AVT Pike Keeps Old Film Memories Alive

New scanner relies on machine vision camera to digitize vintage films in best quality.

FilmFabriek, a Dutch company based in Nootdorp in the outskirts of Den Haag, Netherlands, has started the distribution of an innovative film scanner that relies on high-performance machine-vision cameras to convert old film material to high-quality digital files. Using a Pike camera from Allied Vision Technologies, the system captures every single image of the movie in a perfectly synchronized way, making the quality of professional film digitization affordable to consumers and archives such as museums.

FilmFabriek has been offering digitization services since the end of 2010 in the Netherlands, using an innovative technology developed by Daan Müller, a lecturer for multimedia applications at several universities. FilmFabriek has now acquired the intellectual property of the Müller HM Data Framescanner and is now exclusively dedicated to market the hardware.

Capturing each image at the source

“The quality of thin film is often underestimated. If you look closely at these little images, you see a tremendous quality”, says Müller. “This has always fascinated me and I could not rest until I had developed a system that would be able to capture these images in their full quality”. The Müller HM Data Framescanner is able to convert all film formats into high-resolution digital files: Regular 8mm, Super 8, 9.5mm Pathé, 16mm, Super 16 and 17.5mm material can be processed. Changing the setup from one format to the other can be easily completed within a couple of minutes by the operator.

Unlike many systems used to digitize films, the Müller HM Data Framescanner does not rely on projection or mirrors, nor does it use a consumer electronics camcorder camera to capture the images. Instead, a professional, high-end machine vision camera from Allied Vision Technologies is used to capture every single frame directly from the film as it passes in front of a strobe light. Thanks to this technological choice, the achieved quality is close to the one used by professionals processing film archives for movie studios, television production companies or other demanding professional clients.

The camera used is a Pike F-145, a high-performance digital camera with FireWire interface. The camera is equipped with a Sony ICX285 CCD sensor chip with 1.4 Megapixel resolution (1388x1038 pixels). Thanks to the Sony ExView HAD technology, this sensor delivers a very high sensitivity and image quality. Alternatively, other AVT Pike camera models can be used depending on the required output.

Beyond digitization: restoration
Müller has implemented a number of advanced technologies into his scanner to optimize the quality of the digital output. One of them is a proprietary wetgate solution designed to temporarily remove scratches and mechanical damages from the film using an isopropanol fluid. Another one is the advanced synchronization system that guarantees a perfect stability of the movie: The camera is directly triggered by a laser-based system that detects every single frame change by detecting the perforations on the side of the film. That way, the frame rate of the camera is perfectly synchronized with that of the film. The result is a stunning stability of the digitized video that probably outperforms the projectors of the old days.

Each individually shot image is transmitted to the processing computer via a digital FireWire interface (IEEE1394b) with speeds up to 40 fps . The software converts the image stream into a true progressive uncompressed AVI which is ideal for archiving purposes. The frame-by-frame output is also ideal for (automated) postproduction digital re-mastering. The operator is then free to convert the uncompressed film into any popular video format like DVD, HD, Prores 422, etc.

“AVT Pike is the best camera”
The secret for the high quality of the Müller HM Data Framescanner is the use of machine-vision components that enable the capture of the image directly at its source in a perfectly synchronized way. “The conversion of the images into digital data takes place in the camera, so choosing the right one was absolutely crucial for this project”, explains Daan Müller. “I tested many camera models from various vendors, but the Pike from Allied Vision Technologies is just the best. I am proud to have such a great camera in my system”.

Roel Eckhardt and Leon Joanknecht, founders of FilmFabriek, are also looking forward to distributing the scanner. “We are very excited to enter the market of professional telecine scanners with the distribution of the Müller HM Data Framescanner. In a short period of time we have clients in Holland, the UK, Germany, Belgium and Russia and we are currently receiving enquiries from the US and other European countries. The use of a high-quality machine vision camera from Allied Vision Technologies is what makes the system so unique in this market segment, as competitive products all rely on camcorder technology”.

Hof van Brasser 21
2631 WZ  Nootdorp
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