Small Gauge Film Scanning | Gamma Ray Digital

Hollywood quality, without the attitude.

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Small Gauge Film Scanning

16mm, Super 8 and 8mm Scanning


With Boston's only archival 5K film scanner, Gamma Ray Digital is here to help you digitally preserve your 16mm, Super 8 and Regular 8mm films. Our Lasergraphics ScanStation is a state-of-the-art high-end film scanner that delivers exceptionally high quality, at a much lower cost than traditional film scanning or telecine services. With a capstan-based transport and digital frame registration, it won't damage your shrunken or aging film collection.

We offer flexible output options, and can create 10bit or 16bit DPX (Log or Linear), TIFF sequences, even Apple ProRes 4444 or 422 HQ, on the fly while scanning. There are no extra charges for making ProRes files, because our scanner creates them directly. That means faster turnaround, too! The ScanStation features Optical and Magnetic audio handling, EDL-based scanning, multiple simultaneous output formats, incredible image stability, and the highest quality of any scanner in its class. You can be certain that your film is getting the best treatment possible.

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 at about 15 frames per second, and 2k at about 30 fps, even with sound.

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, 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. 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.

Can you scan film with audio?

Yes! Our scanner is equipped with an optical audio reader for both 16mm and Super 8 film, and a magnetic reader for Super 8.

We do not charge extra for audio capture, because it's captured at the same time the film is scanned, even if the scanner is running far above or below real-time speeds.

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 our scanner 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.

Do you scan home movies?

We're happy to scan your 8mm, Super8 and even 16mm home movies. Our scanning services are much different than what you might be finding in your research on the web: most other services use modified projectors or older professional telecine hardware from the 1990's or earlier, to convert the film to HD or Standard Definition video. Their quality is usually so-so, but more importantly, the hardware is not particularly gentle. As film ages it shrinks, and that shrinkage can be a major problem on a system that uses sprockets to transport the film through the machine. The sprocket wheels can actually puncture the film and cause permanent damage, making the film unplayable in many systems. Many services convert your film directly to DVD and not to a high quality file format (from which a DVD could be made). While you may think DVD looks great, it's very difficult to work with the files on it, since it was designed to do one thing: Play. If you want to edit, you want to transfer to a format like Quicktime, which you can open in editing software such as iMovie or Final Cut Pro.

Our scanner doesn't transfer to videotape, it actually captures each frame to a frame of either a Quicktime movie or to an image file. This can be done at resolutions higher than you would normally use for viewing (DVD or Blu-ray). If you're looking to make digital preservation copies of your home movies, you want to do it at 5k resolution, to a file format that won't compromise the image. We can do that for you.


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