Film Advancement - moving the film


I like the idea of the reflective cell. Have you tried using one? Wonder what kind of conditions they need to work well.

Found these with a quick Google search:

Honeywell Sensing and Control Part Number HLC1395-001

Fairchild QRD1114 Reflective Object Sensor

Honeywell Sensing and ControlPart Number HOA1405-001

And then there’s the [6 pages of results at Digi-Key][1].

Anyone know what factors I should consider when buying one? Happy to do tests on multiple units too.

Sprocket Registration

@cmacd I’m not sure I quite understand the second suggestion, though. Could you draw a quick sketch? Thanks!!

@throwcomputer Sounds like an interesting approach if I understand it correctly. When you say dumbed down, but also does CV - does that mean a low-res camera, like a webcam?

OpenCV can be processor heavy, especially when running in real-time and definitely when done at higher speeds. And you’re right about the frame lines becoming an issue when there are fade-to-black areas, night scenes, title cards, etc. Good call there.

To your last point, re:

Not sure I get that one. Could you try explaining again? Sounds interesting also…

Sprocket Registration

PS - I’m copying links to these posts over to the Sprocket Registration thread since it seems that’s what this is about, primarily.


OK, About the suggestion to use a photocell or two to look at the frame line, I guess the easiest way to think if it might be to consider the reading of the sound track on a conventional projector. The Sound head looks at the light and dark parts of the track and generates a signal resembling the analog sound waveform.

Imagine moving the sound head over into the image area. You would get a variable waveform corresponding to the image, but a square Pulse corresponding to the frame line. Much wider and more predictable from 35mm film of course where the frame lines are HUGE.

Process that with some virtual circuitry inspired by a television sync separator (the waveform will look somewhat like a a TV sync Pulse) and you have your frame line detector. quite apart from counting perforations. The slight complication is that the frame line could either be Black or White, which would result in detecting either the top or the bottom of the frame line. But perfection may not be needed if the stabilisation software has multiple reference points to work on.

I am just doing wild eyed thinking out loud here of course.


I NEVER would have thought of that. It makes sense though, especially if you know that the film is moving at a constant speed - you could increase accuracy in problem areas by blindly relying on the frequency of the average frame find. That way fades to black, etc, could still be captured reliably. I’ll have the think on this one…


I have an old Bell & Howell 16mm projector. I imagined if I replaced the main motor with a slower geared servo motor it could become a film advancement mechanism. It really has mostly everything, two reels, gate etc. Just saying. The lamp could be replaced by a quality led and diffuser. The lens could be replaced by the camera. I know, easier said than done.


Hi Everyone - I wanted to share my 35mm scanner with the Kinograph community. The kinograph project inspired me to do this.

I use a Moviola for my film transport and a Red Epic Dragon for capture via Tokina 100mm macro. Built a trigger box for the RED + Arduino Debouncer for accurate triggering. Also made custom switch triggered by the sound head shaft.

***I’m really interested in the software sound decoding. If anyone can point me in the right direction that would be amazing.

If you have any questions or would like more detailed pictures of my setup let me know.

Here’s the scanner in action:
Password: 35mm

Here’s my first test scan with the A.I trailer (not stabilized)
Note: It’s normal for this trailer to go from 4 perfs 4:3 to 1:85 on FX shots because they did the FX @2K
Password: 35mm


Very nice, Robino. When the RED One first came out, I approached RED with a similar idea, but they weren’t interested, and I didn’t have the engeneering know-how to do it on my own. Well done!

As to registering the sprocket holes; remember that it is not always possible to recognize where a frame starts, as the edges are often black. There can also be copied in instabilities and gate size changes.
As to having a fixed rotation length - remember that film does shrink, and often unevenly (also because a roll of film can consist of various types and batches of film stock).
As to registering the sprocket holes visually, you might want to look into an IR sensor. The Scanity has a seperate camera that scans just the sprocket holes with infrared and then calculates the correct positioning on the fly.
It is important to take into account that sprocket holes can be damages, torn or even non existent.

For stabilisation afterwards it is important to scan as much of the frame as possible, preferably parts of the previous and following picture and as much of the sprocket holes as possible.


Thanks for all the information, very interesting idea to have a separate camera for the tracking.


I like this…while I’m not up to speed technically quite yet, couldn’t we build something that counts sprocket holes that isn’t a sprocket? I too worry about film shrink and this not being “quite right” with certain films…and not wanting to do harm to them.

That said, I think you could easily enough use a photocell or laser to simply count each hole as it goes by in the floating gate, and in the same manner, tell the flash and shutter to fire. Of course, this idea won’t even work if the film is missing sprocket holes. So maybe a frame counter?

Or am I crazy? Or was this already suggested above and I missed it? :smile:

Cheers all!



Please excuse my ignorance - I am a digital film maker and have never worked with film, but aren’t you reinventing the wheel?
Hasn’t the problem been solved by projectors?
Otherwise the image would creep up or down the wall as the movie progressed.
So, why don’t you just repeat their mechanics - with a digital mechanism instead of a mechanical one.

That link shows how an old school projector moves the film based on the holes, therefore every frame is always centred.
Instead of the purely mechanical process you could use two servos, one to insert a pin into the hole, and the other to move it along one or two holes distance exactly every time.
Once you have the amplitude of distance between the leading edge of each hole, the image should stay in the same place of every picture.

Or have I made some ignorant assumptions?


Ps - this is a great project, please keep up the great work, our global history and culture needs it.


@robinojones looks great! Now if only we could get Moviolas for everyone! Personally I’d be thrilled just to see one.

@Martin_Weiss I did some testing while back with a RED on the Kinograph prototype and it worked great. We hacked the remote trigger cable and used its stop-motion features to create individual files for each frame. The software RED uses picked it up great and assembled the video for us no problem. Ideally, the Kinograph design would be able to take a variety of capture camera options so that it could be more flexible - and more affordable since you wouldn’t have to buy a whole new camera system if you already have one that works.

As @EMW points out, the mechanics are the same. Unfortunately, @EMW, manufacturing the moving parts necessary to maintain accurate intermittent motion is difficult and expensive. At least, that’s what my research has shown. Also, the claw or pin mechanism is considered by many to be dangerous when scanning old film. Although, you are correct in observing that projectors do a perfectly find job moving film. Many people have hacked projectors into scanners and it’s a very viable option if you have the know-how to hack one yourself.

Loving these forums.


Another way of transporting. When I was a programmer of mainframes (long, long ago) we worked with tape units. While mounting the tape was sucked into those long shafts bij underpressure. The tape had a blistertape on it to indicate the start of the readable/writeable section. The tape stayed in the shafts. There were sensors in the shaft to ensure that the loop was correct all the time. These sensors controlled the spindles. Speeds of several meters per second were possible.


Man, those machines are beautiful.


A Geneva Drive driving the wheels with pins (maybe less dangerous)?
But I think it would be fixed to 1 type of film…
And there is maybe no garantee you need no digital tracking later.
And the Geneva Drive might wear out too quickly with 3D prints.
And but… :wink:

EDIT: OTOH it could solve the contrast problem with trigger time detection, as the Geneva Drive may be easier to mark for a photo cell?


Embedding a magnet and using a hall effect sensor is way more reliable than using optical triggers.


i would like to know some specifications about motors which i can use. thank you


In regards to the frame float issue when using a stepper motor, I do believe this can be completely compensated for in software. Basically, you accumulate the error as (in fractional steps) and always output the number of steps that minimizes that error. If it’s a geared stepper, it’s best if you can determine the exact gear ratio. I have tried this with a geared stepper that has a known fractional gear ratio. With error compensation, I can step the motor through thousands of revolutions and observe that the shaft stops at the exact same angle it started from.


That sounds like the approach used in the Pi telecine project. He set the camera to capture a bit outside of the image frame and then somehow compared the position of the current frame to the position of the edge of visible area. He then fed that back to the program to adjust how far the stepper motor should turn.

I’m guessing this is mostly an issue when using the motor to drive the take-up spool directly. If you had the motor moving the film across the gate, then you should be able to make fairly accurate predictions of how much to move the film, since the motor only needs to turn the amount of each frame. In that approach, though, I’m assuming you’d need separate motors to drive the take up and feed reels.


Granted, a bit late to respond…

I am using 3 motors, one for each reel (DC motors) and a stepper motor to drive the film.