A sample 16mm scan from the Retroscan 2K

I finally got my Retroscan going. Pretty happy with it. The set up cost for a Lasergraphics is $7,500…which is more than the entire Retroscan cost. So lotto has to cooperate to buy a Lasegraphics.

If you got clear edge film you will need a Lasergate which is a couple thousand extra. The stock Retroscan gates don’t do clear edge film well. They prefer black edge film.

Hunting Season 1939…they hunt bear, deer and rabbits. Possibly shot in PA or the Tri-State Ohio Valley area, but could be anywhere in the mid-Atlantic / East Coast region. ‘Atlantic White Flash’ gas station sign clearly visible.

This is a 16mm home movie that was spliced together with scotch tape. Parts of the film were suffering from vinegar syndrome and warped. Lots of breaks and blown sprocket holes.

Some nice vintage Kodachrome color footage mixed in. Much of the color is remarkably good. Kodak changed the recipe for Kodachrome in 1938 and most of it has held up pretty good in dark storage. Prior to '38, most of the Kodachrome has color shifted. Film stock codes (color and BW) date the film as 1939.

16mm Kodachrome had an ASA rating of 10. That made it pretty hard to shoot at dusk or dawn. Some of the footage in the film is greatly underexposed and had to be pushed in the scan to view the images.

I will offer free 16mm scans for films (Prefer 400 to 800 foot reels, silent. But will consider sound.) You pay shipping both ways. Catch is film has to interest me and I put the digital output of your film in my archive. Family films are OK, as long as they interest me. If you want single fame TIFF or JPEG output, you supply a hard drive or SSD. Otherwise I make something fit a DVD with a AVI file.

Write direct if interested:


The Lasergate that you’re referring to is actually a modification to the stock gate. MovieStuff calls it LightPin.

I just got my 16mm gate modified with the LightPin sensor, and it’s doing a pretty good job with film that’s in decent shape.

But you’re completely right about clear-edged film. Without the LIghtPin modification, the stock sensor on the RetroScan gates is jumpy and jittery with commercially-printed, clear-edged films like vintage 16mm TV commercials.

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Yes, I found the same issues as you say. I thought it was me. I scanned the same clear edge film 20+ times and could get nowhere.

What type of issues do you have with the new gate with film that is not in good shape? I have tons of bad shape, clear edge films. I kept my original gate, so I do have 2 16mm options once the other gate arrives.

I tried to stabilize the jumpy footage with Movavi software but it cropped the image and made a twisted distortion at the splices. I could cut out the twisted distortion, but I didn’t like the crop. Maybe some better software could stabilize. The Movavai did a good job stabilizing other than this issue.

When I get the new gate I will work on sound films. I plan to capture sound off a sound projector and marry to the Retroscan. Will start with narrated films that do not have to have perfect synch. I know the company makes a sound module, but trying to work without it. It sounds a little too complex for me.

When I got my LightPinned/modified gate back from MovieStuff last week, the first film I tried to transfer was a 1957 film that had some pretty bad warping. Previous water damage.

I tried to transfer the film several times, but it kept jumping a few frames right at the beginning. Nothing I could do to make it better.

I have noticed that vertical registration is noticeably better, but horizontal (side-to-side) registration is still a little unpredictable. I need to do more tests to confirm this, but that’s my initial observation.

I have an iMac Pro. When I stabilize, I use Motion to do the work. It takes a lot of horsepower, but it does a good job of locking the picture. I always choose one of the perforations on the side of the film as my reference for registration. Like you, I sometimes have to adjust a keyframe here or there, but Motion works (for the most part).

Regarding your audio, I would use the free software called AEO Light. Don’t run your films through a projector. Like, never again. AEO Light scans the optical track and creates a WAV file that you can import into your NLE and synchronize with the picture. It works with optical density and variable density soundtracks. Try it, and good luck!

Thanks, I will check out AEO Light. So you scan your films twice. Once for the sound extraction and once for the image. Is that how you do it? Yes, projection always carries a risk, I prefer a non-projection method.

You only have to scan once. Just make sure you scan the optical track in addition to the picture. You do this easily if you choose 16:9 2K in your scanning settings. (Don’t choose 4:3 2K!)

Once you export a movie from the scan, AEO Light uses that movie to analyze the optical track and export a WAV file.

It’s open source software, and there are Mac, Windows, and Linux versions you can download. It’s a lifesaver.

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Just browsing and saw some RetroScan buzzing, I just got my LightPin mod as well ( took long enough), and was having a similar issue, I spoke with Roger on this matter and he seems to think it is the Reverse Motor, are yours old? Seems gritty? I have ordered some new motors and hopefully that will solve the issue. What I have done to help the jumping is turn it on slow and actually put my hand on the reel to give it some resistance turn it on, and then once it is moving bump it up to fast. Seems to work well, and have been working with 16mm films from 20’s onward.

I hope this helps!

Hmm. I haven’t tried this technique.

My RetroScan is fairly new. I bought it in December 2017, and it has been very lightly used. I used it a few times after I bought it, but I was never happy with the stability of the scans.

Then in January, Roger announced the LightPin upgrade, and it was like he was fulfilling a personal request that I had made for the RetroScan. I bought the upgrade immediately and then, like you, waited three months for him to get it together.

As of this writing, I have been using my LightPin-modded 16mm gate for a week, but I don’t yet feel confident to post a review. I’ve only transferred one 16mm television commercial from 1964. I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to decide what the best “flat scan” settings are so that I have good dynamic range when I do color correcting in my nonlinear editor (for me, Final Cut Pro X). As a result, I’ve transferred that same commercial FIVE times trying to develop settings that are satisfactory.

Even then, I noticed that horizontal registration started fluctuating near the end of the reel. I added some leader film at the end hoping to solve the problem. No luck. The film print was in perfect condition. New in the box when I opened it last week. It’s not warped or damaged.

I need to transfer more films before I can feel confident passing judgement on the LightPin gate modification. One 60-second commercial is not enough of a sample size to write a review. So I’ll transfer a few more short films and see how I feel about it after that.

Always great to hear from another RetroScan owner! After all, I have zero interest in building this gear myself. Personally, I would rather be turning vintage film content into money rather than engineering a film transfer solution. But even the RetroScan is a challenge to operate, because there are so many different film stocks, and they all have their own problems!

Good luck solving yours! —Todd Ruel

P.S. There’s a RetroScan users’ group on Facebook. If you’re not already a member, look for it, and join the club! Roger is on it regularly.

Yes agreed, I am aware of the group just not on FB to add any content. I see, yes I have the 16mm gate also one LightPin and one standard. Are your sprocket holes wandering left and right? Just so I know what you mean by horizontal. I am a film maker working in S8/16mm and use the Retro to digitize to make edits before I splice my original. I haven’t had this horizontal problem, and certainly not with the new LightPin, it is beyond solid. I have been interested in getting a flat scan myself especially with color negative film. What capture program are you using? I assume you have the Chameleon 2K camera?

I’m using the 2K camera that Roger sells with the RetroScan. (Is that the Chameleon?) I think it does a good job. I would love for it to be 2048x1556, but hey, I always want more.

The next thing I want Roger to do is to offer a 4K camera with 10-bit color depth.

I recently sent a 1969 TV commercial to a professional facility that does professional film restoration. I scanned it with the RetroScan. They said that they couldn’t do much color restoration, because there wasn’t much color left, and the scan was 8-bit. I instantly understood this to be a huge problem, because with 8-bit color depth, you can’t do very much color correction. You don’t have a lot of latitude when you’re adjusting colors or lift/gamma/gain.

However, the facility said that vintage black and white films would probably be fine with the RetroScan. So my plan moving forward is to scan vintage black and white content with some flat scan settings that I’ve developed through trial and lots of error. (Color Channels: no adjustment. Gain=0. Shadow Details=+40.) These settings give me enough dynamic range to make my shots look good.

Roger feels that my side-to-side shifting might be caused by using small supply reels. This might be true. When I’m transferring vintage TV commercials, I have kept them on their original plastic 100’ reels. These reels might be too small and might be causing the films to wobble violently when the end of the film is reached during scanning. I’ll try switching to metal 600’ or 800’ reels. The wider circumference of these reels might solve that problem.

Forgot to mention one thing: my case use for the RetroScan is different from Roger’s target market. I use it to scan film clips that I will upload to Getty Images and sell as stock footage. I do not currently transfer people’s old home movies.

High resolution and stability are even more important to me, and I’m willing to pay for them. Even if Roger added every feature that I wanted, his RetroScan would still be cheaper than the next most expensive scanner, which is the BlackMagic Cintel film scanner at $30,000.

I hope he can increase the resolution and the color bit depth. That’s high on my wish list.

-----Todd Ruel

No, my motor is new. I had the unit in storage as I had some issues with my living arrangements and could not put it in operation right away.

I did notice a spot on the sensor that shows up when you scan white leader. Came that way brand new. I always had the lens on and sealed in a clean place an covered up. So it was nothing I had did. Leica cameras had dozens of similar spots on their defective brand new Monochrome sensors. The Japanese seem to have clean sensors. Although my sensor issue may be a fluke. And is not a big deal as it only shows up on clear or white leader. But If I had caught it in a timely fashion I would have asked for a new 2K camera.

Hmm how big is the spot? or is it a defective pixel? almost all sensors have an amount of defective pixel straight from the manufacture, but have a pixel defective chart that you can manually find and average the surrounding pixels from. Or does it look like dust? What is your aperture set at?

I have the standard software and 2K camera for the Retroscan Universal.

Still learning about software. I have Movavai I use for rough work. I would like to get some better color grading post processing software. Otherwise Movavi serves me well for cut and past and sound work.

Facebook banned me years ago, so can’t participate there.

I don’t make any $$ with this. Use it for archival purposes.

It is not a pixel, pretty big spot. As big as a pencil eraser on a monitor size view of the film image. I took the lens out and gave it a blow with my syringe, but it did not help. Spot is in lower left quadrant. I didn’t look in it with lens removed. I am not a fan of sensor cleaning on cameras. I’ve had dozens of digital cams and never an issue, except the Leica’s and their defective sensors. Had a couple of old Epson RD1 6mp cams that had a few spots. But they were ancient and surprised they didn’t have more spots. Epson, Leica spots showed up in the sky.

I use f8 to scan. That may show more spots. Leica said using a small aperture would show spots possibly…right in their brochures / paperwork that came with the original Monochrom! It was some type of instruction sheet to minimize spots. Pretty sad for a crazy $$ Leica. Luckily Leica fixed them for free. But it too about a year to get them done.

You can check for spots by scanning clean white leader. Close down the aperture and see what you get.

Yes, concur with everything you said. Reel size, 4K, $30K Blackmagic, etc. Just can’t comment on color correction. I tried Movavi for faded pink film and could get nowhere. I turned it black and white and it was fine.

You can experiment on your own with the TIFF scans the Retroscan produces with Lightroom or Photoshop. I have not as yet. I didn’t know how to get single image scans until recently. Someday I will see what can be done with Lightroom.

Here is an old 8mm scan I had done a few years ago. One with noise reduction, other sample no NR. Don’t know how or what he did / used. I bought scans both ways incase I didn’t like one. Spent hundreds of $$ for a 8 scan, getting TIFF files, DVD’s, Mp4’s etc. The TIFF all have NR on them. Would have had to pay hundreds more to get a re-scan with o NR. I have 8mm gates for the RS, will get into that later on. More interested in 16mm as of now.

I tried a couple of TIFF scans from the Bearhunt film to do a fast test on. One sample corrected fair. The other sample did not correct. Here are the results.

If you keep correcting for the magenta trees the white snow goes off color. It could be made a little warmer, but trees and snow look different.

I could not get white snow with this one. It goes green or yellow or blue or magenta.

I think even if you got 10K, if the dye layer is gone you may have problem getting good color. But maybe they have some magic movie programs to restore faded pink color? I used Lightroom for these tests.

I have tons of pink films. I was hoping to color correct, but it looks like it is not that easy to get good color. In any case, I am happy if I can get a decent BW image if I can’t get color. I am not into restoration, just into archiving the material. If I have to go to BW I will put a note along with the file that says it was faded and changed to BW.

Here is the spot, more like a shadow, on the sensor. I thought there was another one on the top right corner, but it is not. The only recurring spot is the one with the arrow. It does not show up on the picture.

I was dealing with this issue last week.

Roger told me to use canned, compressed air on the sensor. If that doesn’t work, wrap an old, soft cotton cloth or t-shirt around a pencil eraser and rub that area on the sensor. Seems to have worked for me, but it took several tries, because other spots would show up.

Regarding color correction, always correct luminance first. Then try color correction. Vector scopes are great for monitoring color. Waveform monitors are great for measuring luminance levels.

I don’t know Movavi, but there are great tools out there for free. DaVinci Resolve is the 800-pound gorilla in this area. It’s a free download from BlackMagic Design. It’s what many film restorers use to balance color, restore color, etc. It’s an industry leader, and it’s free. (They have a $300 version that adds tools for networked users, but the free version is also incredibly full featured.)

I use Apple’s Final Cut Pro X, because I have an iMac Pro. FCPX has good color tools, too, but Resolve is much more sophisticated.

To stabilize anything that was still unsteady coming off the scanner, I run it through Apple’s Motion app.

To capture sound, I use the free Mac version of AEO Light.

After using all these tools, I now know why high-end film scanners cost a fortune. They do a lot of the jobs that each of these apps does independently. You save a lot of time having one machine do most of the transfer work.

Turning a crappy piece of film into an enjoyable piece of art takes a lot of time and patience. That much I’ve learned. Learning and replicating the work flow for doing it reliably every time is still a work in progress.

I don’t have Apple. Is it better than Windows for film processing? Movavi is very basic software. But easy to use, so that fits me. I have a free version of Resolve and an old copy or Premier Elements. I didn’t get far with them, will have to study them up more.

I have a demo video of the Lasegraphics scanner. It is a monster. When you see it you can understand why the high cost. The set-up 3 day on site training fee is $7,500 for the Lasergraphics.

If the Retorscan evolves to a 4K camera that would be great!

Be careful with the sensors. I never touch them. They have cleaning kits, but I leave em alone. You can ruin them if not careful. (If we are talking about the type of sensors in a digital camera.)

I never even looked at the Retroscan sensor. I took the lens off to blow it, but left the camera in place with it upside down. With cameras it is a good idea to change lenses with the body pointing down to help keep dust from entering.