Thursday 8 May 2008

Golden Eye - the scanner

In a small corner of the South Hall at NAB there was this Swedish company that has years experience doing analysis of film for auto crash testing and defence. Those films where you see cars with dummy humans crashed into walls. And slomo films of missiles leaving their silos.

These films need to be analyzed and data used to re-design things for safety or destruction. Whatever. And this company does just that.

Now they've used that expertise in designing a scanner and film analysis system that scans using capstan transport but providing the steadiness of pin-registered scanning. At least that's how I understood it. Its called Golden Eye.

The scanner is quite small, almost like a Cintel diTTo. Table-top. And there's a Win PC to analyze the film and save it as .DPX or a variety of formats. Scans can be 4k or 2k and there's even a swap option. Its a line scanner so many in-between resolutions are also supported.

The light source is a halogen lamp, what we call a 'cup halogen' lamp in India. Its a halogen bulb with a reflector and its an ordinary light source used in showrooms. My German friend even remarked that its a 5 dollar lamp. Light is conveyed to the film via a 'light pipe' so film doesn't get the heat. And a complex system of current control and filters ensures that the colours and intensity stays constant across the life of the lamp. Very ingenious and simple.

The stated purpose of this scanner is for archiving. And should be too. This transport is best suited for old film that has sprocket damage. In fact I think you probably don't even need sprockets.

Other nifty features. There are two 'cameras'. One scans the frame and the other, the entire film. So keycodes are read and need no complex alignment. And these two cameras help the software stabilize the film and ensure a steady frame. The other surprising feature is that the scanner is natively 35mm or 16mm ready with no complex replacement of wheels or lamp house.

Speed is 12fps at 2k and 3fps at 4k. And maybe they could get faster at HD or SD. So its a good healthy speed without the need for very high speed storage that 2k real time needs. 2k at 12 fps should need 180 MB/sec capable meaning HD-Ready storage should do. That's for 2k full aperture. If you're doing 3-perf, 1:1.85 or 'scope, you'll have smaller files so even lower data rates. Even 4k at 3fps amounts to about that much data rate.

The software can ingest EDLs and even ALEs as a source for scan lists. And they told me they could even work out a software feature that pre-reads the film so sorted negs can be read against cut lists and scanned by keycode. That would be a killer feature.

I think this scanner needs a look-at if one is into film restoration, even VFX. And since they can output Quicktime, I'd even try it out for dailies.

There's even a smaller version that's a bit larger than a Digi Beta deck! But its slower and does 1000 ft loads only.

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