Super 8 film digitizer

Digitize old super 8 film reels

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Digitize super 8 film bij taking a picture of every frame with an USB microscope and motor control with an ESP32

My family has a few hours of super 8 film of my youth and before. I would like to digitize them. OK, there are already some project to digitize super 8 film reels. But this method I am already thinking of for more than 10 years now. The method: I use an USB microscope to make a picture of every frame in the real and use stepper motors to forward the frame.

My first prototype was made a long time ago with wood and some (fake) Meccano. This was too inaccurate for its purpose, so the project halted. After I got my second 3D printer for larger prints, I started to think to revise this project. Although 3D-prints are more accurate, still some parts had to be more precise. I used the metal parts from a manual film viewer/editor in combination with stepper motors.

These stepper motors are controlled with an ESP32 connected to an PC, which also reads the USB microscope. The individual pictures are converted to a movie clip using ffmpeg.

  • The control electronics

    Elbert05/22/2024 at 20:07 0 comments

    The control of the digitizer consists of a PC (laptop) running (through Virtualbox) Linux mint. A C++ program (control) reads the serial port of the ESP32 and captures the frame by invoking the fswebcam program to get a picture from the microscope.

    The ESP32 runs a program (stepper) which gets commands through the serial ports to run the stepper motors and sends back a notification when the stepper motor has reached its target position.

    A variable PWM module (powered from the ESP32) controls the strength of the LED.

  • The first prototype

    Elbert05/20/2024 at 20:26 0 comments

    For a first try, I take the configuration of the manual viewer as layout. I need two stepper motors. The first one is connected to the wheel with tooth that grab into the holes in the film. It has 12 tooth, so 1/12 turn of this wheel advances one frame. The second stepper motor (although it could have been a normal motor) turns the spool. It should be able to slip, so I made a few different clutches.

    I used the simple 28BYJ-48 geared stepper motors with ULN2003 drivers.  

    I made a frame and holders for the stepper motors in OpenScad and sliced it with Cura.

    The best clutch was an outer ring with spring-like pins, and an inside wheel with an curved surface.

    Problems with this first prototype: 

    • The film was too loose around the wheel, so it slipped. 
    • The microscope holder was off. 
    • And it was too dense to tweak. 

    So the second prototype has to be wider, several options for the guarding wheels to get enough tension, and a proper place for the microscope.  

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