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Preserve memories in under 200 lines of code using an Arduino, Raspberry Pi and an old projector.

My project is a 16mm film digitization machine that utilizes an Arduino Uno, Raspberry PI 3, a Raspberry PI HD camera, a Pimoroni microscope lens, NEMA 17 stepper motors, and an old projector to preserve memories in under 200 lines of code. The inspiration for this project began over the course of the past few years when I had a desire to locate my father’s old high school 16mm football films from the 1970s and have them digitized.

I was lucky enough to locate some of my father’s game films at the Heinz History Museum in Pittsburgh, PA and they were kind enough to allow me to have them digitized with a 3rd party service they use for this process. Unfortunately each 400 ft reel cost me over $200 to have digitized. There were a total of eight 400 ft reels to convert and with easy math this adds up to $1600.

This was too expensive to continue this process, considering I was able to locate more of his game films in another collection along with many other years of high school football film dating back to the 1950s. My goal was then to digitize all of the films I have been able to find since many others were interested in this content outside of just me and my family.

Since I am a software engineer by trade I decided I should make an honest attempt to develop my own digitization machine. There are plenty of Youtube videos describing how to do this but what I think makes my project unique is that I was able to accomplish this with what appears to be far less code and parts. Basically I wanted to keep this as simple as possible while achieving similar quality results that I’ve seen when paying $200 or more for one 400 foot reel to be digitized.

After a few iterative rounds of figuring out exactly how this should work and failing many times I came up with a simple process that I’ve used to digitize 6 films thus far. The cost of the parts I purchased, including the 16mm projector from eBay comes out to just below $600. At over $200 for 400 ft reel that I paid through the company the museum used I made my money back immediately. I did search for cheaper services and they were around $70 per 400 ft reel. I have over 30 reels of film to digitize and paying just under $600 for my parts compared to the cheapest service at $2800 seems worth it. The 16mm projector was the most expensive part ($172.00) followed by the Raspberry Pi and Raspberry Pi HD Camera.

I have posted a full list of parts in the project as well as a link to my GitHub repository with the code. I am also planning to post more in-depth tutorials on my Youtube page. I hope you found this helpful.”

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