Scanning and film chain

scanning and film chain telecine

The principle of harnessing good quality optics and digital conversion have been used by a number of companies to produce a variety of desktop telecine units. Whilst these vary in technical complixity and cost, the results can be very impressive and provide a real alternative to using professional telecine houses. Advances have seen even these solutions move into High Definition and Hard Drive outputs. These machines fall into two broad categories, as described below.

frame by frame scanning

The desire to produce a compact telecine solution that could be used to digitise film quickly and easily was something that kept a number of innventive film users awake at night. Several solutions to the problem of converting the small film frame to a video (or digital) signal were developed, all using the same basic principle of illuminating the film frame with a high quality difussed light source and scanning it whilst momentarily stationary in the gate.

These desktop machines can now scan to both standard and high definition and give very high quality results for a fraction of the cost of a professional telecine suite. The degree of control is not as great as with the pro. solutions, but for the many people such telecine solutions are perfect for thier low/no budget short films and home movie archives.

The fact that these machines are small enough to sit on a desk and can be hooked up to a PC means that there has been a steady growth of specialist suppliers offering frame by frame scanning solutions at some very competitive prices.

It should be noted that not all suppliers offer negative film scanning, but all will telecine both colour and black and white reversal film stocks. Frame by frame scanning solutions give very acurate results with each individual frame resulting in individual video frames (depending upon the frame rates adopted).

The main manufacturers of frame by frame telecine units are MoviestuffMWA Nova and Tobin Cinema Systems and most companies offering frame by frame telecine are likely to be using one of these machines. Of course, if you have a big pot of money, you could always buy one yourself!

film chain

The principle of capturing film to video has lead to some even more inventive solutions adapting home movie projectors to provide the basic drive mechanism for true home based telecine.

A variety of desktop telecine machines have been developed using camcorders with a variety of lens to record the film image as it moves through the gate to generate a video image. Working only with reversal films (as negative can’t be projected) these real time systems generate a video file directly onto the camcorder’s media. This approach can result in some good quality images but does not give exact frame by frame reproduction of the film content.

For home movie archiving this ‘film chain’ solution is fine where it is about the content rather than the form of the image. For those making short films, the blended frames that can be typical of such transfers can be frustrating in the edit.

The main manufacturer of film chain telecine units is Moviestuff who have a wide range of models. If you need to regularly telecine film or have a large family archive that needs transferring it may well be more cost effective to purchase your own machine.

For frame by frame and film chain telecine solutions check out our Process! page.

Finally, for the handy and adventurous, DIY solutions…