DIY 8mm Telecine – Progress Report 4

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Finally – here is the much overdue update I promised a while back! Progress has been made on several fronts since the last post: the projector now has an appropriate backlight, I drilled a hole in the backplate I made to allow for projection, a new lens has joined the lineup, and an Arduino UNO has been thrown in the mix!

Backlight

RGB_Backlight_OnThe backlight is a 3 watt, Red, Green, Blue (RGB) LED I purchased on eBay. The idea is that the red, green, and blue colors can be mixed independently to set the white balance and supposedly, an RGB LED will provide a fuller color spectrum as compared to a standard white LED. This is important for capturing all the different colors present in the original film.

Arduino

Arduino_Backlight_Control

The Arduino has been added mostly because I had eBay bucks to spend making the $12.79 Arduino essentially free.  While slower than the Propellor, the Arduino is easier to program (for me anyway). It supports hardware pulse width modulation (PWM) which I attempted to use to control the red, green, and blue channels of the LED (we’ll get to that…). As the Arduino is limited in how much output it can drive directly, I have the rather power LED powered through the transistors seen on the breadboard.

So why am I not using the Arduino’s hardware PWM controller to drive the LED channels? It turns out that the frequency the PWM controller operates at causes visual artifacts on the webcam. Cheap digital cameras scan their sensors sequentially – imagine the pixels on the sensor as being arranged into columns and rows. The sensor will start in the begin to scan the pixels in rows from top to bottom which takes a small amount of time. This is generally imperceptible, but when the image is changing quickly, it is possibly for the position of a picture element to change as the pixel rows are being scanned, leading to visual artifacts. This is easily seen when an iPhone takes pictures of an aircraft propellor. I think the same thing is happening to the webcam – the LED light is strobing as the image sensor is scanning rows of pixels. This is seen as visual stripes in the webcam output :-/

How is this solved? One way is to change the PWM implementation. The LED must remain lit short enough to strobe once every pixel row scan OR the LED can remain lit long enough that the entire image is scanned in one go. This latter solution works for still images – I’m not sure how it would hold up in video. Finally, the LED’s current could be controlled directly. This is the ideal solution that will allow the LED to remain constantly lit while being able to alter its brightness.

Telecine_Output

 

Projection hole

I drilled a hole through the back of the plate I made earlier to allow the film to be viewed. Due to space constraints, the backlight is mounted in the front of the projector where the lens was originally and the image is projected in reverse.

Telecine_8mm_Film_Rear

 

Lens

The lens is now mounted to the rear of the projector. At this stage, the mounting is temporary – as you can probably tell by the zipties. Instead of enlarging the image, the lens now serves as a macro lens providing approximately 1:1 magnification. I’m actually using the original lens for this demo, but I also purchased a new zoom lens from eBay.

Putting it all together

Telecine_BacklightTo the left is the current state of the backlight. There are four wires soldered to it – common, red, green, and blue. At full brightness with the resistors I had in my shop, the backlight casts a purple light; this was supposed to be remedied by the Arduino. Indeed, the Arduino is able to control the backlight color – but with visual artifacts, a new solution is needed.

 

Telecine_Webcam_Projection_CloseOn the right, you can see the lens barrel (far right silver object), the webcam board in the center with the blue power LED, and the projected image itself on the sensor in the center. Remember, this is the bare webcam without any lens at all! It’s all held in temporary place by a “third hand” soldering tool so it’s not in the best alignment.

 

Below is a wide view of the setup, with the white arrow pointing to the projected image. Here you can clearly see the zipties holding the projector lens in place. Additionally, note that the backlight now casts a warm white light – this is from the adjustment provided by the Aduino.

Telecine_Webcam_Projection

Finally, here’s a video of it in action.

 

DIY 8mm Telecine – Progress Report 3

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DC Motor Mounted to Projector

Last night saw significant progress on the telecine project. I made a new back for the projector that replaces the original motor & lamp housing, then successfully tested the new DC motor.

Projector Plate

I began with what was once an ECU cover (or more accurately, a DME cover from a BMW). I made a cardboard template of the rear of the projector earlier, than transferred the outline to the cover. From there, I used a dremel to cut the outline out and drilled and tapped four 3mm x .50 holes for machine screws.

Cutting the gear up

With the plate taken care of, I turned  my attention towards the drive gear. The cassette player I sourced the gears from had two identical gears with both inner and outer teeth as pictured. My plans use one of the gears to replace the original drive pulley with the outer teeth being driven. The motor uses the inner teeth of the remaining gear to engage the outer teeth of the now replaced drive pulley, but the gear must be ground down to only the center for it to clear. I used a dremel and grinder to first cut up the gear, then grind the remaining metal down until only the center remained.

Finished ground gear

The newly ground gear was then mounted to the DC motor. A hole slightly large than the gear was drilled into the new back plate, then the motor was mounted to the back plate. A spacer had to be used for proper clearance, and the spacer also made it easier to mount the DC motor using very shallow screws. With everything mounted, I applied +12v  DC to the motor and watched the projector run!

DIY 8mm Telecine – Progress Report 2

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Bad Kitty 8mm Test Film

I spent a significant portion of my weekend working on the telecine project. The test films I ordered from ebay arrived Friday and I immediately popped one on the projector. Unfortunately, the take up reel/spool kept turning too quickly and pulling the film against the second (lower) sprocket. Having never used a projector before and knowing this projector was formerly in working condition, I assumed the problem was a user error. After triple checking everything, I decided the take up reel must be the wrong size… but then I checked ebay listings and the take up reels looked identical. I then pulled the service panel off the projector since I had it off earlier – perhaps I misplaced a gear? Nope! But I did find a spring loaded mechanism at the take up reel and after looking closely, I determined that the take up reel is supposed to slip except it wasn’t. I held the gear in place and forced the take up reel until it finally gave way. After that, it slipped much more easily and the projector began to operate correctly!

Projector Shutter

After a successful test of the projector, I then started disassembly. The film needs to be advanced frame by frame for the telecine so the motor either needs to be controlled directly or replaced entirely. Pictured above is the view of the projector with the motor and lamp housing removed entirely. The Bell and Howell Regent Design 122 Model L appears to be a great telecine platform because the assembly above rotates exactly once for every frame. Rather than control the original motor, I have decided to build a new motor assembly that will be controlled by a microcontroller. For the lamp, I have decided to reverse the projection and mount the camera where the old lamp used to be with an LED light source mounted where the current projection lens is in front.

Rear of projector with new drive

The new motor assembly is based on parts ripped from an old cassette deck. The dc motor is from the deck along with the gears needed to make everything work. The gears need machining to fit the projector, but otherwise look like a good fit. I have already done the necessary machining to mount one of the gears.

DC Motor Control Circuit

The microcontroller is not able to directly control a powerful DC motor, so a control circuit is needed. I first modeled the circuit in multisim, then breadboarded it for testing. The circuit above is not identical to the breadboarded circuit – I omitted the capacitor and the 2N2222A is directly driven from the 5v rail on a PC power supply; I threw the 7905 in because it’s already mounted to the spare perf board I have from a previous project.

The motor will need to carefully advance the film and cannot run too quickly. I drafted not particularly elegant PWM code on the propeller and ran a few tests. This will allow the motor to run at lower power levels so as not to over advance the film.

66 percent duty cycle

I think this was at 66% duty cycle, but I don’t recall exactly. Each square is 1 ms.

Next to come is the mounting of the DC motor and closed circuit control.  Once completed, all that remains is to mount the light source and camera, then scan some film!

 

DIY 8mm Telecine – Progress Report 1

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I got to work on the Telecine project last night. No permanent modifications have been made yet as I’d like to experience the projector in its original 8mm glory first. Even then, I’d like to avoid modifying the projector as much as possible so it can be returned to its original condition. At first, I thought this would be an unattainable goal, but after disassembling the projector and studying its construction, I feel this is actually realistic.

The projector appears to have four main parts (using my own terms): the base, the lamp housing & motor assembly, the gate assembly, and the film advance. The base does exactly what the name implies – it supports for the projector and houses some simple controls (light switch & motor switch). I will probably leave this as-is.

The next part, the lamp housing and motor assembly, is important. The entire assembly is self contained and separated from the gate, sprockets, and reel drive system.  The motor drives a rubber (?) disc that is loosely coupled to a drive wheel on the gate. For every one revolution of the gate, the film advances exactly one frame. The entire lamp housing and original motor can be removed from the projector while leaving all the equipment needed to advance and display the film intact, making this projector an excellent platform for a telecine.

With the lamp housing and original motor removed, a new motor must be fitted to advance the film. As this is intended to be a telecine, we want to advance each frame slowly and accurately. You should be thinking to yourself that a stepper motor would fit the bill, and indeed it does. However, I failed to find an appropriate stepper motor in my junk pile so I will use a drive motor from an old cassette player instead. This drive motor will hopefully provide ample torque is operated from a 12 volt DC source and it worked fine during a dry run (held by hand with no film loaded in the projector). A few challenges remained – the motor itself, like most small DC motors, does not provide sufficient torque at a 1:1 coupling and it runs at far too great of a speed; in fact, the motor indicates it is rated to run at 2400 RPM with no load. To reduce the speed and increase torque, the motor was originally coupled via a rubber drive belt and pulleys. However, the projector presents a larger load than the cassette deck and the original drive belt was very long. Rather than searching for a new drive belt and fitting it to the projector, I have elected to build a gear box.

As this project relies largely on parts I have available in my junk pile, no real calculations were done. The cassette deck kindly donated two metal gears in addition to the drive motor, and they fit nicely on both the projector’s gate & and the drive motor. They should provide slightly greater torque than the hand held test and I am confident the drive system will work. A metal plate will be fabricated that matches the original lamp housing & motor to which the new DC motor will be mounted. As the motor is simply a “dumb” DC motor, external sensors will be used to detect when a frame is advanced. My current idea is to detect a specific spot on the gate wheel using either a microswitch or optical trigger. This will allow a microcontroller (likely either my existing Parallax Propeller or an Arduino) to know when to stop and start the motor. Additionally, to protect against over-advancing and to ensure the gate is not blocking view of the film, a sensor will detect the gate position.

A further benefit of the lamp housing being removed is that the film can be “reverse projected” with the light source on the on the outside and the camera mounted where the light bulb used to be. This greatly opens up camera choices as size becomes a non-issue (within reason). My camera choice is still up in the air with the SL202 still being an option, but webcams, such as this Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000, becoming more attractive.

Pictures to come!

 

DIY 8mm Telecine

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Bell and Howell Regent 122 L

Along with literally thousands of 35mm slides, my family also has reels of home movies still on 8mm film. They were transferred to VHS tape using the time tested method of “project the movies on a white sheet in the attic and record the sheet with a video camera.” While better than nothing, this method has several shortcomings.

  1. Clarity is poor
  2. Contrast is non-existent and the image looks washed out
  3. The video flickers

Bell and Howell Model 122 Switches & Faceplate

The proper way to preserve film is to scan it frame-by-frame with a telecine. I picked up my family’s trusty old Bell and Howell Regent Model 122 L Standard 8mm projector on Easter and began the planning process to convert it into a telecine. Telecine’s do not need to be complicated devices – in essence, the image from each frame of film must be projected onto an image sensor and the image recorded each time the frame changes. The images are then reassembled (via computer in this case) to make a motion video. For such a machine to be constructed, a few challenges exist:

  1. How is the video projected onto the image sensor?
  2. How are frames detected?
  3. How quickly can the sensor react to frame changes and record an image?
    1. If below 16 frames-per-second, how is the film kept from burning?
    2. How is the projector run slowly enough to prevent dropped frames?
  4. How is the Telecine equipment packaged to fit on the projector and out of the way of the film?

On inspection, the Bell and Howell appears to make a reasonable Telecine platform. The lamp, currently a 500 watt halogen bulb that burns so hot it is air cooled by the fan motor, is easily replaced with a cold LED light source. This will prevent any possibility of the film burning during the telecine transfer process. For frame detection, the model 122 is equipped with a manual frame advance knob on the front. It is spring loaded so as not to turn while the projector is running, but the spring is easily removed so that the knob may remain engaged. The knob makes exactly one rotation each frame advance, making frames easily detectable with nothing more than a crude cam & micro-switch.

For the image sensor, I ruined my Samsung SL202 10.2MP digital camera while vacationing in Japan. Sand became trapped in the zoom lens and the camera failed to operate, but the camera is otherwise functional making it a great platform for this project. To start, I carefully disassembled the camera and removed the zoom lens from the CCD image sensor. With some careful prodding, the camera decided that the lens was “open” and came to life – but with the CCD removed from the lens. The CCD was then positioned in front of the projector’s lens where the image is cast onto the bare sensor. This direct projection will allow for a high quality film transfer.

Packaging constraints are more challenging. Bell and Howell placed the 8mm film reels in front of the lens, exactly where I was hoping to mount the camera. The fit is tight while using 200 foot film reels, but impossible with the included 400′ take up reel. Thankfully the CCD is on a short ribbon cable, allowing the camera itself to mounted out of the way with the CCD directly in front of the projector lens.

The sum of these preliminary steps is a very close to operational standard 8 telecine. A few minor steps have yet to be addressed like shutter control and power delivery on the camera, but overall the project is progressing far quicker than expected. A bonus to using the SL202 is that it outputs video via RCA when it is powered on but not taking pictures. This allows for an unsynchronized, higher quality transfer to tape or DVD. Alternatively, frame capture software can be utilized (via a capture card like this Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1850) instead of the camera to record each frame at a lower quality but possibly faster rate.

Stay tuned for more updates! I just purchased 8mm film to test the projector / telecine with (don’t use family video for testing!). Pictures to follow.

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