Retro Telecine

Building an 8mm Telecine Machine with Style

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Design

My machine is a frame-by-frame telecine. As the projector mechanism slowly advances the film, each frame is captured by a digital camera and added to a movie file on the computer hard drive. When all the frames of the movie have been captured, the file can be played on the computer, or burned to a DVD for normal TV viewing. Once a movie is converted to digital format, it can be duplicated many times with no loss of quality.

Home built telecines (and lower cost professional machines) are typically built on a standard movie projector as a convenient framework and film transport. In a projector, light passes from a lamp behind the film, through the film gate, through the lens and on to a screen far away. Telecine machines follow the same plan, except that they mount the camera not-too-far away from the front of the machine to capture the projected image.

The challenge of my design was to fit everything into the original projector “footprint” without compromising the image quality of the movies produced. I chose to reverse the usual light path, mounting the camera in the lamp-house behind the film, where there was plenty of room, and placing the illuminator in the projector lens mount in front of the film. So light passes from the LEDs inside the lens mount through the front of the film into the projector to the camera…

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There is a popular belief that the image is not as sharp when the emulsion side of the film is away from the lens. There’s no reason this would be true, and from what I’ve read, it is not. In fact, in movie theaters, the emulsion on the movie print is away from the lens because it’s a contact print made from a negative and when contact printing, the emulsion of original and dupe must be in contact. Anyway, I can’t see any difference.

 

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