I Have No Engineering Experience, Where Do I Start?

Hello everyone,

First off, I just want to say that I’m incredibly impressed with the polite and ambitious community you have built up here with Kinograph!

I’m a young writer/filmmaker with a deep artistic love of shooting on film, specifically 16mm!

However, I have no engineering or coding experience, and my technical experience is limited to troubleshooting with digital camera such as the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.

I am utterly impressed with @majumder’s 16mm scanner design, but I cannot seem to understand how it functions or how I should start attempting to create one on my own.

Is there any advice that anyone here has in terms of where to start? Can I build a simpler Kinograph that sacrifices some quality for a simpler build?

Thanks so much.


Hi @Luc_Hagopian. I’m so glad you’re here. I really want the Kinograph community to be a place where both technical and non-technical people can feel at-home and like they have something to contribute.

The short answer to your question is that there are three options I can think of:

a) ask @majumder for detailed documentation that can walk a non-technical person through building their own machine. I’m not intimately familiar with his build so I’m not sure if this is possible but it’s worth asking for. It’s a compliment to the maker that you want to try!

b) Wait for Kinograph v2, which should be ready by Summer/Fall 2021 (with full plans published by Spring 2021, which you could use to build your own, but which may not be come with full assembly instructions just yet).

c) Pair up with a technical partner! I recommend checking out Meetups in your area or engineering societies. Something good to know about DIYers is that we are always looking for a cool project to work on. If you are willing to help them and support them (as opposed to saying hey, build this for me) then I think it could be a good way to get a build going. And you can always ask the forums here for support along the way.

Hope that helps!

Hello @Luc_Hagopian, and welcome to this community, which I am personally thankful for.

I must admit that the short video I took of the 16mm scanner looks much better than reality, if you know what I mean.

In terms of building it, it was a 1-2 month long project, building it incrementally, with two steps forward, one step back, re-evaluate, re-design, order new components from Amazon, decide that the ones I ordered are not perfect, evaluate whether to make do with what I ordered or order new, and so on. Rinse and repeat every 3-4 days.
Thus, it is definitely not recommended for non-engineers and non-coders. If you still want to start, you should be willing to attempt all of these things

  • Operate a drill, make holes and figure out why a specific screw does not work with another nut.
  • Connect a USB cable from your laptop or PC to an Arduino and figure out why one of the pins is “not working” (hint- it is working just fine)
  • Have a basic 3D printer at home, and tweak dimensions by fractions of millimeters to try to make rollers with the correct sprocket pitch for different kinds of 16mm films
  • Write Arduino code and try to figure out why the film is not advancing while the camera merrily takes photos

You get the idea. Long story short- Matt’s Version 2 is what I am waiting for as well.

But, if you want to start, I have some very cryptic documents posted (perhaps you have already seen them):



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Maybe there is a part d). where enthusiastic junior-level scanner-wannabees like me can at least get rolling on the learning side of things in advance of any official 2.0 release. I was thinking that maybe it would be a good idea to acquire some element of the ‘potential’ Kinograph 2.0 that is undoubtedly/‘for sure’ going to be in the final device then messing with it - learning how to use it. I am specifically thinking of the arduino controller (we will be implementing that right?).

Believe me people, if you are an average Joe or Jill reading this forum it can be vexing. I have a pretty good technical background and a lot of experience working with film and digital, and I am still lost as f*** in this forum. It takes real work to consolidate and put the pieces together. However, I think what is emerging here is ultra-magnifique. The community is growing and the contributions from the brain-trust are accumulating so that the forum is jammed with amazing intel.

Maybe there is a way to mobilize some of the folk that are on the fringes of the development but that would take a lot of coordination, and could actually divert the the brain-trust from essential development, IMHO (have you ever had an intern work in your office…?!). Once Kinograph 2.0 is finalized the ‘community’ could get involved in testing, feedback and more.

So, Luc_Hagopian, I guess the question has to be - are you patient enough and willing to wait a while to get started scanning your project? In my case, I have hundreds of films I want to scan, but I decided to prioritize improving the quality of my storage conditions for my films over building a Kinograph, for now. I wouldn’t mind tinkering in the meantime with an arduino or other controller but that is where I’m at.

@Jitterfactor I love this idea. In fact, I’ve long held a wish to build a a learning track that introduces all the skills necessary to build a Kinograph for people with no technical experience. It would be kind of like an “Inventors Boot Camp” where you learn a little electronics, CAD, and design processes. I’d really like Kinograph to be an educational platform that enables other enthusiasts to dip their proverbial toes into the waters of DIY making.

In the meantime, I can offer my course on Arduino basics here for getting up to speed with the electronics side of things.

@Jitterfactor @Luc_Hagopian what things would you like to learn? You are our demographic so your input could help steer the development of the learning platform. Let us know!

I’ll also add a new pinned post to the forum’s home page that helps guide newcomers a bit more. A high-level view of the components that make up a Kinograph and how they come together, what decisions go into each one, etc.

Great post.

Wow… I wish I would have asked this question a year ago! After unpacking the wealth of info in the “Kinograph Overview” I feel like a doorway has opened. Finally, there is a clearer pathway to understanding the basic concepts underlying the Kinograph development process. I never knew that the Arduino course (nicely done Matthew Epler) existed! I started watching it on Vimeo and its exactly what I need to get that base-level knowledge.

One of the things that I find challenging about ‘getting up to speed’ is that there are so many learning pathways open to me that its hard to know where to focus my limited time. I don’t want to waste time going down a rabbit hole that leads to minimal returns. I think the benefit of following a learning path directed by the Kinograph Community is that it reduces information overload. Sometimes I don’t really want to hear options - I need that teacher who says you HAVE TO read this or that… or perhaps the guide that gets people started learning the nuts and bolts behind the Kinograph is thoughtfully limited in options.

I think the Kinograph Overview does that well. However, I do have a couple questions - you mentioned we may move to KiCAD instead of Fusion360/Eagle for circuit design, and FreeCAD for CAD instead of Fusion360. How likley is that that these two changes will take place? If so then it seems I ought to concentrate my learning time on the KiCAD and FreeCAD, no? Maybe it really doesn’t make much difference in terms of a learning path but I don’t have the depth of understanding yet to make that call myself.

I would stick to Fusion for now. I have no immediate plans to switch over since I’m already so invested in Fusion. I mentioned FreeCAD and KiCad mostly to highlight my desire to move to open source tools where we can. But for now, it would take too much time to make the transition.

If/when someone wants to contribute to the design but does not have a Fusion license, I have some licenses I can give out temporarily so they can have access to my files and work on them directly or make a copy.

If I was to be the teacher here, I would first ask you: what do you want to accomplish with all this learning? A generalist who can design their own contraptions? Or just a more in-depth knowledge of Kinograph itself (like what makes a scanner work, etc)?

Hi @Luc_Hagopian !

And happy new year to all of you !

I’ve decided to answer you, as a “testimony” from someone who, before march 2020, didn’t know what an arduino was, never have done any programing or coding, an didn’t even have a drill or a soldering iron at home… So to resume, I was an absolute Neandertal man in front of building this kind of machine… At the begining of the lockdown in France, and as I’m a musician (and lost all my work for monthes), I began to build a telecine for Super8 films (I’m filming and hand hand process at home).

I’ll give here advices, not as a pro, but as a novice, and perhaps it will have some interest for you.

Here you can see my telecine, with some explainations, a beginner telecine…simple, fragile, slow… but … working.

First advice I could give: Don’t be afraid, and don’t be obsessed by the goal you’ve set to yourself. The best way, I think, is to really enjoy learning and making your machine… There will be frustrations, and (as I’ve read in last @matthewepler’s post with his problems last day) you have to keep on doing things with motivation :slight_smile:

I think there are 5 important things to think of:

-You need a structure. You can work on a projector, or build something yourself, and here, you’re free. I’ve made it with my 10years son, and as I’m not a technician, here is the only plan I’ve done (it is really precise and accurate, and I changed everything after I made the plan… :slight_smile: )


I used parts from an old broken projector (reel holder, gate etc…), Plexiglas plate, and a makerbeam kit. All of this was made as if I was 8 years old, enjoying doing things (and just thinking about the way the film will take).

2- Your film will need to move. Here you have 2 choices and I only can talk about mine: The film can move without stopping, or it can move image after image. I choose this one, slower but simplier (with what I had to build it). So in this case, you can choose the way of doing this. I choose to put a stepper motor (Nema 17) directly on the take up reel. I don’t say it’s the best solution, but it’s mine. And then, there are a lot of tutorials about how to move those motors using arduino… I’ve copy/pasted some parts and found something working for me.

I’ve found on my phone my first test of the motor, the sound of the video is the only interest here: WhatsApp Video 2020 05 22 at 16 39 13 - YouTube

3- Your machine need to know when the image is in the window of your gate. That was the harder thing to resolve for me. Last week I bought a cheap laser and a sensor (I think 4euros), construct a gate with cardboard, plastic and anything I had under my hand, made a pinhole with a nail in a dark plastic sheet and made everything working in…2h. The laser is exactly at the level of the sprocket holes, when the laser touche the cell (under the film) at a certain level, that mean that the image is at the right place in the gate, and through the sprocket hole. You can find a lot of tutorials about that (don’t forget that a tutorial about taking temperature outside with a temperature sensor, or any sensors you can find, will work… Don’t be affraid about that… The sensor only gives informations, and the codes are the same for a lot of different applications)… After that you just have to give the information in your arduino: When the sensor says OK, the motor stops and the camera shoot. That’s, in a way, simple, harder to code but… you’re on the best forum in the world about that, I’ve learned so much here.

4- After that, I’ve work on the camera. I bought a cheap Rasp HQ camera, took a enlarger lens I had, create extension tube with plastic tubes and tried to build this with ruber bands, tape, cardboard and all I can find. There are tons of tutorials about making this camera work with a raspberry pi computre (I didn’t know Linux and python). The sensor trigger the camera, then the machine “waits” 2s and the stepper moves again to the next image. You can choose resolution of the camera. Under the film you need a light. You can start with something simple, just a white LED and a plastic diffuser. And try a lot of things. When I read all the discussion about leds here, I know it will be the next step for me…one day.

5-You need to compile all of those 3500 images in a film, and stabilise it. There are on this site a nice tutorial about Blender (free), you can also use DaVinci Reolve (free but I didn’t find a way to export at 18 fps… and I use it a lot in super8 to save film :slight_smile: )

I don’t pretend it’s a perfect way of doing this, that was just my way as I didn’t know anything about programming, making etc… But what I can say, is that you can allways improve your build monthes after monthes… when it works, changing the leds is some work but not impossible, moving some parts, consolidate everything, buy a focusing bellow, buying a better camera, all I can say is that when you’ve done it once, you’re sooooo happy it works that it gives you more energy to make everything evolve.

That’s just a testimony from my experiences, and I know that here, a lot a people are really MORE qualified to explain you those things but perhaps it could motivate you to begin :slight_smile:
Here are a few seconds of the last film I shot 2 days ago, it’s snowing here in the forest…

Poor stab applied, no grain removal (but no need I thnik), still shaking but I will work on it to stabilize more :slight_smile:

and something in color (Kodak 50D reversal), home processed and dirty as it s one of my test strip:

Happy new year everybody !



Thank you for this post. I started a project about a year ago and just got overwhelmed. I have a 3D printer, stepper motors raspberry pi, pi cam and an arduino. I should be able to do this.

I’m going to dig it all out again. I maybe picking your brains :grinning: