Keeping Memories – The Technology Behind Modern Film Preservation

  • Published June 2017

Whether it is a historical film in an archive or just a family film from earlier days, getting an old film into a digital format is an important step to increase accessibility of the film, allow easy reproduction and ultimately it is a way to save a film for future generations. Cine Film Scanners from MWA-Nova are world-renowned for their high standard in design and engineering. Some of the challenges and methods to provide world class results are discussed below.

After the film is carefully cleaned and professionally repaired it is inserted into the scanner. A gentle sprocketless capstan transport ensures the original film is safely moved and a laser system tracks the film so that every variation in position, e.g. through shrinkage of the film, can be compensated for. MWA Cine scanner processes images and magnetic or optical sound simultaneously.

MWA Cine scanner are color calibrated against TAF reference. For eliminating scratches and some further color correction, a diffuse light source, driven by a high energy RGB-LED-strobe-array, offers a free adjustable color balance.

A high speed sensor captures high resolution images of each film cell (i.e. each image). The processing of the raw sensor data happens in real-time at a rate of around 25 frames per second. The images come with a resolution of around 5k/20MP and the user can choose from various output formats. The processing is done in real time through the use of a GPU in a computer system downstream rather than within the image sensor. In this way, the processing can take advantage of evolving computer technology and the scanner system can be shipped with different sensor technology as required.

The image acquisition in the cine film scanner is performed by a Camera Link frame grabber from Active Silicon. Reliability, high performance and ease of integration of Active Silicon’s card lead to its successful integration – read more about our Camera Link frame grabber product range on our website.

Interested in film and historical film documents? Pinewood film studios, the home of James Bond, are Active Silicon’s direct neighbour. View their seven minute documentary of the “Pinewood Film Studios Open Day” from 1977!