This project came about because I had some old 8mm and Super 8mm films spanning from the 1950’s to the mid 1980s. At some point in the 2000’s, I transferred some of them by projecting onto a screen and using a DV video camera. The result, in DV’s SD resolution, was not great:

There are many 8mm/Super 8mm homemade telecine projects on the internet. The approach I settled on involved modifying an old Eumig 810D dual 8mm/Super 8mm film projector and taking a still image of each frame directly off the projector’s film gate with a DSLR. The process was automated with an Arduino and stepper motor attached to the projector.

The end result is in 2k resolution and, I think, a dramatic improvement of the old SD transfer.

The steps to completion were:

  • Replace Eumig halogen projector bulb with an LED taken from an inexpensive Harbor Freight flashlight.
  • Remove the frame masks on the film gates. Changing between 8mm and super 8mm on the Eumig involves swapping out the sprockets and the film gate. Removing the frame mask allows for the full film frame to be recorded.
  • Attach a NEMA 17 stepper motor to the shaft at the back of the projector. One revolution of this shaft advances or rewinds the film exactly one frame.
  • The DSLR used is an Panasonic GH4. I replaced the battery with an AC adapter.
  • Since the camera will be taking many stills – 3,840 for a standard 50′ 8mm spool (about 4min), it is placed in electronic shutter mode as the mechanical shutter would quickly wear out.
  • 3,840 images ends up taking up almost an entire 64gb SD card. Longer reels need to have additional 64gb SD cards swapped in.
  • I use DaVinci Resolve for editing. Unfortunately, Resolve does not process Panasonic Raw images so the images are first run through Adobe’s DNG Converter which converts the Raw images into the accepted DNG format.
  • A 16×2 LCD display is used for UI & feedback. The buttons are mapped to select:
    • Forward/Rewind
    • Capture On/Off
    • Frame count – 1, 10, 100, 1000, 4000
    • Start/Stop
  • An Arduino is used to control the whole contraption which ends up looking like this:

This is the wiring diagram that I ended up with. The only weirdness is the transistor circuit prior to the relays. These type of cheap mechanical relays are ON by default when there is no voltage to the select pins. The transistors flip that for safety reasons.

So far, it’s captured over 532,000 frames representing almost 9 hours of home movies.

And here it is, in action. Subsequent parameter tuning resulted in a 3x reduction in capture time.