Thursday, October 06, 2016

the taper

hello people

if this post, look you see, reads a good deal worse and more convoluted than usual, that would be because it's disjointed. there's simply too much information and what have you for me to sit and write about all at once. do bear with me, then, and i trust it's of use, if not fascination, to someone somewhere.

for quite some time now, to get to the point, i've been toying if not tinkering with getting one of them boss devices that lets you convert negatives, slides and possibly 8mm film into a digital format. my (considerably) better half grew somewhat tired of my contemplations and dilly dallying on the subject. to this end, she forced my hand when a piece of equipment came along at a superb price, and so i now have one.

that is the EveDyo E10 Pro negative, slide and 8mm scanner. and that's a Led Zeppelin CD which cost me 98.5p next to it (but one for £1.99, get one free) next to it for scale. the scanner, which i fancy you are more concerned with the costing of, seems to usually sell for north of £150. when we saw it (slightly) south of £100, then, an opportunity was taken.

why was i so keen on this? it is not, after all, like i've ever expressed much interest in the world of photography and that. i suppose it's something of a lifelong fascination and engagement in taping and conversion. this would have all started when my Dad was, to my younger eyes and mind, magically able to make a tape off of a Queen record for me for my first walkman.

but, we will look at a history of the taper as we go on. for now, i would imagine that the more casual reader, or google enthusiast, is here solely to see the performance of this machine, or if you like device, to see if it is worth getting themselves, or just to see what it is all about. and if you are in a tres rush, this device is superb, even in my untrained hands.

right, scanning slides and negatives. other than the device, what one needs is some slides and some negatives. these are things what i happened to have, albeit in (at first) somewhat limited quantities.

the provenance of both? the negatives are off of The Stone Roses at Heaton Park, July 1 2012. the pictures were taken with one of them "disposable" cameras, and were developed by them off of Tesco at their theoretical "professional" photo lab. the negatives have been through at least two sets of x-ray equipment, which i gather is not so good for film - once when we headed back to SA after the gig, and then again (presumably) when they were shipped back home.

we will get to the provenance of the slides you see, dear reader, but as the next picture is off one of the negatives from The Stone Roses, let's take the time to see how the device works.

in short, quickly. you load the negative into the relevant holder (i think 5 types are provided), you slot it into the device, power up, select the type of negative and size, and et voila it appears on the screen on the device.

a really small-ish picture of it appears on the screen, as you can see. quite difficult to see any of the finer details, but you can see what it is and indeed carry out some "colour balance" adjustments, should you know what they are. that said, there is a cable you can plug into a TV or monitor so you can see it in a much larger size as you go.

once you've balanced and what have you, a couple of buttons are pressed and the new digital image off the negative are saved to either the internal memory of the device or to an SD card if you have put one in. on that note, it must be a pure HD card, an online guide says that a micro SD card in a convertor is likely to make this machine freeze.

and how does the digital image produced look? like this, it does, to be sure.

that's one of the first ones i did, then, and it is "raw". no editing, and certainly no messing about with the colour balance or any of the other stuff i don't quite understand yet. in those terms, then, this is, to me, perfectly satisfactory.

size and quality of the image? well, the picture file, a JPEG, is just slightly south of 3MB. in terms of resolution, quality, etc, the box says "22MP", whatever that means. someone on the web, however, has said that it is "14MP", whatever that is, but is "interlaced", whatever that means, to create a sense of it being the aforementioned 22MP. if that helps you out, great.

another taper story? sure. when i was in the mid-80s i was quite interested in the news, and so watched it. one night there was a segment on the dangers of something called "computer piracy". it showed you someone making copies of tape based computer games via a "tape to tape" deck on a stereo. such a thing had not occurred to me to do. i set about doing it at once, of course, but of course only with computer programs that i was legally entitled to make copies of, as breaking any sort of copyright in place would not be part of my character. no, no siree, law enforcement type, that's not how it is done.

onwards to slides on this new device, then, and the provenance of the slides that i have. but, dear reader, although it will be instant for you to read it, i shall only write it tomorrow. enough for this second session of updating this epic blog post.

provenance of the slides i had at my disposal to try? my Uncle. no, not that one, yes that one and hence no not the other one either. he had given them to me quite some time ago, and had assured me that i featured on the slides. at least that's what i think he said.

did i in fact feature? no, not quite. perhaps in a metaphorical way, maybe.

if you're looking at the above collage of works of art, and that is what we shall call it, dear reader, and thinking they all look like......that's because they are supposed to, i would expect. it turns out that these slides are from a midwife convention held in North America (possibly Canada) in the early 1990s, possibly late 92 or early 93.

for the technical details, no i made no special preparations or adjustments in respect of the above image. i just loaded the slide up, pressed "capture", and what you see is what i got. yeah, of course you can adjust the quality, colours and light - i just haven't worked out how. we will get to that in a bit, technical fans.

another look at the device in action with a negative? yeah, sure, and then i suppose i had best pepper this post with another look at my history of taping / converting.

the above picture does indeed come from when you think it does, but there's a closer look (as in how the scanned or captured image came out) just now.

after learning the art, for educational and non-copyright violating purposes, of tape to tape recording for computer games, it would seem in retrospect natural that i would explore other avenues of doing this with the technology of the day. connecting two video machines was to be the next stage, then, and one that i would like to think i mastered very well indeed.

more of that just now, but yes, eagle eyed types, the above does indeed show me scanning a negative off of the wedding day of my (considerably) half and i; a day what my (considerably) better half assures me was one of the happiest of my whole life.

and yes, dear reader, my (considerably) better half further assures me that i am, have always been and shall forever be very happily married. bless her for reminding me of this.

the above image came from a negative that was given to me by an Uncle - indeed yes that one, not the other one from the slides and no, not the other. it was a picture taken by my Gran who is sadly no longer with us, but who did come out to be an important part of celebrating our wedding.

so, yes, anyway. connecting two video machines. it worked a treat, it did, to be sure. but i was always mindful to make sure that i never, ever used this great power to make copies off of films or other recorded materials what had copyright on them. this was of course in particular true of any video rented off of petrol station at Marton Shops, which they have torn down and replaced with a dentist and a bookies.

phew, there's a long way to go with this blog post yet. anyway, for technical fans, or if you like people who want to know how you can scan negatives and slides perfectly, let's have a gander at the mysteries of the adjustments you can make before saving the scan of the negative or slide. 

right, back to writing this. now where were we. aaaah, yes, technical.......

the above is what the device presents you in terms of "fixing" the picture. no. i am not sure what EV means. R, G and B are, i believe, there to represent the Red, Green and Blue levels in a picture. you can adjust these - is that what's called hue and saturation and so forth? - before saving.

i have not really fiddled with these controls as yet as such. mostly that's down to time, but partially because i have had no training and experience in this. with respect to the latter, that's not really an issue. the very worst that happens is that i save a picture which is too red, green or blue, and i have to delete it and start again. hopefully one day soon i will have time to play, but for rough and ready, done in seconds work i can't complain with how they have come out thus far.

in order to get the most out of these settings i suspect that i shall need to hook the device up, via the cable provided, to my PC monitor or a television. the little screen on the device is good for a glance at what you're doing, but it strikes me that to be able to save in the best quality possible you really need to be looking at the biggest possible image of it.

now then, up to this point we've looked at the basics of what this device can do in terms of converting slides and negatives. any device, theoretically, should be able to do the above, with the difference being the cheaper the machine the lower quality. time for the device to face certain tests, or if you like trials, to show its worth.

what's the above? i know this could be like one of them pictures which shows a tape and a pencil and says "only kids who grew up in the 70s / 80s / 90s will understand this", but no. this is not a challenge. it is, as best i can describe, a "viewfinder". in the white end is a colour slide, whilst at the other, smaller end - the "business end" if you like, there's normally a bit of magnifying glass. you hold the white bit towards a source of light, right, and you may see the picture on the slide.

as the "business end" of this one happened to be broken, my uncle (the one off of the wedding picture negative giver) and i decided to elect to use this one as an experiment in scanning, for it was not possible to repair it and thus nothing would be lost if things went wrong.

i took the viewfinder home, then, and popped it open so that i may retrieve the slide from it.

provenance of the viewfinder? other than off of uncle? well, uncle says Butlins at Kent in 1980. i would trust him implicitly that this was the case. had i been called on to guess i would have said a couple of years earlier in the late 70s, but no matter.

with no way of knowing for certain who or what would be depicted on the slide, into the device it went, then, using the relevant slide holder (it appeared to fit into the one designed for 110 size) and on the machine went.

as you can pretty much clearly make out on the screen of the device above that's two people. some of you will not need this to be spoken, but it is in fact an image of my dearly missed, for they are so sadly no longer with us, grandparents. quite a happy day, then, that i was through this device able to obtain an image of them that had not been seen for some time.

a closer look at the image i scanned, as in the actual image i scanned? of course, here it is as it was produced by the device.

lovely picture. i do, however, need to work on all that EV stuff and colour balance to make it all look perfect.

in terms of all this saving and storage side, one does have to buy an SD card. i suspect i may have mentioned this earlier - totes sorry if i have, but i am not going back to look. the onboard memory can hold "about 40" images. with the size of each picture being around 3MB, then, although it does not say so i am guessing that it has a memory capacity in itself of 128MB.

please note it also requires a full on SD card, and not a "micro SD" card in an adapter, or if you like adaptor. the books says that if you use an adapter version it might cause the machine to freeze.

now, then. a true test or if you like trial for the device. the main motivational reason for purchasing this device above all other was the claim that it made about being able to convert 8mm and super 8mm film. i kind of assumed that his was a highly subjective and conditional claim, and i was proved right. but it does do what it says on the box. we will see.

as it happens i do indeed have access to a fair bit of 8mm footage, as shown above. also, as shown on this blog a while ago, maybe three or four years. it's 8mm footage filmed by my Dad with a camera, back in the days before a video camera was an actual thing. which means it is from the 70s.

the reason it came up on the blog before is that i have in fact already had this converted. it took some time and cost some considerable coin of money, but was all worthwhile. the prospect of being able to convert it myself, however was - as my fascination with taping and converting perhaps suggests - too tempting a prospect to ignore.

on we go, then, and first one is required to select "movie positive" for the type of thing that you are going to scan on the device.

let's get one thing clear - it does not claim to "convert" 8mm in the same way that you would convert a VHS to Beta, or vice versa. this is to say there's no means by which you can simply play the film reel and have it record as-is. there are some devices which do allow you to do this, but they are professional studio ones and tend to cost thousands, if not more. a telecine device and a video camera can do it, which would set you back slightly south of £2,000 (if you are lucky), but even then it's not going to be perfect.

why not? well, to get technical (ish), it is all to do with "fps", which is "frames per second". typically an 8mm film reel would run at 16 - 18 fps. great. a video camera, indeed a TV or video, would normally run at 24 fps, although this can be 25/26, depending on where you are in the world. simply projecting 8mm on a screen and filming it would, then, not work. well, it sort of does, but you get that "flicker" effect on the image, and the sense that it is sped up.

what this device claims to let you do is instead scan it in frame by frame. these scans can then be combined and made into a video, with something as basic as Windows Movie Maker being perfectly capable of doing it. there is of course a problem with this. well, a couple. three maybe.

firstly, it will get messy. i think each reel of 8mm i have is 50ft long, with one of them being 2 or 3 times that size. with no empty reel to spool it on to, and then rewind i guess, i will be awash in film reel.

this didn't stop me having a go with the start of a reel, of course. at which point i hit another issue.

yes, quite. what you can see on the screen there is an awful lot of black and only part of the image.

i loaded in the film exactly, or if you like precisely, how it said to in the book or guide or what have you, and it wasn't "capturing" the footage as it should. it looked like the problem of unspooling many feet of film was academic if not moot, then, as if i did i would not be able to capture the frames.

except of course i worked out a way around this, and behold, here's a capture from the 8mm film above as it perhaps should look.

provenance? as in what is it? why, that's a lion. i would suggest, then, that this reel is the one which my Dad took at Chester zoo, when i will have been about 2 or so. many years ago indeed.

how did i fix the problem i first experienced in trying to do this? quite simple really, i simply ignored the instructions in respect of where it said to put the 8mm film and fed it into the section designed for slides or negatives.

as you can see in the above, that shows the full image on the screen, at the least. and, at the least, as the images show, it is in fact viable to scan each and every frame of an 8mm reel in order to assemble it into a digitized movie. which leads us to the major problem with all of this.

time. time, ladies and gentlemen, time. if we go on the basis of lowest rate, 16 fps means that i would need to scan 16 frames to make 1 second of film. or 160 frames to make 10 seconds. and, well, so on, you get the idea. that is many, many hours of work. when you hear that they have "restored" a film frame by frame, i trust you will now have an even higher level of respect for just what exactly that has involved.

almost done with this rather long blog post on this device, then.

to give a run down then, my skills as the taper, or if you like the converter, stretch to the following with the equipment i have :

* negatives to digital image / printed photos
* slides to digital image / printed photos
* 8mm film image grams to digital image / printed photo
* VHS to DVD
* VHS C (video camera) to DVD
* audio tape cassette (no reel to reel) to digital file / CD

it has been suggested that i could probably set up a nice little part time operation with the above, as there are people out there that want it done, don't have or don't want to get the equipment and are happy to offer coins of money for it to be done. to this i say maybe.

a final 8mm shot, showing me wandering around Chester Zoo? sure, why not.

in respect of 8mm film, there are people out there who presumably have the very expensive pro equipment. they charge around £5 (plus postage) to convert one 50 ft reel. that's better than i could ever do.

at this stage i am really eager to play with my toy, but in no way do i feel that i can yet use it to a high quality level that i'd expect people to pay for my time to do it. perhaps one day, but today isn't that day.

that said, bringing the points above together, if any friend, family member, reader or avid google user has got here and said "i have some of that which i wouldn't mind converting", i'd be happy to do it for you. get in touch, we will arrange getting it to me.

aaaaaand......that's all. if you are looking at buying this device, or similar, for your own photos, slides, etc, then i hope i have given some helpful information over. if you've just read all of this for fun, thank you very much indeed for doing so.

the next blog post may be shorter.........

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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