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To keep FI-16 affordable we ask you to supply a few common inexpensive peripherals. They are:
A screen. Anything with an HDMI input, but we recommend one with speakers so you can hear the optical sound while you’re inspecting the film. An old TV works great.
A USB keyboard and mouse.
A USB thumb drive so you can carry away your video work prints.
Scout comes with an Ethernet cable. It’s a good one, it locks securely because you may be copying files out of the Scout when you’re not around. It’s 7 ft long so if you want a longer cable, you can use any good RJ45 Ethernet cable of your desired length.
A barcode scanner if you have one. It’s not required but it’ll come in handy if your films and/or cans have barcodes on them.
Scout’s camera is calibrated and focused in the factory but if you think you need to calibrate it again someday, we’ll mail you a calibration film and help you use it by remote video conference.
The motors do not shut down if the film breaks. Instead, we encourage FI-16 operators to stay near Scout so that if a film breaks, they can shut down the motors quickly using the emergency stop button.
The emergency stop button shuts the motors down instantly.
The camera and lens can both be upgraded.
There are a few reasons. First, the computer vision needs to look at the frames before and after the frame of interest to get a good read on where its boundaries lie. And of course the computer vision needs to see the film’s edges and sprockets.
Scout uses a high speed industrial camera. Our software converts the images to the RGB color space normally found in video files so the software can call on FFmpeg to make common video file formats for you.
Before Scout starts taking photographs, our software examines the camera view and makes automatic white balance and exposure settings. Users can adjust the exposure if they like, but it’s not necessary. It’s best to leave the automatic setting unless the monitor you’re looking at is calibrated, and you have a good reason to change it. Scout software uses the area outside the film to make those settings, anew for each film you inspect.
Some films are quite wavy, and Scout will photograph them faithfully. Your film isn’t forced into a fixed place in the image because that would give you a false impression of the film’s condition. You will use the video workprint in a common video editing software of your own, or your vendor’s, to crop and stabilize and maybe adjust the colors to your liking. But the Scout inspection photography remains true to each film’s actual condition, regardless how wavy it may be.
To hear a magnetic soundtrack sound normal during a film inspection, you would have to run the film exactly at its intended frames per second rate. For some films, in deteriorating condition, that may not be possible. FI-16 lets you run film at slower speeds. You may also want to watch the film at a very slow speed so you can read credits right away, even before the film is finished. You probably want to run most films as fast as you can, for maximum productivity from your valuable time, and that’s why we say you can run films at up to one and a half times faster than their intended real-time viewing speed. That saves you a lot of time. In both of those off-speed scenarios, magnetic sound would sound really weird.
Optical sound, however, our software can play little tricks to make it sound pretty normal in those off-speed scenarios. When FI-16 or Waypoint generate video workprints, optical sound will be completely normal, at the right pitch, and stitched nicely to match the video.
So why can’t we do that with magnetic sound? Because you can’t read the magnetic particles with a camera. But your Waypoint film condition report and workprints will let you know visually what the magnetic sound stripe looks like, meaning, its true condition. We’ll be working on a way to improve the condition report to tell you where in a film’s run length that a magnetic sound strip is found because as you know, archival films get spliced in very funny ways!
Why not just have the FI-16 device make the condition reports and do everything?
Three reasons. First, to keep the FI-16 affordable it can’t be doing several things at once. The computer inside is a very good one, but it is optimized to do its primary job. Take the photographs, don’t miss any, and show a rich user interface to the user on their screen and speakers.
Second, this is a film inspection system, not a replacement for a preservation film scanner. The whole point of the inspection exercise is to share that film as widely as you need to. Especially in these days of the novel coronavirus pandemic, more and more people are working remotely and not crowding into the offices where they used to work before. Travel is restricted. Public spaces are restricted. You might choose to take your films from their shelves to the safest and most convenient place for the film inspector person to inspect them. You might choose to take the FI-16 to where the films are. In both scenarios, the people who want to see the condition reports and the video workprints are unlikely to be where the films are. And besides, we’re all carrying computers in our pockets now, you can find a laptop pretty much anywhere you go, so we don’t see the point of tethering people to the film vaults.
Third, FI-16 is a mail order device. This is important. It has to be affordable, light enough and small enough to ship by mail or any delivery service, and sent around to wherever your films are. After you’ve inspected your films you can ship films that you want to restore digitally to a qualified vendor, that’s easy enough. The big obstacle is finding out what you have, what condition they’re all in, and communicating that accurately to all the stakeholders, donors, fans, researchers, vendors and others what you have and what condition it’s in. That’s what the Scout device and Waypoint online services do for you. They’re a team.
As your films are inspected and returned to their shelves, the rest of your work can, and should, be done on the internet the way we do everything else today.
In the future we might figure out how to give the FI-16 operator a quick condition report, right at the device on a USB stick or local network connection, without compromising the FI-16’s primary functions. We’ll always be working on these kinds of improvements with feedback from our users. But we believe in this: use the most modern technologies available, in the most cost-effective ways, to the specific needs of archives and their stakeholders, donors, fans, researchers, vendors and others.
And last but not least, our Waypoint online service can make condition reports and video workprints for films that have never seen a FI-16 device. How? If you have any photographic images, DPX for example, or video that includes an overscan, let Waypoint do its thing for them too.