Tuesday, 29 September 2020

16mm Scan Test

Since the start of the year, I have had a reel of 16mm film sat around in my room, inked and raring to go (well, to be projected). Early in the year I was in conversation with the person who I usually borrow the projector from and was planning on projecting and capturing it sometime 'before Easter'. Then, well we all know what happened. The future is still uncertain and with cases high in the area which I live, putting anyone else or myself in danger all for the sake of an artsy, experimental film is not really the way I want to go about my practise.

I toyed with the idea of buying my own projector, but some are quite expensive and I want one which would work and work for a long time. It's also an unnecessary bulk to have around my house, which at this moment in time I could do without. So, what was I to do?

Well, as the title of this post may suggest I decided to scan some of it in. I decided to only scan approximately three feet, because incase it didn't create the effect I wanted, I wouldn't have wasted one hundred foot of film and numerous hours days of my time. Not to mention the amount of computer storage space either, with 2400dpi scans.

A snippet of what I scanned in. Ink and permanent marker on clear 16mm leader.

It's hard to get an accurate picture of whether it 'worked' with a six second duration, though it has given me some information to work with- both positive and negative. One of the positives (and a major one in my opinion) were the vibrant colours, more so than what I usually capture when projecting it and filming it. I then find myself going into After Effects to colour correct it, whereas with this, the colours I had inked on the film were the ones I got when scanned in. BIG plus point! It was also cheaper/ convenient in a variety of ways, most of which I have already stated above.

One of the major negative points or 'cons' was the fact that it is a fairly lengthly process. Whether I scan several feet at once (which I would do), there is still a lot of post production work which follows. This is separating the scan file into each different strip and then moving each strip along every two frames in Premiere. When I project and record it, yes it takes a little time setting up the projector, but once you have it going, the process is often smooth and straightforward.

As briefly mentioned above, the storage space becomes an issue, too. A way around this would be to delete the scans once I've post processed them and export a high quality file of it playing through. Talking of space (man), even at 2400dpi res, the film strip still doesn't fill the 1080x1080 canvas at 100% size:


As the above screen grab illustrates, you can see the sprockets at the top and bottom of frame. Whether this is a 'bad' thing or not, I am not yet sure, but it is something to take into consideration. If I decided I didn't want them showing, then I would have to scan at an even higher res, therefore taking up more storage space. If I punch in the frame at this res, then I will lose some of the quality.

My final point is that when scanning, you can see the shadow of where the film strip hasn't been totally flat at points, or maybe this is because of the slight raised nature of the celluloid. It shows up more where I have the permanent marker, rather than the abstract colours and also where the sprockets are visible. Again, I need to decide whether this is important.

I think that what I decide to do regarding the above will be influenced by the end usage for this particular reel of 16mm. Whether it becomes a stand alone film, or whether I integrate it within other projects. Doing this test has given me things to think about and I'm pleased I carried it out. When I do make a decision, I will be sure to update on here.

You can view the film here:

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