Super 8 digitizer

Automatic transport system for Super 8 film and a flatbed scanner

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This project is inspired by the "Extraleben" book and influenced by the CineToVid project, which provides instructions and Windows software to digitize Super 8 movies using a flatbed scanner.

It started as a project for capturing punched tape with the possibility to move along to Super 8 or similar amateur movie formats. I started over three years ago by Focus is constantly drawn away into sub-Projects (like finding optimal settings for capturing the Images in itself) and general problems of time-availability.

For the Moment, I completed the proof-of-concept stage and should start designing a better film-transportation device.

At the moment the hardware only exists as a test-setup and the software is a work in progress. I regularly derive little spinoff projects and recently focussed on capturing the still images as good as possible. By grandfather and my dad were both avid photographers and there is quite an archive to transfer into the digital age.

The software is built from scratch using scanimage and python for capturing and imagemagick and GNU-octave for frame detection, extraction and processing. The resulting frames are finally put together using ffmpeg. Since the prototype transport system is quite sloppy (it's built out of Fischertechnik parts), I have significant horizontal movement of the images but the system works well. I just have to find the time to draw final parts and send them off to the laser cutter...


Conversion from 150 dpi tape segment to text file (GNU-Octave script, might work in Matlab, too)

x-objcsrc - 1.02 kB - 04/06/2016 at 20:59


150dpi graustufen.png

Test scan of punched tape 150dpi grayscale

Portable Network Graphics (PNG) - 106.52 kB - 04/06/2016 at 20:48


150dpi lineart durchlicht.png

Test scan of punched tape 150dpi line art

Portable Network Graphics (PNG) - 2.97 kB - 04/06/2016 at 20:48



Sample from a segment of Super 8 movie, containing three complete frames and a bit...

Portable Network Graphics (PNG) - 1.82 MB - 04/06/2016 at 07:01


  • 1 × Raspberry Pi
  • 1 × Arduino Leonardo
  • 1 × Espon Perfection 4990 Scanner
  • 1 × Laser Pointer
  • 1 × Arduino Motor Driver Shield

  • Picking up work

    treibair05/28/2017 at 18:24 0 comments

    So, first thing to do is to put some pressure on this thing. I want to have the first digitized reel by September 1st.

    The recent arrival of my own 3D printer makes me want to pick up this partially shelved project again.

    I was always worried about the alignment of the parts left and right of the scanner. So I shall borrow from the Prusa i3's construction with threaded rods and printed parts. I will build a frame for the scanner and both reels to stand on. Everything connected and properly aligned by M10 and M8 threaded rods.

    So the bigger parts of the project from now on will be:

    • Build the frame itself: design and build connectors between the rods. The connectors shall double as feet for the entire frame and as support for the scanner.
    • Design and build attachments for the driving motor, the sensor, the two reels and two transport wheels as well as an enclosure for the electronics
    • Design and build the transport sensor itself (not the badly improvised one. This one is supposed to work properly)
    • Source a stepper and a driver board (on, easy, but is has to be on the list anyway)
    • Design and print a guide for the movie strip covering the entire width of the scanner

  • Moving on the Super 8

    treibair04/05/2016 at 15:20 0 comments

    After the punched tape was sucessfully read, I moved on to actually scanning Super 8 Images. While I was doing my research about the exact geometry of Super 8 film I stumbled upon the CineToVid project which happens to do just what I am up to: scanning movies using flatbed scanners. I do not want to use anyone else's software, though but the CineToVid Wiki is a nice source for inspiration about the transportation device for moving the film segments forward.

    For the first steps I simply advance the segments roughly by hand, as for I just want to scan a few frames for a short (think two seconds) test sequence, since for the moment it's more about the software to extract the frames. The picture in the gallery shows a few scanned frames with less than perfect settings.

  • Reading the tape

    treibair04/05/2016 at 15:12 0 comments

    Scanning the punched tape was rather straight forward: I just moved the tape over the scanner segment by segment, always advancing the tape by hand. The scanner Access is done using the sane command line Interface. The further processing of the captured Images is done using GNU Octave, an Interpreter language similar to Matlab.

    The analysis first searched for transportation holes to identify the x-Position of a byte on the strip of tape, then the individual bits are read and interpreted. In the end, the octave script writes its output to a text file. It turned out that - rather unsurprisingly - the punched tape contains G-code for some CNC-equipment.

    N1 G90
    N2 M71 
    N3 T0000 
    N4 R02 2000
    N5 R33 600 2000
    N5 R33 600 
    N6 R32 297 
    N7 G0 G90 G53 X160. Z190. 
    N8 M42 
    N9 T0113 
    N10 L999 
    N11 G59 X92. Z309. 
    N12 M75
    N13 L99
    N14 M33
    N15 S1000 M03
    N16 G0 X0 Z3.

  • Punched tape

    treibair04/05/2016 at 15:08 0 comments

    The Inspiration for the Project is largely drawn from Constantin Gillies' great series of "Extraleben" books. In the first of which the heroes find some Information on punched tape. To get the Information from the tape, they photograph it in segments and then parse the pictures.

    My parents have quite a frew Super 8 movies from my childhood days and I always thought about having them digitized one day. I thought about the process that was described in the book and wondered, if it could be fesible to scan Super 8 movied on a flatbed scanner...but since this apparently would require quite a lot of precision I thought I might be better off whith replicating the punched tape feat from the book first so I went off to ebay to get myself a few meters of vintage punched tape.

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FORART fe wrote 10/01/2020 at 06:45 point

Hi there, your project sounds nice !

BTW it would be great to establish some kind of collaboration (for the software part, maybe) with other related DIY projects:

Hope that helps/inspires.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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