will get out of a 16mm or 8mm print. You can go to 4K sensors, but as Harmy has pointed out, on release prints there is really no point, and for scope prints, your vertical resolution of 2048 is over three times the resolution of 1080P Bluray, (as the 35mm scope frame fills the sensor).

If you got a hold of an original camera negative, then sure, I’d grab a 4K sensor, but for prints, you are just not getting any extra info, and the 2448 x 2048 resolution is more than enough.
Remember, UHD/consumer 4K vertical resolution for a cinemascope release is only around 1500-1600 lines, so when scanning at 2448 x 2048 resolution you are scaling down to UHD/4K on the vertical resolution when working with scope prints. i.e. the vertical resolution is higher than ‘consumer’ 4K.

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Thanks for sharing poita, this is fantastic information.

If your crop is water, what, exactly, would you dust your crops with?

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Added camera info to the end of my post.

Donations welcome: paypal.me/poit
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Help get The Original Trilogy preserved!

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poita said:

That is it really. One other note, You will need one of the PCIe or M2 fast SSD drives, or a RAID0 array of 3 SATA SSDs to keep up with the data coming in from the camera at 4K @ 24fps.

Holy carp. Well, my new workstation has the recent Samsung M.2 950 Pro, but at 512GB that’d be a little short on space.

If your crop is water, what, exactly, would you dust your crops with?

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You only need it for capture, so when capturing one reel at a time, and with lossless compression, you can get away with using that drive. You just capture until the drive is 80% full, and then copy it off to HDD storage, and then delete it and continue your capture.

I am using 3 x 1TB SSDs in a RAID0 setup, which works great as well, and it also useful as a work drive when doing corrections etc. as it allows you to work in real time when correcting etc.

A pair of SSDs in RAID0 is fast enough, I went with 3 as it allows me the workspace I wanted.

Of course, you could slow the whole shebang down, and capture at say 5-10fps to a normal HDD, or a single SSD, or have a RAID0 of 6 cheap 1TB HDDs or similar, but being able to capture in real time is a great advantage.

Donations welcome: paypal.me/poit
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Help get The Original Trilogy preserved!

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poita, thanks for sharing all this info. Its great to read.

Mind if I ask some questions:

What format are you capturing in; Tiff? I assume the full bit depth of the camera, 12-bit?

Why are you triggering the LED light source instead of leaving it always on? Is it to save on the life of the LED?

Concerning audio, I know you can transfer the optical track to PCM/WAV using freeware software but would that software work on optical tracks encoded in Dolby noise reduction?

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poita said:

You only need it for capture, so when capturing one reel at a time, and with lossless compression, you can get away with using that drive. You just capture until the drive is 80% full, and then copy it off to HDD storage, and then delete it and continue your capture.

PDB said:

poita, thanks for sharing all this info. Its great to read.

Mind if I ask some questions:

What format are you capturing in; Tiff? I assume the full bit depth of the camera, 12-bit?

With the earlier mention of lossless compression, I am wondering what capture format is ideal as well.

Why are you triggering the LED light source instead of leaving it always on? Is it to save on the life of the LED?

I think I can help on this one. If your film motion is continuous through your scanning rig with a constant light source and no shutter, your scan will be streaked as the film is pulled through the projector gate. The reason for triggering the LED light source is to freeze the film image in the gate for the imaging sensor. It works on the same principle as a flash photo that freezes action. (This flashing must be synchronized with the image capturing sensor, lest you capture half of one frame, the other half of the next frame, and the frameline between them.) If the motion of the film through the scanner is intermittent, that is, if the frames stops in the gate for a moment in the same fashion that a movie camera briefly stops each frame in the gate and then opens its shutter to make an exposure (often 1/48th second for 24FPS photography), theoretically you might be able to get away with a constant light source. http://forums.kinograph.cc/t/image-sensor-optical-components/44/37

If your crop is water, what, exactly, would you dust your crops with?