Motion picture film scanner

Motion picture film scanner

A motion picture film scanner is a device used in digital filmmaking to scan original film for storage as high-resolution digital intermediate files.

A film scanner scans original film stock: negative or positive print or reversal/IP. Units may scan gauges from 8 mm to 70 mm (8 mm, Super 8, 9.5 mm, 16 mm, Super 16, 35 mm, Super 35, 65 mm and 70 mm) with very high resolution scanning of 2K, 4K or 8K Video Format resolutions. (2K is approximately 2048×1556 pixels and 4K is approximately 4096×3112 pixels).

Some makes of film scanner are intermittent pull-down film scanners which scan each frame individually, locked down in a pin-registered film gate, taking roughly a second per frame. Continuous-scan film scanners, where the film frames are scanned as the film is continuously moved past the imaging pick up device, are typically evolved from earlier telecine mechanisms, and can act as such at lower resolutions.

The scanner scans the film frames into a file sequence (using high-end data storage devices), whose single file contains a digital scan of each still frame; the preferred image file format used as output are usually Cineon, DPX or TIFF, because they can store colour information as raw data, preserving the optical characteristics of the film stock. These systems take a lot of storage area network (SAN) disk space. The files can be played back one after each other on high-end workstation non-linear editing system (NLE) or a virtual telecine systems. The playback is at the normal rate of 24 frames per second (or original projection frame rate of: 25, 30 or other speeds). Each year hard disks get larger and are able to hold more hours of movies on SAN systems. The challenge is to archive this massive amount of data on to data storage devices.

The scanned footage is edited and composited on work stations then mastered back on film, see film out and digital intermediate. Scanned film frames may also be used in digital film restoration. The film may also be projected directly on a digital projector in the theater. The film may be converted to SDTV (NTSC or PAL) video TV systems.


Imaging device

Image processing


  • Single frame intermittent pull-down (about 1 frame/s):
    • Kodak's Cineon, the first system designed for DI work, included a scanner, tapes drives, workstations and a film recorder.
    • Lasergraphics - The Director 9 frame/s (HD, 1.85 and 3-perf); 6.8 frame/s (2K full aperture); 1 frame/s (4K full aperture); 8 frame/s (16mm HD or 2K)
    • ARRI scanner, Arriscan
    • Filmlight - Northlight Film scanning, single frame intermittent scanner
    • IMAGICA Technologies Corp. - IMAGER XE single frame intermittent scanner
    • Cintel's diTTo
  • Continuous motion scanning:
    • Golden Eye Filmscanner 2K at 12 frame/s, 4K at 3 frame/s, HD in real time. LED light source and continuous film transport using Capstan. From Image Systems AB.
    • Spirit DataCine - SDC2000 with data option, DFT Digital Film Technology (1920 pixels in realtime at 4 frame/s) (can be switched to telecine mode)
    • Spirit DataCine 4K/2K with the data option, DFT Digital Film Technology (2K realtime at 24 frame/s or 4K scans at 6 frame/s) (can be switched to telecine mode, only if it has this option)
    • Scanity uses continuous transport using capstan and a LED light source. Transfer speeds: 15 frame/s @ 4K , 25 frame/s @ 2K.
    • Cintel's C-Reality/DSX and ITK - Millennium/dataMill.
    • P+S Technik - SteadyFrame Universal Format Film Scanner

See also

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