Saturday, July 05, 2008

Adventures in Film Scanning

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 2400x4800 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...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Monday, May 19, 2008

Narrow Gauge Capture

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.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Rights Stuff

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.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Super 8 Film: "8mm : early 90s"

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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Low Blog Activity

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...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hep Cat

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 ...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Random Abandon?

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


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 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"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Project Progress

The 'DIY Steadicam-like device' project continues into another year... (well it's been ongoing for a good four months now) and has taken-up far more time than it ever should have. I've amassed a fine collection of ironmongery now; all manner of nuts, bolts, bearings, aluminium strip, plastic piping, threaded stud etc. Although I've been trying to combine these elements in various configurations (from the conventional to the outlandish), all efforts so far would doubtless promote some very wobbly camera work.

My last purchase was a metre long piece of M8 threaded stud, which finally seems to give something like the counterweight or leverage required for a conventional post and gimbal type design. What seems to be needed now, is to get the centre of gravity of the camera directly above the post that goes down through the gimbal. I've also discovered that the tripod mounting hole on my Sony PC110E DV camera is way over to one side; nothing like the camera's centre of gravity and that's even before adding any lense adaptors or weightier batteries.
Ideally the rig should have some fine adjustment threads to allow the camera to be positioned accurately on the top-plate.

There are a few more refinements to make before this is worth trialling in any way, the next couple of things to tackle are...
1) The rather awkward length of the post could be reduced so long as I can find a decent way of adding some counterweighting instead.
2) The tube that forms the handle needs to be extended to make it easier to hold the whole device up.

I'll post some more of this if/when it gets any better.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Thursday, December 27, 2007


A misty December evening in St. Katherine's Dock; some of my Tandem ship-mates after the studio party. The venue was the good ship Ardwina 21/12/2007.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007

This year, Freya's card design adds a figurative and appropriately festive touch to some Miro-esque abstract meanderings...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Status Gimbal

Sturdier now, but Gimbal #2 has only 2 axes to grind.

The Gimbals of My Mind #1

Some plumbing pieces and skate bearings become a three axes gimbal. That bent piece of aluminium isn't very successful though ...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


In the quest to add further bits to my miniDV camera I've been looking online at various hand-held camera stabilisers. That Steadicam Merlin looks great but I'm not going to be spending circa. £600 on one of those anytime soon. At the bottom end of the scale is the $14 Steadicam; essentially a weighted stick. The search for cheap camera stabilisation captures the imagination of geeky camera buffs everywhere so the web is awash with their various schemes and adventures.
There could be an intriguing wee project here involving some bits of plastic and skate bearings perhaps...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Evo's Spanish Date

The programme for the Animación Internacional Curtocircuíto screening at the Curtocircuíto na Rúa Festival in Santiago de Compostela (Spain) has now been published. My shortfilm Evo will screen on the evening of 02/08/2007 at the Praza da Universidade. See the evening's programme at the Festival's website.
Evo's listing looks like this...