New Retroscan - scans all formats!

Good to remember, always. I think this is something that anyone using, designing, building, or just thinking about film scanning machines needs to consider :wink:

The talents of a skilled archivist, a scanner operator and a restorer are certainly related and overlap, but ultimately have slightly different aims.

I appreciate the constructive criticism. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the dude who was picking fights on the RetroScan FB forum and got himself kicked off recently. So unnecessary.

You may be right on all this. I’ll admit that optics is not one of my specialties, so I watch these discussions with great interest. In fact, my only beef with the RetroScan is that it doesn’t have a 4K, 10-bit camera. I wish it did. Roger knows it, and I’m sure he’ll add a camera when he finds a solution that’s cheap and easy enough to implement.

But that’s the nature of all markets. Who knows how long the market for transferring film will last? Markets come and go. I don’t think Roger would be building a more robust machine if the market had not responded so positively to the existing Mark I.

Roger has stated that his market for 35mm transfers is archives that simply want to scan existing film so that they can have screening copies. He said this in a recent FB post. So his perceived market and your expectations would seem to be two different things. Personally, I would love to be able to scan my 35mm film prints, but with the 2K camera, I don’t see much value in it. I would rather have 4K, or I’ll send those prints out to a transfer house that can handle 4K.

Hold on here. Have you seen the price of the DaVinci Cintel film scanner? It’s $30K! And that’s the basic model. That’s more than twice the price of the Mark II fully loaded at $13K. For me that does not equal “not that much more money”. For me that equals twice as much money! The Mark II is an outstanding value in its market. Does that mean that that it is seamless and error free? No! There’s some major post-processing work that you have to do to stabilize, grade, and dustbust the transfers to make them acceptable. The other machines do a lot of that work during the transfer process, but they cost tens of thousands of dollars more. You get what you pay for. Unfortunately, I don’t have $50K for a LaserGraphics ScanStation Personal. Prices only go up astronomically from there. And the market does not seem to be robust enough for others to enter the market and build a cheaper/high quality product. (Maybe I’m wrong about that, but it seems that way right now.)

Fair point. I think Roger builds the machines when he has the money in hand to build them. In many ways, he is a mom-and-pop shop that builds film transfer machines for a mom-and-pop market.

One thing I want to make clear. I’m not a Roger Evans sycophant or fanboy. I like the guy, and I like his product. Could it be better? No doubt. You and others have detailed features that could be improved.

I would only say this: if you want a better scanner, you can build it yourself with instructions provided on this really helpful forum. Or you can save up thousands of dollars and buy one of the more expensive machines. Or you could tinker with and modify one of the existing RetroScans and make it better. I have neither the time nor the interest to build it myself. I don’t want to have to know how to build a car in order to drive the car. I just want to get in, turn the key, and go. The RetroScan products allow me to do that at a price point that’s within my strained budget.

Here’s a question for the forum: given what you’ve learned, how much would it cost to buy the parts and build a Kinograph if you valued your labor hours at, say, $35/hour? (I don’t know if that’s a fair rate or not, but I’ll start there.) Is it less than the cost of a Mark II? Could I do it from easy-to-understand plans for sale or available free on this forum? Just curious.

I appreciate the discussion, Owlinsky! I also appreciate your experience! ----Todd Ruel

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I am rooting for you, Al. You have the curiosity, patience, tenacity, and machine tooling that I so sorely lack. Good luck!


Not a lot of time to address everything but let me just point out that our sprocket hole detection is in no way similar to how the Mueller detects sprocket holes. No revamping of any existing scanning tech that I am aware of. Regarding the Z-Axis Zoom, there is no such thing. The Z-Axis Kit is simply the addition of an up and down movement of the camera on the Z axis so that you can use different lengths of lens tubes and reclaim focus. And, finally, here is what I wrote previously about the 3K inference:

“…As a thought experiment, if you had something like a 3K camera with a 16:9 sensor, that would be roughly 3000 x 1688. If you used that to capture 4:3 material (without sacrificing anything in the film frame), the center 4:3 area of the 3K 16:9 sensor would measure out to be 2251 x 1688. That is almost the same as the 2048 x 1536 sensor we use in our 2K scanner now. The mythical 3K frame would add only 76 lines on the left and right and about 100 lines top and bottom which, IMHO, would not make any appreciable difference in terms of resolution gain. So, in reality, if you are using the entire 4:3 sensor of our scanner, you are effectively capturing closer to 3K and not 2K because, for 4:3 material, frame height is the key, not frame width. Obviously, if you were scanning something akin to a 16:9 original, like Super 16, then you would need the extra width. But, for 4:3 material typical of old 35mm film, adding extra width does you no good since it would simply be covered by black bars. At any rate, scanning 35mm in 3k for archive purposes seems like overkill to most people working in the business when the screener files will likely be in SD or HD only. And anyone that has a new commercial 35mm project will most likely have the budget to take their stuff to a big transfer house with a LaserGraphics or some other high end unit so, again, going up beyond 2k presently serves no real purpose for my two markets and would simply make the unit more expensive for the majority of customers that don’t need it.”

As far as whether a 1 inch 2048 x 1536 will look appreciably different than a smaller 2048 x 1536 sensor, the most obvious differences relative to scanning will be that the 1 inch sensor will require exponentially more light since the longer required length of the extension tube will create greater bellows factor. The 1 inch sensor will also result in less depth of field which means you need a higher F stop which means even more light. Assuming that one can get around these negative impacts from using a larger sensor, would the apparent resolution of the 1 inch 2048 by 1536 sensor look different than a smaller 2048 x 1536 sensor? Maybe. But whether that difference is worth all the headaches that have to be overcome is really the key. My guess is that you will see little to no difference that a paying customer could detect that would make it worth the hassle of using a larger sensor that has the same numerical resolution.


The Cintel for around $30,000 is a slick, easy to use machine but it will not do smaller formats like 8mm. And, if it did, the people buying it will likely be shops that do mainly 16mm and 35mm and only occasionally 8mm. My market, by contast, would be shops that mainly do 8mm and 16mm but occasionally need to do 35mm or archive houses that have a larger mixture of both that they need to make screener copies of for people doing documentaries and the such. That is why I never try to compare my units to the higher priced units because, in reality, anyone that has $250,000 to spend on a ScanStation isn’t going to suddenly smack their head and go, “Hey, I can save myself about $240,000 if I buy a Mark-II from MovieStuff!” :slight_smile: And if I start trying to compete on that level by adding exotic features to our units, then they end up pricing themselves out of the range of our target market, which are small shops that do volume transfer work.


And here’s the kicker for me, Roger. The Cintel scanner uses sprockets for aligning/registration. Ninety five percent of my entire film library is vintage 16mm film. Lots of that film has shrunk over time. I’m not running my film through a meat grinder that could chew it up while transferring it. If the Cintel machine used some other transport mechanism, then I would be a lot more interested in it.

I love its simplicity, ease of use, accommodation for Mac users like me, and ability to do 4K, but it’s too risky for the archival prints in my collection.


That’s a great way to be thinking about the cost/benefit of a Kinograph. Like Roger, we are not trying to replace higher quality machines. We’re just trying to get your film off the shelf and on to a hard drive.

With that said, we are trying to strike a balance between price and quality and we probably won’t get it right for everybody. But the plans for how to build one WILL be available to everybody which means they can tinker with it to reach their particular goals.

In a perfect world, the bare bones of a Kinograph are available if you don’t have access to the tools required to make certain parts (laser cutter, 3D printer, etc) and you can buy a kit for those materials for a few hundred bucks. From there you could add your own motors, camera, computer, etc.

From there the costs go up according to your needs/wants. Short on DIY skills or time? Spend more and get a full kit with assembly instructions.

Etc, etc.

Really this is all in flux and I have no idea how it will turn out but I’m excited to see how it does!

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Well, I think I spent two months, perhaps 4-5 hours a week to build one. Lot of that time was experimenting and learning. But still. Count it all. 40 hours.

The bigger issue is the extensive post processing I have to do to get the “final” product. That is probably about 2-3 hours for, say, an 800ft 16mm film. That is where the cost-benefit analysis hinges.

So, for an “individual” with a $35 wage rate, and 100 reels to capture, the benefit of spending 10 min per reel rather than 2 hours per reel comes to a total of about $3000.


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Hmm. That’s good info!

I think that no matter what film transfer device you use, there will be post processing. Even a LaserGraphics ScanStation won’t do a perfect transfer, especially if there is extensive dustbusting required. However, a ScanStation will create a stable transfer that is reasonably color corrected and with a simultaneous sound transfer all in one pass.

I don’t count the post processing, because most of us on this forum can’t afford a ScanStation anyway (except maybe for Perry Paolantonio of Gamma Ray Digital). We will all have to do post-production. I am no exception. The RetroScan that I own does a reasonable transfer, but I have to stabilize the film even further than what the LightPin film gate does. Then I have to dustbust the film. Then de-noise it. Then grade it. Then use AEO Light to turn the optical soundtrack into an audio file. Then join the audio file with the final video file.

As far as I know, you would have to do all those things, too. So in my book, all of that work cancels out, because both of us with our different respective film transfer machines would have to do that work.

Bottom line: your home-built Kinograph costs $1,400. Mine costs $6,500+. There’s no question that you paid less. I paid for $5,000 worth of research/labor/marketing. For me personally, that’s okay, because I don’t want to be the engineer. I would rather spend my time being the driver.

Different strokes, right? Cheers! -----Todd

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Good afternoon Todd, Its been a while since I have had the opportunity to participate in this forum, the comments posted here are all very interesting and all have merit. My take is a bit different and being 75 years old my time is not so valuable and building a machine is an interesting hobby for me. My machine is very modular in design and I like to experiment with each of the elements involved in the machine. Film transport, gate configuration and sprocket detection all present interesting challenges, as does the software solution workflow to create really high quality transfers.
I feel that Roger Evans machine is the best solution for the price and I wish I could afford one. His no nonsense approach to machine design is really elegant and his machines have a well deserved reputation as outstanding machines.
I have hundreds of rolls of film in three gauges, 16mm, 8mm and Super 8mm film. many of my 16mm films are on film cores so I incorporate split reels to mount and for the pick up reel. many of my films are on larger reels. So right from the beginning I considered the issues that I would face scanning multiple gages with the same machine.
Roger Evans was kind enough to recommend that I acquire a new camera for my unit for my machine. It needed to have a global shutter as well as the ability to have a relatively fast shutter speed and good light gathering capacity.
i now have the camera and I am machining an appropriate camera mounting bracket to retrofit my unit. Hopefully it will function well and I will keep you posted in the progress.


Thanks for the update, @Alcassista . Looking forward to seeing those beautiful new scans!

Hi, everyone!

Hope everyone is safe during this COVID-19 business. I had a client with the new Mark-II that recently scanned a trailer from the old “Ten Commandments” movie. Came out nice and thought you guys might like to see it. In case anyone is wondering, there is no post stabilization on this. The new LightPin sprocket hole sensors do a really nice job of creating a steady image during the primary capture. Anyway, this is fun. Enjoy!


Wow. That frame registration is amazing.

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The stabilisation is indeed quite impressive.

(Not so sure about the grading, and especially the handling of highlights, but to really judge it one would need to see the original print this was taken from.)

How does the LightPin handle mixed material, for example films that have mixed clear and black edges? A lot of optical system struggle with those scenarios.

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Out of curiosity, @Roger_Evans did you try other approaches of reflective sensing before you landed on Keyence’s laser? I think that’s what you’re using, according to someone else on the forum. I looked up the specs and the narrowness of that beam would seem to be an advantage over other components like the one we are currently experimenting with:

The price difference between the passive component and the Keyence setup is quite significant. But if we can’t get this reflector to work well, then we may have to look at the laser as an alternative.


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Well, this was a trailer that was VERY dark and scratched. So, in terms of grading, I think I did a pretty good job getting it back to something decent.

The LightPin does not care what the surface of the film type is. It does not matter whether the film is clear or black or orange, or whatever. You can splice a dozen different types of densities and colors and surfaces and it works the same on all of them.

We looked at a variety of reflecting sensors, including ones made by Keyence, before we settled on the one we use. As we put a lot of R&D into engineering a solution, you will understand if I don’t spill the beans on what we use and how we finally arrived at a solution. But I will say that we did not use any sensor “off the shelf” in its original form. There was some purposeful modification made to the sensor to make it perform as we required. Based on our research, there is no sensor out there that will work out of the box as needed for sprocket hole detection and good registration.

Thanks for that @Roger_Evans. I certainly never expect free beans :slight_smile:

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They need to develop a feed sensor for warped, clear film. The Lightpin is fine for clear flat film. But most of my films are not flat.

Good to know! Does anyone know which machines are good at that? Perhaps the Kinetta since it was originally designed for paper strips?