Anyone particularly knowledgeable on Bell & Howell Autoload projectors? I'm going to capture one 50ft super 8mm reel. That's all. I'm going to use the method where you setup a film projector and digital camera while playing & recording in tandem. I just picked up a Bell & Howell 357A and two replacement bulbs on craigslist for free.
Do the Autoload projectors use a special take-up reel? It didn't come with a manual but I watched a couple of youtube videos of them in action. The reel I have looks a bit different from the videos, it just looks like a standard metal reel. Is that an issue? Also any advice on cleaning and setting up the projector for first use? The main reason I ask is because I've never used a film projector before and I don't have a test film to try out first. My film look to be in good shape but I know that these old films can sometimes be fragile or brittle.
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I looked into it a bit and do I believe the reels were different. There is an Bell & Howell Autoload type reel that snags the film and I have a standard Harwood reel. I'm thinking that I can just run it through and use a piece of masking tape to keep the film taut.
Can't you just manually wind the film around the regular reel until it holds itself in place?
And by the way, why bother using that inferior method when you can have someone use a transfer device that scans the frames one by one with much higher quality? Probably for less than you paid for the projector.
Last edited by jagabo; 30th Apr 2019 at 10:37.
The take-up reel on the autoload projectors are all the same, they have this tang/"catch" on the reel that's supposed to grab the film by the sprocket holes as it exits the projector, this works great but is not an absolute requirement -- any reel will work for a take-up reel, your non-autoload reels will just have a slot in them where you insert the film manually. It's hard to describe but when you see it, it'll make sense -- film exits the projector, you turn off the motor, slip the end of the film in the slot, turn the take-up reel by hand a revolution or two to wind the film around the reel, and voila, that's it, done, now play the movie.
You'll want to clean out the film gate in the projector for the best picture -- swing open the lens assembly (grab the end of the projector lens and pull it towards you, the whole assembly is hinged), and take a can of dust-off spray (Office Depot or like that) and blow out the film gate. Just point the nozzle at every space and opening you can see and give it a good long blast. As long as you're at it, blow out the entire path where the film loads when it autoloads. Oh and the projector should be OFF and UNPLUGGED while you're doing all this.
That's about all the casual maintenance you'll need to do on this beast, especially if you're just gonna use it for maybe a reel of film or two. I don't believe this projector has a speed control so you're probably gonna have flicker in the video when you film the screen using your method, but it may not be too bad, the only way to know if it bugs you or not is to try it.
Oh and for those bulbs -- treat them like gold, don't handle them with bare fingers, use gloves or at least a cotton/microfiber cloth when picking them up. If you have touched them with bare hands, wipe them down with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol will work in a pinch), those bulbs get HOT and your skin oils can react with the glass at hi temps. So treat 'em gently. Also when you run the projector with the lamp on, when you shut down, do NOT turn the projector completely off, set it to MOTOR and let the motor/fan run until you feel only cool air coming out of the top of the bulb assembly, make sure the bulb is cool before shutting off the power. That'll greatly increase the life of the bulb.
Have fun and good luck!
EDIT: One thing I forgot -- check the projector lens condition, it could be cracked or have fungus. Hopefully not. The lens should either unscrew or just pull out; remove it and hold it up to a light source, see if there's any fogging (sometime around the perimeter) or, worse, what looks like a fine spiderweb in the lens. Hopefully it's all clean and transparent -- if you see anything but a perfectly clear lens, you can try using the Dust Off to blow out the lens front and back, and if there are big greasy spots on the lens then get a microfiber cloth and GENTLY try cleaning them off (sometimes the gear grease in the focusing assembly leaks into the lens housing, nasty stuff) ... but beyond that there's nothing much you can do if the lens is foggy or has fungus (the little spiderwebs look). For projecting full-size on a screen it's amazing how tolerable the picture can be even with a foggy/fungus-y lens, but for transfer work it can be a show-stopper.
Last edited by ozymango; 30th Apr 2019 at 12:36. Reason: Forgot about checking the lens
If there's something interesting on the film and my capture is especially bad then I may send it off anyway.
The lady who gave me the projector stressed that the bulbs were quite fragile and would blow out easily. I looked around online and see that the bulbs were only rated at 10 hours. I'll wear gloves when handling them kind of like with modern halogen lamps. I guess I should clean the new bulbs with isopropyl alcohol before using. I haven't touched them but they are old stock and the boxes aren't sealed, who knows if in 50+ years if someone hasn't open it up and touched it and put it back in the box.
The reel on my source film is plastic an it has a cut away on the side that is pretty obvious how to thread the film in. On the take-up reel I see one notch in the center (above the second C in Chicago) but its under the paint. I suppose that is where the film is supposed to go? Maybe I can open it up a bit with a screwdriver. The edges on this reel are fairly sharp.
It was super dirty behind the lens door and bulb cover. I cleaned everything out with compressed air and a microfiber cloth as you suggested. I took the lens out by first pulling the focus knob out (it's spring loaded) and then lens pulled right out. The lens looked pretty clear and sharp but I did see one spot after cleaning that didn't go away, like on the inside of the back glass. Could that be fungus? Guess I won't know how bad it is until I try it.
What would I need the speed control for? I thought the films were set at a standard frame rate. If it is fast or slow can I just adjust it in software after I capture? Also there are a couple of knobs I'm not sure what the purpose is for? Number 3 says 'Frame', I assume this will either advanced the film by one frame when it's in neutral or maybe adjust the frame up and down kind of like V-hold on a CRT monitor? The other two I have no idea.
Here he posted a link to a sample using the scanner vs. a projector/dslr:
I downloaded the youtube video and did a little processing on a portion:
By the way, when using your method of transfer you want to change/tune the frame rate of the projector because you need to sync the projector to the camera to reduce flicker.
Hey, HailingYou, nice pix of the projector -- I'm quite envious of the deal you got!
(If you end up loving the projector and wanting to use it for room-size playback of movies at parties or whatever, you can make or get a halogen light replacement assembly that'll fit in the existing lamp area, uses $10 halogen bulbs that put out the same light for many hours -- but that's for later!)
But I like that it's metal and not plastic -- the plastic reels tend to warp over time and I get tired of the "creak ... creak ... creak" sound they make as the film winds on them when they're warped. With the metal reels you can gently bend them, if needed, to smooth out the film winding (sometimes they "pinch" the film in spots, you just have to watch when it's turning to see if it's warped/pinched in any sections).
So what you need to do is, time the shutter on the projector to match the shutter on the camera (very short version of a PhD level problem), and the basic way to do that is to change the speed of the projector motor, so you don't get the dark band. But no matter how you cut it, your speeds are still off -- your footage was meant to be displayed at 18fps and if you change the projector motor speed, you'll probably need to run your projector at 20fps to get the shutters in sync (reg 8mm film plays at 16fps, so you slow that down to 15fps to match the shutters).
Basically there's no real-time way to transfer 8mm/S8mm (or 16 or 35mm) film to digital and not have to hassle with your frame/conversion rates and that's why high-end telecine equipment sells for an obscene amount of money (to me, anyway) ... but you can certainly have fun with home-made rigs to at least get something transferred that you can watch and show to friends and family.
Knob #2 is to release a little spring-loaded "leg" that'll pop out of the bottom of the projector so you can raise or lower the front of the projector to line it up with the top and bottom of your projector screen on the other side of the room. It's good for fine tuning but it's never enough to fit your actual screen/location, so mostly you put the projector on a pile of books and then play around with Knob #2 until things are pretty much lined up.
Knob #1 isn't actually a knob, it's the end of the shaft of the assembly that drives the shutter blade, frame claw, and film sprockets, the "transport" that keeps everything in sync. One revolution of the shaft is one frame of film, and you can roll this little "knob" up or down with your finger -- projector UNPLUGGED and OFF -- and watch the little film sprockets move a fraction of an inch when you do this. Or open the lens assembly and look at the film gate, at the film claw -- rotate knob #1 up or down and watch the claw move up or down. This can be useful for fine-tuning your film in the gate when doing an initial setup, but this "knob" dates from the old 8mm days when you loaded the projector manually -- with these "autoload" projectors, I don't think you can really load them manually anymore, the clear plastic guides that surround the top and bottom sprockets won't let you actually manually thread the film. So in a way Knob #1 is a relic from the past, B&H basically used the same "guts" in all these projectors with some minor variations, so might as well leave it.
But this is the bonus why these projectors can be used for single-frame telecine projects: You can open up the case and pull off this wheel/knob, and replace it with a sprocket that you can then drive with a different motor to move the shaft 1rpm, and voila, instant single-frame transport system. For the 8mm projectors it works great -- for Super8mm, I had to pretty much destroy the beautiful cast aluminum body to get to all the guts to make my modified telecine transport, and it broke my heart to do so. Also those clear plastic film guides, while elegant in design and function, really complicate any attempts to manually load/unload film, so you've gotta modify the hell out of one of these to get them to behave as single-frame transports, but it can be done. Also I found another identical projector that I've left untouched just because it's so pretty. I swapped out the DJL bulb with a (home-made) bracket and halogen bulb, and I take the projector out once a year or so for family reunions and Christmas parties and like that.
Thanks for the pics (and the jostling of my memories!) and good luck with your project!
I guess there isn't really a neutral then – only a forward and reverse? At first I thought you would load the film, then manually advance it to the first frame and it the focus & center the frame or whatever, and then start it up. But I guess the bulb is so hot it could damage the film in short order that way. So should I load the film and focus and adjust the frame on the fly, then rewind it and do it again from the beginning?
I captured it this weekend and I was definitely over-thinking things. It does have a 'neutral' so to speak, and once I had it running I figured it out pretty quick. The focus was really sharp and I didn't see any blurs or artifacts from the lens. The take-up reel worked fine after using a nail file to open up the notch a bit. The capture worked fine. I tried two different cameras one with 29.97 frame rate and another with 23. The capture on the 23fps camera turned out better, I don't notice any flicker. The only thing is I can see that the upper and lower corner of the right hand of the frame is slightly darker than the rest. I think that's the bulb not lighting evenly. It was the old bulb and I didn't try one of the new ones but overall I'm happy with the results.
The actual film was 3:20 long but only about one minuet was viewable. The second half was too dark – not because of the projector or capture but rather because of bad camera work. It was taken in a dark room and you can see faint images of people next to the light of a lamp or television. I actually remember the camera used was a Yashica 40k. I'm happy with the results.
Thanks for the help everyone