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35mm Scanning

35mm Film Scanning

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Gamma Ray Digital offers 35mm scanning on one of two film scanners: our Northlight 6k pin-registered scanner, or our Lasergraphics Scanstation 5k.

Our Lasergraphics Scanstation 5k scanner is completely sprocketless and handles 2, 3 or 4-perf 35mm film at scan speeds of up to 30fps. It can scan directly to a variety of formats from DPX to Quicktime, including multiple formats and resolutions simultaneously. Because it uses optical pin registration and lacks sprocket wheels, it's ideal for working with severely shrunken or damaged film, including film with missing perforations, warped film, or film suffering from vinegar syndrome. The ScanStation can capture optical audio tracks with exceptional quality. It works well for negative, positive or intermediate film. With the ScanStation we can easily handle nitrate film, because of its cool LED light source.

Our Northlight uses a trilinear RGB CCD sensor for full bandwidth color scans, and is optimized for scanning negative film. With it we can scan 2, 3 or 4-perf 35mm film directly to DPX sequences at resolutions up to 6k with incredible stability, thanks to the Northlight's pin registration system. The scanner employs a full pressure plate to keep warped film flat in the gate while scanning, and has built-in failsafes to prevent damage to shrunken film.

What you get:

Frequently Asked Questions

How does scanning differ from telecine?

Telecine is designed to work in real time, within the video (or HD) realm. That is, the film is played back at normal running speed, captured at video or HD resolutions in video or HD color space, color corrected in real time and written to disk or tape. The speed at which the film is transferred is fixed: it's always the native speed of the video format being written to.

Scanning is a non-realtime process and is unencumbered by the constraints of video and HD resolutions and color spaces. That is, the scanner captures each frame of film to its own file (or to frames of a movie file format such as QuickTime), typically in RGB color space. The result is a significantly higher quality image than you get with telecine, with greater flexibility in post production. The speed at which scanning happens is determined by the speed of the sensor and the resolution. In our case, we can scan 5k on the ScanStation at about 15 frames per second, and 2k at about 30 fps, even with sound. Our Northlight scanner is much slower, at about 4 seconds per frame for 4k scans.

How is an area imager better than a line imager?

Area imagers such as the one in our ScanStation (and several other high end scanners) take an image of the entire frame at once. A line imager, when used in a continuous motion scanner, such as you might have in a typical telecine, takes a series of narrow images and assembles them into a single frame as the film passes by. Line Imager-based scanners are not inherently problematic, especially if the scanner has an intermittent-motion transport like our Northlight. However, when you combine a line imager with a constant-motion film transport, there are often problems.

First, whenever there's a splice in the film, you'll often see the image stretched, typically at the top or bottom of the frame. This can be cleaned up manually in a film restoration system, but that's time consuming and very costly. Second, any dust on the line imager can result in streaks in the final scan, in the form of vertical lines.

Our ScanStation scanner eliminates these problems by taking a high speed, high dynamic range image of the frame as it passes through the gate. The ScanStation has a constant motion transport, which means we can scan at very high speeds, without losing quality or introducing digital artifacts common in telecine-based line imager scanners. The Northlight holds the film steady in the gate with both a pressure plate and registration pins, then sweeps the camera past that stationary frame. This eliminates the splice bumps you would see with continuous motion line sensors.

Can you scan film with audio?

Yes! Our ScanStation is equipped with an optical audio reader for 35mm

We can capture audio from a film print while scanning, or if you have optical track negatives (typically higher quality because they saw less frequent use, we can scan those directly as well.

Can you scan damaged film?

Yes, in many cases we can. It will depend somewhat on the type of damage, but our scanner is designed to work with shrunken and damaged film. One of the most common types of film damage is tearing of the sprocket holes, usually caused by passing the film through an unforgiving projection system. We can scan this kind of film and still apply motion stabilization in almost all cases.

Because the ScanStation has no sprocket wheels to transport the film, it's particularly good with shrunken and even warped film. With its extremely high quality lens and large depth of field, warped film can be scanned and remain sharp, even without a pressure plate.

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