Retro Telecine

Building an 8mm Telecine Machine with Style

Thursday, January 1, 2009


I said that this machine cost less than $200, but that’s not completely true. The cost of the parts I had to buy that I actually used was around $180. I already had the motor and a lot of other small parts that might total another $30 or $40 to buy.

I spent $150 or so on things I didn’t end up using – the Logitech webcam, the AC motor speed control, white LEDs, etc. That’s the cost of engineering, but it doesn’t count as the “direct cost” of the finished machine. The items are still usable or salable.

Last, but certainly not least, is the lens. I’ve not seen a 17.5mm Baltar for sale on Ebay or anywhere else, so I don’t know what it would cost. If I didn’t have that lens, I would shop for a similar 8mm or 16mm movie camera lens. I tried a cheap Chinese 16mm CCTV lens, but it was not very good.



  1. Excellent and thoroughly documented . I was very impressed with your resouceful creation of what amounts to a very advanced home telecine arrangement. I want one!

    Comment by Anonymous — March 24, 2009 @ 2:03 am

  2. WOW! What a great job you did.
    Thanks for documenting it so well.

    Comment by drjim — July 7, 2009 @ 9:17 pm

  3. This is fantastic!! I have been working with budget equipment for digitizing S8 for a couple of years and your documentation is outstanding. I do not understand all technicalitys, but I have picked up a lot of ideas.
    Thanks :-)
    Harald from Norway

    Comment by Harald Melbye — March 17, 2010 @ 9:43 am

  4. All I can say is WOW! I paid to have 2 one 400ft and one 50ft reels transferred to DVD and it cost me $110.00 total! I still have 3 more but could not afforded it so I was laying in bed and thought, hmm why can’t I use and old projector and webcam. That’s how I ended up at your blog. Its a bit overwhelming what you did so I don’t know if it would be worth the maybe 700 or so feet I have left to convert. BUT your blog is GREAT and the information is GREAT THANKS!!!!

    Buy the way what did you use to embed the videos on your blog? thanks


    Comment by Bill Baker — March 23, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

  5. Bill,
    The video album is done with Zenphoto, using JWPlayer. The videos on this blog are embedded with JWPlayer, linking back to the Zenphoto album…

    Video Album

    And you’re probably right. It’s not worth it for 700 feet!

    Comment by jimmymc — March 23, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

  6. Congratulations | It’s really fantastic! You did a wonderful job.

    I have several hundred feet of 8mm and Super8 I want to scan.

    I have a projector Argus 890Z; Can I change it to a telecine machine?

    I also own a Sony DCR-SR40 camcorder. Can I use it or would I be better to use my old Creative webcam PD1110?


    Comment by Jean-Claude Tremblay — March 12, 2011 @ 10:35 pm

  7. Lots of people use a camcorder and projector to do telecine. It’s a different approach than my frame by frame sync method. Try Googling “telecine camcorder” and you should find plenty of info.

    Comment by jimmymc — March 15, 2011 @ 9:02 am

  8. Very nice work. I am looking at doing something along these lines and love the look of these old projectors. I’m curious what the specs are on the motor you ended up using. Any idea what the rpm should typically be on one of these?

    Anyway, thanks for documenting everything, I enjoyed learning about what you’ve done.

    Comment by George Graham — December 19, 2011 @ 11:56 pm

  9. The motor came from an RV water pump. It’s rated 12VDC and I think 6 or 7 amps max. I don’t know the unloaded RPM.

    Comment by jimmymc — December 20, 2011 @ 6:58 am

  10. Cannot believe an engineer exists that can pull something off like this! Truly I am flat out amazed! I he never left a comment before on any website. I wish I had your understanding for I have many of these movies to convert and I really want to do them myself. I have looked into Telecine for years and the cheapest solution I can find is over $2000.00.
    Very well documented and quite ingenious!

    Comment by Dale — January 12, 2012 @ 9:38 pm

  11. Dale,
    Thanks for you kind comment! I think a it would be possible to build a good $600 or $800 machine in small volumes, but I don’t know how big the market would be. And I’m not enough of an entrepreneur to do it. I hope maybe my story will inspire someone who is!

    Comment by jimmymc — January 13, 2012 @ 7:08 am

  12. Hi,
    Absolutely amazing job! I wish I had your electrical and electronic skills to copy your developments!

    Päris France

    Comment by claude — April 5, 2012 @ 2:58 am

  13. Wow.

    I have been considering this sort of approach for some time. Thanks for giving me a boost. I have close to 2000 feet of Regular 8 and 6500 feet of Super 8 that I would really like to preserve.

    Comment by Alan — April 5, 2012 @ 10:31 pm

  14. Would you consider modifying two of my projectors as a paid project?
    one super 8′
    one 16mm

    Comment by sam — December 6, 2013 @ 8:53 pm

  15. No. It would only be a viable business if someone were building a number of identical units. Custom engineering work like this would cost you $75-100 an hour. If you aren’t doing it yourself, it would cost less to buy a commercial machine.

    Comment by jimmymc — December 6, 2013 @ 10:50 pm

  16. Hi Jimmy,

    Having many reels of old 8mm and super 8 film I’ve been browsing different methods to do telecine and ran across your site. I just wanted to say you are the epitome of a brilliant systems engineer. Your broad experience in embedded systems, software, electrical, optics, and mechanical systems all combined to single handedly build a system like this is amazing. And your attention to detail in the product as well as your documentation is outstanding. I wouldn’t have the stamina to build something like yours, but I especially like your preservation of the retro style. Your unit reminds me of my grandfather’s projector (a Keystone 109d, which I still have). I did some transfers in the past (~30 years ago) with a regular projector, optical transfer box and camcorder – but have been looking to do frame by frame scanning. I’m actually thinking of buying a Retro-8 – but the price is a bit steep at $3K. I’ve always thought a simpler low transfer speed system could be mass-produced for a much cheaper price. I’ll bet you could design one with ease.

    Comment by Dave — October 18, 2014 @ 12:35 pm

  17. Hello,

    you are demonstrating very well why the internet is use more then daily news and stupid videos.
    Great pice of engeneering.

    greetings from Germany

    Comment by Stefan Gier — November 2, 2014 @ 12:10 pm

  18. Hi! how march cost you telecine mashine? I would buy her consistency…

    Comment by Anton — April 5, 2015 @ 7:49 am

  19. Sorry, my machine is not for sale.

    Comment by jimmymc — April 5, 2015 @ 8:08 am

  20. Absolutely amazing work!

    Comment by Humberto Gutierrez — April 1, 2016 @ 6:46 am

  21. Thanks so much for all of this! Totally inspiring to follow your trail through all the intricate details and decisions – a wealth of knowledge revealed!

    Comment by Gyro — December 2, 2016 @ 9:20 pm

  22. Great project with incredible documentation! I have many hours of 8mm family movies that I wont to convert and am investigating various ways to do it, which brought me to your site. When I went to the sample frames and saw the shot of your brother with the ships in the background, I couldn’t help but notice the destroyer in the frame. DD941 was the USS Dupont, which I served on while I was on active duty in the Navy from 1970-72!

    Comment by Stan SMith — December 5, 2017 @ 7:26 pm

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