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What Is a Digital Film Scanner?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A digital film scanner is a device used to scan photographic film, including negatives and film slides, to create a digital image based on that input. Some of these devices can be used to scan different types of film, including developed photographs, strips of negatives, and small slides. There are also scanners that can be used to scan entire reels of film, such as 8mm film stock, to create a digital video file. A digital film scanner can also be a business that performs digital scans of film for preservation and restoration.

The basic function of a digital film scanner is to capture images from a physical medium, such as photographic printouts, and transfer them into a digital format. Different devices and hardware can accomplish this process in a number of ways, though typically the images are scanned and then saved onto a computer or storage device in a particular file type. A simple digital film scanner can be used to scan and digitize images from photographic prints, negatives, and even slides. These images are usually saved in a format identical to the original, and can then easily be printed to create new copies.

There are also digital film scanner devices that are more expensive and elaborate in functionality. These devices can be used to scan reels of film, such as those used in projecting movies, to create digital scans of these video images. Since films are collections of individual still images, each image can be captured to create a single frame of digital video in one of a number of different file formats. Once the digital video is saved, then a copy of the video can be saved to prolong the lifespan of a piece of film or recorded video.

A digital film scanner can also refer to a company that specializes in scanning physical media, such as photographs, into digital files. These companies can often help scan large volumes of materials, for backing up the records of a company or town for example, and create databases of the scanned images. Professional scanners can assist those interested in preserving or saving photographs and home movies by scanning these materials and providing customers with backup discs that contain the digital copies. Restoration can also be performed on movies or photographs that have aged or been damaged, though these services are typically more expensive.

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