Motion picture film scanner

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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, 8K Video Format, or 16K resolutions. (2K is approximately 2048×1080 pixels and 4K is approximately 4096×2160 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 color 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[edit]

Image processing[edit]


  • Single frame intermittent pull-down:
    • Lasergraphics - The Director 2K/4K, 19 frames per second
    • Kodak's Cineon, the first system designed for DI work, included a scanner, tapes drives, workstations and a film recorder.
    • ARRI scanner, Arriscan
    • Filmlight - Northlight Film scanning, single frame intermittent scanner
    • Cintel's diTTo
  • Continuous motion scanning:
    • Walde - FilmStar 4K UHD 2K @ 25fps, 4K UHD @ 6fps. 35mm/16mm/8mm archive quality, continuous motion capstan driven.
    • MWA Nova Vario series with patented laser-based, sprocket and claw free transport for 16/35mm for realtime (24/25fps) scanning with sensors for either 2K+ 2236 x 1752, or 2.5K+ HDR High Dynamic Range at 2560 x 2160, direct optical and magnetic sound on and 16 and 35mm.
    • MWA Nova Choice 2K+ patented laser-based, sprocket and claw free transport for 8/Super8, 9.5mm, 16mm realtime (24/25fps) scanning w at 2K+, 2236 x 1752 with direct optical and magnetic sound on 16mm, magnetic from main and balance stripes on 8, Super8. Faster than real time scanning at lower resolution.
    • Lasergraphics - ScanStation 2K, 60+ frames per second
    • GE4 - Golden Eye Four - Filmscanner, 38 Mega Pixel camera. LED light source and continuous film transport using Capstan. From Digital Vision.
    • 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[edit]