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  1. 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.

    Thanks.
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  2. 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.
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  3. 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.
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  4. Originally Posted by HailingYou View Post
    Anyone particularly knowledgeable on Bell & Howell Autoload projectors?... 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.
    That's a nice projector, especially for free -- the DJL bulbs alone will set you back about $70-$80 each nowadays, I've seen them offered at $150+, ouch! I've got a bunch of B&H projectors I've collected over the years, part of an eternal project to build a frame-by-frame telecine; mechanically they're very well-built and it's a shame to see them tossed in the bins at Goodwill (which is where I've picked up more than a few of my machines).

    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
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  5. Originally Posted by jagabo View Post
    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.
    Well the projector was free on craigslist and only a few minuets from where I live so I didn't have to drive anywhere crazy to get it and I always like trying things myself first

    If there's something interesting on the film and my capture is especially bad then I may send it off anyway.
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  6. Originally Posted by ozymango View Post
    That's a nice projector...
    Thanks @ozymango for the reply, very helpful It does appears to be well built and is pretty heavy -- feels like the frame is made of cast aluminum or something.

    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.

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  7. Originally Posted by HailingYou View Post
    Originally Posted by jagabo View Post
    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.
    Well the projector was free on craigslist and only a few minuets from where I live so I didn't have to drive anywhere crazy to get it and I always like trying things myself first

    If there's something interesting on the film and my capture is especially bad then I may send it off anyway.
    Here's a thread where someone is using a film scanner:

    https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/366069-The-Reflecta-Super8-film-scanner-to-avi-conversion-thread

    Here he posted a link to a sample using the scanner vs. a projector/dslr:

    https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/366069-The-Reflecta-Super8-film-scanner-to-avi-con...ad#post2336582

    I downloaded the youtube video and did a little processing on a portion:

    https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/366069-The-Reflecta-Super8-film-scanner-to-avi-con...ad#post2336620


    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.
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  8. Hey, HailingYou, nice pix of the projector -- I'm quite envious of the deal you got!

    Originally Posted by HailingYou View Post
    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.
    It's only the combination of heat plus oils from your hands that'll shorten the life of the bulbs, if they've been handled "cold" then I wouldn't sweat it. Just wipe 'em down before you use 'em, and obviously don't drop 'em.

    (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!)

    Originally Posted by HailingYou View Post
    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.
    The picture helps a lot -- this is a cheaper 8mm "stamped" reel (but these will still set you back $10-$15 each today), and yeah that "notch" is the slot for the film, it's just a bad cut/stamp. It may just be paint filling in the slot, so you can try using a thin knife blade, like a box knife blade (or even dental floss) to try to clean that out -- or if you've got a hacksaw blade, use that to gently open it up. And if you've got some emery cloth or very fine sandpaper (or one of those sandpaper sponges you can pick up at Home Depot), you can clean up the edges of the reel, if it's sharp enough. I've been sliced by enough metal film reels in my time that I'm good at smoothing out the rough edges.

    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).

    Originally Posted by HailingYou View Post
    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.
    Inside the lens? Yeah, I'd suspect fungus. BUT, may not be too bad -- for projecting on a regular screen you won't even notice it, but it might show up in camera work. Working off a projected screen as your method, I don't think it'll show too much.

    Originally Posted by HailingYou View Post
    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?
    This is a really long story, alas, but short version: Your Super 8mm projector is (theoretically) showing 18 frames per second, while your camera is capturing the film at 30 frames per second (or maybe 60 fps). As you might guess from trying to divide 18 into 30, or 18 by 30 (I forget which way the math goes), you don't end up with nice even numbers -- which translates into a dark band moving up or down the screen, down mostly, depending on the mismatch between the frame rates. There's a further complication by how many blades there are in your projectors "shutter," this is a rotating disc that has either 3 or 4 "blades" on it that the bulb's light passes through as the film goes through the projector: The human eye doesn't see this alternating of light pulses through these blades (mostly; some people are more sensitive to it than others), but your camera's shutter will spot it instantly.

    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.

    Originally Posted by HailingYou View Post
    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.
    Knob #3 is indeed for the frame adjustment, what that does is move the "claw" in the film gate up or down -- the "claw" is what positions the film frame in the gate, where it stays, unmoving, as the projector bulb shines through it for a fraction of a second, then the shutter blades move and the claw advances the film another frame, ad infinitum. The frame knob just moves the claw's "exit" position up or down and thus moves the film "frame" up or down just a bit in the gate, so you see either more of the top or more of the bottom of the frame.

    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!
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  9. Originally Posted by jagabo View Post
    Here's a thread where someone is using a film scanner:

    https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/366069-The-Reflecta-Super8-film-scanner-to-avi-conversion-thread

    Here he posted a link to a sample using the scanner vs. a projector/dslr:

    https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/366069-The-Reflecta-Super8-film-scanner-to-avi-con...ad#post2336582

    I downloaded the youtube video and did a little processing on a portion:

    https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/366069-The-Reflecta-Super8-film-scanner-to-avi-con...ad#post2336620


    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.
    Thanks, I looked at the examples and the scanner does look nicer. I'll keep it in mind and send it off to someone who does that sort of thing if there's something interesting enough on the film.
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  10. Originally Posted by ozymango View Post
    Knob #3 is indeed for the frame adjustment...
    Thanks for explaining the function of all the knobs! I never would have figured out that leg leveler.
    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?

    Originally Posted by ozymango View Post
    The picture helps a lot -- this is a cheaper 8mm "stamped" reel...
    Great! I got a little nail file and was able to open up that notch on the reel. I still need to do a bit more but it'll work now.

    Originally Posted by ozymango View Post
    This is a really long story, alas, but short version...
    Ahhhhh, the timing issue makes a lot of sense. Now I understand the why the film scanner method that @jagabo is talking about is preferred.

    Originally Posted by ozymango View Post
    Inside the lens?...
    I searched images for 'lens fungus' and saw some pretty bad examples. Mine was actually pretty clean and sharp, I only saw one small spot but I'm sure that sort of thing gets worse over time. Does that lens assembly comes apart easily to access and clean the inside? I don't recall seeing any screws or fasteners, but it must have been either press fit or threaded together originally.

    Originally Posted by ozymango View Post
    Thanks for the pics (and the jostling of my memories!) and good luck with your project!
    Thanks again for all your help, I've been pretty busy all week but I'm going to give it a go this weekend. I'm pretty excited to see what's on this film. I'll report back how everything goes.
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  11. 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
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