What are the Market Sizes for 16mm and 35mm digitization?

This is a business question.

Has anyone done a market analysis for a digitizer? Or seen one done by anyone else?

By market analysis I mean any of the following

  • calculating an estimate for the total amount of film waiting out there to be to be digitized,
  • estimating how many of the professional digitizers have been sold,
  • define the various market segments (home, library, documentary, etc) and their willingness to pay,
  • figure out how many digitizing shops already exist and how much business they do each year (and the trends year-over-year)?

This is not directly related to creating a digitizer, however it impacts the attractiveness of putting effort into creating a reasonably reliable machine. The Wolverine digitizer creators figured out an acceptable quality level for the 8/S8 market, and also figured out a way to prototype and market test (W vs W Pro) their product.



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Hey Pranab,

I haven’t seen a market analysis specifically for these types of digitizers but I’d bet that the targets of currently available products right now are a bit diverse. There are the very high end commercial scanners (ARRI, Golden Eye) that a larger post company or institution might own, they’ll undoubtedly need to sell enough scans on it continuously to recoup the investment and pay for the operator and technicians. There are the Wolverine-type scanners that target the home-user/hobbyist/folks who just want to see what they have and are okay with getting an mpeg file on an SD card. There’s a sort of middle-tier that might be in reach of some small companies/larger collections (Cintel, Muller HDS, Pictor), but they’re out of reach of many collections and home-user/hobbyist budgets. Evaluating demand in that middle territory is interesting because I think it encompasses a lot of folks like us here on the forum who have interest in higher performance/quality but who don’t have a spare $30+k just loose in the couch cushions (speaking from personal experience).

I also don’t mean to speak for @matthewepler, but I read the Kinograph as targeting the group of users that are interested in a certain level of output quality, have a budget greater than the Wolverine but not the Cintel and who are willing (and knowledgeable/comfortable with) to do a certain amount of work to build and understand the machine. That may encompass advanced hobbyists, institutions with lower budgets, small businesses… lots of folks like us and probably some that we wouldn’t have guessed yet.

It’s perhaps hard to measure the amount of “new” film to scan, “new” film being old film that is found and film that was just recently shot. I’ll bet that those curves will cross or already have, the old film being found declining and the recent film climbing? staying constant? maybe declining but not as fast? Willingness to pay by market segment is interesting too, I’d bet that it stratifies pretty much as you laid it out, but also by volume. I can imagine a home user with a LOT of film being more willing to shell out money for a scan than a library with a small collection, although in that case both are probably evaluating hiring a scanner vs building one. From my situation I reached the point with the amount of film I had that paying to have it scanned on a large commercial system would have eclipsed the cost of building a scanner myself many times over. If I had somehow managed to buy one of those commercial systems then I’d be stuck with another device that someone else had to maintain and had a limited upgrade path.

Ultimately I think the Kinograph has the ability to continuously discover new blood, so to speak, as folks find out that it is an option to consider. Ultimately, if there’s no data on motion picture film digitizers, I bet we can find a parallel in still film scanners/slide scanners.

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Good question @majumder and a well written response, @johnarthurkelly. Thank you both!

@majumder I can tell you what investors told me when I was in a tech incubator program in New York City a couple of years ago: “The market for Kinograph is too small to make it attractive for a startup investor.”

These investors are looking for a high-return on their investment, so I took their opinion lightly but they’re not entirely wrong, either. The market that exists will either rot away as films die on the shelf or disappear after the films have been scanned and their owners decide whether or not further scanning should take place. The market that exists, in other words, is likely to shrink over time.

There are film revivalists, and new collections/archives being discovered all the time. It is for these situations that Kinograph does have a market, albeit a small one.

For what it’s worth, talking about markets always leads (in my mind) to how Kinograph would/should/could scale as a hardware company. In my opinion, it isn’t feasible to build a company around Kinograph. Having employees raises the price of the machine. Keeping Kinograph small, open-source, and aimed at users with low-budgets who are more concerned with access than preservation is the best path forward.

That being said, it’s open source and someone could do something else with it!

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: staying small is Kinograph’s advantage. It will keep us more nimble, less susceptible to market/investment pressures, and focused on the people who need it most because they will be part of it from the ground up.

I hope that answers your question! It’s a good one :slight_smile:

Thanks, to both of you. Completely agree with all you have said. It is (mostly) a declining market, and it is certainly too small for venture capital or quick returns. Having said that, there may still be a small enough market for a short-term entrepreneur to, say, make a small business of it for a few years.

If we do get to a stable design, there are contract design and manufacturing firms who can make a batch. Thus, we can pool together (a la kickstarter), and cobble together enough to make a short run of a hundred such machines, once the kinks are ironed out.

Now, is the market a hundred machines, or a thousand (let us stick to one format, say 16mm)? Is it worthwhile exploring how much a batch of hundred costs, vs a thousand? Picking numbers completely our of thin air, if our machine costs $2000 each to custom manufacture a hundred of them, but about $1500 to custom manufacture a thousand, shall we then figure out how many people/institutions are “out there” and then make a call?

These were the lines I was thinking along.

Yes, I think that’s a great line of thought. Right now we are working on the new design and once that has been proven to work then we can think about how to make the design easily to replicate and cheap to buy in (small) bulk.

35mm and 16mm are nice to have but for me there would need to be gates for 8mm/S8mm or no deal. I’d buy a Blackmagic Design Scanner tomorrow if it had an optional 8mm/S8mm gate to go along with the 35mm and 16mm gates. They protest that it makes no sense resolution wise to offer the 8mm gates, I disagree, especially considering how Resolve Studio now has enhanced up-rez capabilities.

@BruceGoren I hope to build an 8mm/S8mm machine that is stand-alone as I think the size and film handling require much less hardware. It probably won’t be for some time, though. Perhaps someone will beat me to it! There are some great DIY projects out there already. If you search “8mm” on these forums, you should find some.

Meh, I don’t want to own TWO machines. I need a new scanner that handles ALL formats with interchangeable gates and/or gearing/guides to replace my soon to be trashed, kludgy old MovieStuff unit, but I don’t want to upgrade to Roger Evan’s latest offering, the Retro-Scan Universal Mark-II ES, which is ten kilo-bucks. For that kind of money I’d rather go all-in for Blackmagic Design if they could provide an 8mm gate.

I only need the 35mm gate. I already have a Retro-Scanner to do the other size films

I’ll buy one tomorrow if it’s around the 2K mark and does the job efficiently. I’ve got about 800 (that’s eight hundred) cans of 35 mm movie footage that may end up in the landfill unless I can find an affordable way to digitize it.

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Hope to have something ready by Fall of this year @Motes. Don’t throw out that film!

Great! Sounds promising Matthew. Please let me know when it’s ready to go.

Why buy a sprocket-based machine like the Cintel Film Scanner for $20K MORE? Even if they made an 8mm gate, there’s a chance it would grind up your vintage films.

Right now, I wouldn’t even consider the Cintel scanner until they make the film path sprocket less.

Todd, I understand and sympathize with your concerns, but those are risks we’ve all been living with for decades. Point me to a comparable quality sprocket-less 8/S8/16/35mm scanner at a decent price and it’s a done deal. Until then, I’ll keep lobbying Blackmagic for an 8/S8mm gate. Resolve up-rez has now been improved even further with AI. If Matt beats them to it with his second machine, maybe I’ll overcome my reticence about having TWO scanners and purchase both eventually, but 8/S8mm is my must-have primary format, 16/35mm will be nice options to have later.

Bruce, I guess I don’t understand your criteria for scanning. You ask me to “Point me to a comparable quality sprocket-less 8/S8/16/35mm scanner at a decent price and it’s a done deal.” I point you to the Retroscan Universal Mark II, which has a sprocket-free film path and transfers R8/S8/16mm/35mm. It’s $13K. But you say you don’t want to buy it, yet you would pay $17K more for a Cintel scanner if it had an 8mm gate, which it does not. This makes absolutely no sense to me.

I guess it comes down to the fact that you simply don’t like the Retroscan products. If not, why not? I use the older Mark I, and I don’t find it kludgy at all. But, of course, everyone has their own preferences and experiences. I’d like to hear yours.