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IBC Blog: scanners, LTO and SDI

By Tim Spitzer

Although we all know “Film is Dead,” film scanners are popping up all over in an effort to resuscitate the medium.  Three of the new players to my circus of knowledge are:

MWA Nova GmbH, which make realtime scanners in 2.5K and 4K at 5fps, with the 4K, are soon to be realtime flavors. The scanner is capstan-driven (without sprockets), with room for PTR rollers, so looks to be easy on archival film. A laser senses the perf position to modulate the speed of the transport to deal with shrunken perforation pitch. Their gates are available for most known film formats from 35mm down to Super 8.

Blackmagic is offering a 35mm scanner with stabilization software and Resolve thrown in for free. The machine comes with a 35mm gate, and the rollers are milled to also handle S-16mm, but no information on that gate was forthcoming.

Sondor also offers a 2K scanner, but of amazing interest to those dealing with archival audio elements, they offer a mag dubber/optical track reproducer which, although sprocket-driven, has two sets of sprockets to compensate for increased shrinkage. There are intelligently designed rollers to help compensate for curl or warp in the film. The optical track, whether negative or positive, variable area or variable density is photographed by a camera and has digital tools included for dirt correction, correction of image spread and equalization.  I was thoroughly impressed by the device.

The “Tape is Dead” belief was evidenced by the absolute absence of VTRs, but belied by all those pesky LTO tapes that have become the darling of the moving image industry (I won’t call it the film industry, and moving image includes television and other viewing mediums down to Dick Tracy’s watch). The booth sponsored by the LTO manufacturers is titled “LTO Program” and is showing a roadmap from today’s LTO-5 and LTO-6 forwards to LTO-9, with each new generation still doubling the storage capacity from the previous.

This is like the payment of one grain of rice on the first square of a chessboard, two grains on the second, four on the third, until we hit the last square and it is more grains of rice than in the entire world. Maybe we should keep this in mind as we travel from 8-bit to 10-bit to 16-bit to 32-bit to suggested 64-bit architectures. There is a price for all this data, and no one wants to pay for it. Tomorrow I will talk about conform from LTO LTFS where two vendors seem to be most of the way there.

Traveling the hallways of IBC this year there are posters stating “SDI is Dead.” At the same time there are numerous booths with products using 3G SDI, 6G SDI and discussions of 12G SDI. If you want a mind-blowing visit to the “SDI is alive and kicking” camp please visit Semtech Gennum for 6 gig and 12 gig routing, and their SDI routing Mandela or what we could call “The Wheel of SDI Life.”

Tim Sptizer is managing director of Goldcrest Post in New York.

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