Blackmagic Cintel Scanner

I’ve heard that they’re finally coming out of the dark and that people are seeing these in the wild. Has anyone had any experience with them that could report back to the group? -M

Yes I have used one since it was in the prototype stage, let me know what you would like to know about it.

It is quite inferior to the Lasergraphics offerings that are priced in the same bracket, the optics aren’t great, the light-source is really good, and it is sprocket driven, so archives generally won’t touch it.

It is a reasonable scanner, but not great.

Very interesting. I’m surprised they went with sprocket drive. Many people have asked me what I think BlackMagic’s scanner will do to the market and how Kinograph fits into that ecosystem. I’m not entirely sure I have the answer, only because I’m so focused on getting something that works and letting it evolve.

If I had to put an answer out, however, I’d say that Kinograph’s goal is to fill in the gap between $0 - $30K with a practical solution for making film assets accessible. It is, in other words, a way to see what you have and let others see it too. It is not preservation. It’s access.

Or something like that. Still a work in progress.

What’s your take on how Kinograph can really help people, @Peter . You’ve seen the discussions on quality vs. speed vs. price. What do you think we can do effectively that matches with a real need?

To me, the BMD scanner is just a show-piece to have on the wall of the colourist suite, I don’t think it will do very well to be honest.
The Lasergraphics Scanstation Personal ( gives much better results and is in the same ball-park pricewise and has many, far more useful features as well as better quality output.

There are also the Muller scanners in the ‘lower’ price bracket (i.e. the under $50K bracket), and moviestuff has a the sub $5000 market covered with their Retro-line for small format films (8mm to 16mm).
You can also buy a used Imagica XE for under twenty grand if you want 35mm scanning, and they are a truly excellent machine.

To me, there are three main parts of the market that are not currently addressed.

A Sub $1000 film scanner for small format
A sub $5000 scanner for 35mm
A realtime (e.g. 24fps) scanner in any format that is under say $5000, preferably under $2000

I think the dream of covering all formats on a single scanner will likely lead to failure, or compromises that make the system unwieldy. It may be better to come up with a large format, and small format model, that can share the same sensor (and maybe light source) in a quick-swap method, as the sensor and light source are really what dictate the quality, and where a lot of the cost is.

For anyone with a medium to large amount of film to scan, speed is really the key, plus realtim capture means you can also capture any audio at the same time, another big time-saver.

Many argue (that haven’t had to do it) that slower capture speeds are fine.
That 2fps just means it takes 12 times longer to capture than 24fps, so what would have taken you 8 hours on the 24fps unit takes 96 hours on the slow unit - so what if time is plentiful for you?

Well, It isn’t just the faster capture speed that saves time. In the above example you can get through the 8 hours of film in a single ‘work’ day. The 96 hours however means 12 work days, and if that is a 5 day week, then it is 2 and a half weeks now, vs one day turn around.
Plus, life gets in the way, so some days you might only get a few hours in, some not at all, so it ends up taking a month, or two months, and often it means you have to pack it all up and get it all out again between sessions, costing you more time.
In a single 5 day working week on the fast system you might get through what would take 4-6 months to get through on the 2fps system, with the extra delays that slower running tends to introduce. In 3 weeks you could get through what could end up taking a year on the 2fps system.

Even for those with a lot of time, when doing it day after day, you do end up putting off doing it, or worse, decide you can leave it unattended while you go do something else for just a few minutes, and that is when it will decide to eat the film, or jam, or spool out all over the floor…

In my experience too, the longer it takes, the more problems you get, the unexpected windows update that tries to download in the middle of the capture causing dropped frames, other glitches, they add up more when you are taking many hours to do task vs doing it in 1/10th or 1/5th the time.

Anyway, you get the idea, a realtime system is far more feasible in the real-world, and has big benefits even for those with small amounts of film to capture.

This is easily acheivable now with harvesting projectors for the task, but more difficult when building from scratch.

I don’t think an intermittent system is feasible for 24fps on a budget with a scratch built machine, but a continous flash-scan system is relatively easy and could be done inexpensively.

Other quick points, resolution is great, but low noise and wide dynamic range are more important, the price needs to be well under $5K or there are other proven solutions on the market already, realtime is a big feature, and allows capture at the same time.


To me the main question is, who will buy this? What is the market demographic?

As this is going to ba a ‘budget’ or ‘kit’ device, serious archives with real budgets probably wouldn’t touch it anyway, so a sprocket drive is probably fine.

Some people who might want this are:

  1. Home tinkerers
  2. Broke people :smile: that the existing systems are too expensive
  3. Unintentional archive with low funds
  4. Small business (scanning people’s home movies)
  5. Small Film-makers (shooting on S8 or 16 and finishing on PC)
  6. Film collectors

For the archive such as the one that sparked the Kinograph in th first place, where you have hundreds of reels and are not sure what is on them, a Kinograph would let you quickly digitise that archive, work out what is worth preserving and perhaps use the cpatured footage to raise funds for a more professional scan and restoration of the ‘worthy’ reels.
Speed here will be the key, as will capturing sound if it is on the reels.

For the ‘small business’ speed is also paramount, as it dictates how much scanning you can get through a week, faster = more income, and more competitive pricing.

The small film-maker probably wants quality as their most key feature, but their film will be in ‘pristine’ condition, so an IR pass will not be necessary, and the system could run slower if required.

The tinkerer, it probably doesn’t matter as much as far as speed and quality are concerned, it is more important that it can be modified, modular and made to work with whatever projects they might envision.

Film collectors may want to ‘backup’ their films, or save a film that is going bad due to VS or similar, or just able to enjoy the film without running their ‘valuable’ master.

So something realtime, with a variable light source, that can handle minor damage and has a good image quality and is cheap to make and easy to modify and repair.

All users will want RELIABILITY, capturing film is torturous enough with cleaning, resplicing, fragile film, trying to keep gates clean, adjusting for the myriad of variables, you don’t want a clunky machine to add to the frustration.

My gut-feel for how that could be delivered on a budget would equate to:

  • Continuous variable speed drive - 6/18fps/24fps/25fps drive
  • Flashed RGB light source to freeze the frame
  • RGB light source to allow colour adjustment for faded or unbalanced film
  • Slit-scan LED for audio capture
  • Gate with no pressure plate
  • Different kinograph models for different formats (8, S8 and 9.5 could share, 16 and 35 could perhaps share)
  • Sensor and LED module interchangeable for different Kinograph models
  • Integrating sphere light-source for scratch minimisation
  • Large sprocket drive to handle damaged/missing sprockets OR roller driven
  • Hall effect sensor on large sprocket wheel with embedded magnets to trigger on each frame
  • Bayer sensor with 3.4 micron or larger ‘pixels’
  • Sensor options from 720P and up to 4K suit price brackets - upgradeable
    -USB3 or GigE up to 25fps capture
    -Windows/Mac/Linux software to capture, adjust trigger delay, speed, LED RGB mix and flash rate.
  • Schneider Componon (-S) 50mm lens or similar
  • Adjustable focus, with preset known stops.

I know that it would be possible to produce a very good, software controlled light source for under $500 that includes the Windows software to handle all of the above, as well as gamma control and LUT creation, and the sensor could start at US$395, the lens is usually <$100, and the magnets and hall effect senor are <$10, so you could have the lighting, software, sensor and optics covered for about $1000 or less, the rest is mechanics, motors and control boards.
The mechanics could potentially be 3D printed, the ‘gate’ should be machined metal, but could potentially be 3D printed and polished.
I would think you could get away with under $2000 if clever, certainly $2500-$3000 to do something great.

The alternative is to try and make a sub $500 device, which means poorer optics, slower capture, smaller pixels/less dynamic range/more noise, less reliability, you could use a $100 sensor, an intermittent gate, a fixed high CRI white LED, you could evn make it hand cranked, but I think it would end up a curiosity, or maybe let some people who only have a handful of home movies capture something, but it would be little better than poiting the projector at a good quality piece of inkjet photo paper and videoing the resultant image.


I think you are spot on, it is about access, not archive, I’d add that sometimes that means ‘bulk’ amounts of capture, places that have hundreds or more films to sort through and assess.
Which again wants speed, reliability and ease of use, sound and better quality, less hassle than putting it through a projector and pointing a camera at the wall.

@Peter I couldn’t have outlined it better myself. I appreciate the hard stance on speed, too as I had not thought of it in quite that way before.

Having actually used the Cintel scanner (about 5 times on very different kinds of film) now, I can honestly say that it’s good. Most customers I work for do in fact use it for archive. You don’t ‘access’ old film stock, that’d be wasteful. The scanner surprisingly matched the Arri Scan in a 16mm 800asa shootout. In fact, I thought it was slightly easier to use the material and the speed is definately not a drawback.

If you have 35mm low-sensitivity material that you want scanned at it’s maximum potential, this scanner is not for you. If you want your old film scanned way better than the old telecines and with a lot of room to work for color, it’s pretty good. Good value too if you ask me. I’m here looking for a diy alternative, as I can’t afford a scanner for my own (small) company. So far I’ve found it very difficult to get a proper result.

Frankly the most promising idea so far is to take apart for instance a Nikon scanner with Digital ICE built in and rebuild electronics for it, along with having sprockets and a drive made to allow a continuous feed. I generally don’t care about speed at all when working on my own projects. Customers obviously do, but that has to do with my daily rate.

I like the Kinograph a lot, I’m just getting a vibe (sorry, also from the prejudice in this thread) that it’s not being practical about it’s design related to it’s purpose. Have a look at the Filmfabriek Muller scanner. Something like that works pretty well but it’s more built for sub 16mm versatility than anything else. And it’s still pricey.

Completely opposite to our experience, and it didn’t come close to the Scanstation in quality, which is in the same price band.

I have built scanners based on the Nikon Coolscan in the past, but they are painfully slow in practice, the light source is so heavily collimated that you have to spend a ton of time in cleanup, digital ICE is pretty awful compared to other repair algorithms these days, and the light source is not well suited to motion picture film stocks generally.

If you want something for your business, you could build an equivalent to the Muller scanner with the exact same light source, optics and capture sensor for under 5K right now, and that includes all the software, you would just use a projector as the film path and mechanicals.

It depends on your situation. If you have a warehouse full of 35mm film, you may be looking at many thousands of terrabytes to archive it all, and much of it may not be worth archiving at all.

By having a fast, relatively inexpensive way to access those films, you could digitise them all fairly quickly, at good enough quality to select the films that really need archiving, or to use that capture to do a funding pitch for the films that warrant it.

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another market, i know digital but i want to shoot film but scanning at .40 to 60 a foot is just too damn much if i’m going to shoot a couple of features, shorts,

i don’t like those bayer sensors at all, you’re throwing away, color resolution. i think a better way is just to use 3 LED’s, RGB, dump each layer into a tiff file

I have budget of about $8K for a 16mm 2k sound scanner that is reliable and preferably roller driven. Something like the Retroscan in design, but with optical sound. And if need be, the budget can get stretched to $10K.

I manage a photo and small gauge film archive and would like to do sound films in-house. It is sad there is nothing out there for doing sound films on budget. Most of the archive is still photography and ephemera and no problem to deal with, but about 8% of the archive is 8mm and 16mm film and requires a lot of work to manage.

The commercial scanner companies out there don’t want to even talk with you unless you have a ton of $. As an example, it took Lasergraphics 2 months to get back to me after multiple requests. Their cheapest model for home use is about $50k, with shipping and extras on top of that.

Plus they want $7,500 for 3 day set up and on-site training. I inquired further regarding their quote and they never replied, so I gave up on them. Does not instill much confidence in giving them tens of thousands of $.The other scanner companies don’t even reply at all.

As the films slowly to salad dressing, these films will have to be digitized or they will be lost forever. It would be nice if Epson came out with a 16mm sound scanner for $3999.00.

Here is an interesting 16mm on vintage Eastman House I had digitized.

I can’t upload much to YouTube, they banned me after just 6 uploads. It is either copyright or content they don’t like. Hard to do any serious archival work on YT. I got 400+ films in my archive.

@danielteolijr It looks like the same company that makes the Retroscan also has a sound unit: . You will have to use a sound projector to get the sound, though. You can usually find a 16mm projector on eBay in decent shape. Will that work?

I had contacted Retroscan earlier and asked if they have any sample 16mm sound film they had used the sound module on for a reference. They said they had no sound film references to show me. That was a turn off.

I may just try to harvest sound from a projector and sync it by hand to the film as was mentioned earlier. Isn’t it something they used to make sound projectors so cheap that could project optical sound. Now it cost a fortune to do it now on a sound film scanner.

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Ah, I see. That would be a red flag for me too. It did strike me as an odd (although very clever) solution.

Another approach I’ve seen work is what the AACA guys did. They got a sound projector and hooked it up to a sound capture device connected to a PC. Then they had to manually sync the sound file with the Kinograph image sequence in editing software. A few extra steps but definitely within your budget (until the v2 of Kinograph is finished :slight_smile: )

I have a RetroScan Universal 2K. I bought it this past October and received it in December. (They don’t make 'em until you place an order to buy one. That’e why there’s a 3-month gap in delivery.)

Dan, I’m just like you. I have a small 500-film library that is mostly 16mm. A little bit is 8mm. A little bit is 35mm. I was also desperately searching for an affordable transfer solution. I, too, contacted LaserGraphics for a quote, but their salesperson contacted me back right away and explained their costs. Just like you, they told me $50,000 for a LaserGraphics ScanStation Personal. Ouch.

Shortly thereafter, I discovered Roger Evans’ RetroScan Universal 2K. It had just been upgraded to 2K by being fitted with a 2K camera. (The first generation of this scanner did not even have a full 1080p camera.) This was the upgrade that convinced me to spend $6,500 for the scanner, a 16mm gate, and a Regular 8/Super 8mm gate.

After several months of experience with this scanner, I can tell you that the RetroScan is a solid piece of gear. I can also tell you that you get what you pay for.

The RetroScan is aimed at small businesses that transfer Regular 8 and Super 8 home movie film. It does a great job with this type of film, because there is information printed out to the edge of the celluloid. The RetroScan’s sensor does a great job of differentiating between the sprocket holes and the film.

However, and this is crucial, the RetroScan does NOT do a good job with commercially printed films that do not have visual information printed out to the edge of the film. The sensor/machinery is not sophisticated enough to discern between a sprocket hole and the film, because there’s nothing printed there.

I have been wrestling with this since I bought the machine. No matter what I do, I can’t stabilize 16mm commercially-printed films while I’m transferring them. No way, no how. I have to take the files into Final Cut Pro X on my Mac and split them up into shots and stabilize them. (I’ve tried using Apple Motion, but tracking the movement and jumps in the sprocket holes is a huge CPU resource hog.) Adobe AfterEffects produces the same results.

I also have to do all the color correction myself in programs like Final Cut Pro X or DaVinci Resolve.

All in all, using the RetroScan requires a ton of post-production labor to get a stable, color corrected image.

Bottom Line: as I said before, you get what you pay for. The RetroScan does scan film, and it produces really nice images. However, there are no stabilization features and very few color correction features. Now I know why the competitors’ products begin at $50,000.

I’m considering whether to save up $20,000 for a Diamant Film Restoration workstation to deal with these transfers or find a way to save up $50,000 for a LaserGraphics station. Or should I just send the films off to a film transfer house that already has all this gear? (Also very expensive!)

If you’ve read this far, I have some good news for you. Sound might be the least of your worries. Roger Evans recommends some free software called AEO Light. It’s a godsend for people like us. It’s free software that quickly and accurately analyzes the variable optical or variable density soundtracks printed on a film and turns them into a WAV file that you can import into your editing software. It’s free, and it works miracles. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Hope this helps you understand why professional film transfer equipment is so expensive and what you’re getting (or not getting) when you consider buying one of these machines.

----Todd Ruel


RetroScan Universal 2K update: since I wrote the post above, Roger Evans has released an upgrade for all film gates that he sells for the RetroScan. It’s called LightPin.

With the LightPin upgrade on your film gate, the film scans are much more stable. The revised sensor measures whether there is an object blocking the sensor (the film itself) or nothing in between (the film’s sprocket holes). It’s much more accurate. I bought it for my 16mm film gate, and it cuts down on the amount of stabilization I have to do after scanning.

I was an early bird purchaser, and the modification to my existing 16mm gate costed $1,100. It costs about $1,200 now.

If you trick out the RetroScan Universal 2K with all the bells and whistles, you’ll spend about US $10,000. That’s still about $20K cheaper than the BlackMagic Cintel Film Scanner. The RetroScan is still the best/most affordable film scanner in its class on the market today.

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@ToddRuel thank you for the update. It sounds like Retroscan has a solid offering with a good reputation. They’ve been around a while and have continued to make improvements to their product while maintaining quality. That’s a great example for Kinograph.

Good to know their price point as well. Thank you for that!

I hope offering a 35mm/16mm scanner will be of value to people out there. I imagine there are many collections that house both formats. However, I do not expect smaller collections to have 35mm. If we can get Kinograph to that price point, we still have to be able to deliver the peace of mind that it just works, and that we as a community will stand behind the product with technical support, upgrades, etc.

It’s a tall order and one that will take time but I believe we can do it!


One small correction: the RetroScan Universal is not a 35mm scanner. It can do 8mm, Super 8, 16, 17.5, and a few others. But not 35mm. Roger Evans, the inventor, did not cr.eate a 35mm gate for it.

Otherwise, I agree that it’s a great value. If you can master color correction and image stabilization, there’s nothing even close to it on the market.

-----Todd Ruel