FilmLab, an app for viewing and digitizing analog film
Update 6/7: What comes next
This Kickstarter campaign is almost over - and it's been a huge success! Many thanks to everyone who's joined this project as a backer and helped make FilmLab a reality.
There's going to be lots more happening with Filmlab over the coming months, so for the latest updates be sure to check out the FilmLab website at http://filmlabapp.com.
Once the campaign ends, I'll be setting up tools to administer the beta programs. If you're a Kickstarter backer, you'll get updates with the details so you'll know how to participate. Approximately 6 weeks from now, the first beta version will be released and ready for testing. From there, I expect to release new beta versions every 3-6 weeks. I can't wait to get the first betas into your hands!
Update 6/6: Better sample images
FilmLab image quality has improved a lot since the campaign started, so I replaced all the sample images below with more recent examples. Check them out!
Update 5/15: Better rewards!
In addition to early beta access, and a full year of free beta updates, the early access reward levels (for iOS, Android, and both iOS and Android) will now also include the ability to buy the final released version of FIlmLab Pro, with all features and unlimited lifetime use, for only $4.99 ($25 off the regular price). Thanks to everybody who gave feedback on pricing and helped me figure out a way to make that possible! For the full details, see this update.
Introduction to FilmLab
Hi! My name is Abe Fettig, and this is the Kickstarter campaign for my new project FilmLab!
FilmLab is a mobile app that lets you use your smartphone to work with analog film. All you need to use it is your phone, film or slides, and a light source such as a light box.
When you first point FilmLab at some film, it automatically detects the photos. In real time, it shows you a preview of what negatives will look like as positives. You can tap a frame, and it will zoom in to fill the whole screen (including correcting the perspective if you're viewing at an angle).
To save an image, tap the capture button. FilmLab uses raw capture technology available on modern smartphones to capture as much detail as possible. It combines multiple captures to create one image of much higher quality than you'd be able to get by just snapping a photo of a negative or slide with the built-in camera app. From there, you can save the photo, or share it using any of the apps on your phone.
Inside FilmLab is a brand new image processing engine dedicated to recognizing and processing film. If you prefer to use a dedicated digital camera and macro lens to scan your film, you can still use FilmLab to quickly process your images. Just open a saved photo of a negative, and FilmLab does the rest. No more cropping and manually adjusting color curves in Photoshop!
The following mages were scanned by laying negative strips on top of a light box, and capturing using FilmLab on an iPhone 7 Plus. These photos were taken using FilmLab's (still unfinished) automatic exposure and color balance settings, and haven't been post processed. I expect the quality to improve quite a bit before version 1.0, but these give you an idea of where the prototype is today:
Film stocks and slides
The goal is to support as many kinds of film as possible. At a minimum, that means FilmLab will work with 35mm film, 120 medium format film, large format film, and slides. All film stocks will be supported, including color negative, black and white negative, and positive slide film.
For best output quality, FilmLab requires a smartphone with support for RAW image capture. All current high-end smartphone hardware supports this, so in the future I'm sure all devices will. But for now, if you don't have one of the newest phones, you may be stuck with JPEG-based images, which will be lower in resolution and may not have quite a good quality.
For iOS, the following devices support RAW capture:
- iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s Plus
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone SE
- 9.7" iPad Pro
For Android, any device running Android 5.0 Lollipop or newer, with camera specs that advertise RAW image support, should be fully supported by FilmLab. I'm working on putting together a list of these devices, as a central list of them doesn't seem to exist at the moment.
I've chosen not to offer t-shirts or stickers or other physical goods as rewards. The point of this Kickstarter is to make it possible for me to spend my time working on FilmLab, so if the project is successful I want to be focused on getting the app into the hands of supporters, not making trips to the post office. I've done other projects that involve shipping, so I know how much work that can be!
I wanted the main reward for backers of this project to be FilmLab itself. Unfortunately, app store policies make it impossible to give supporters a paid app for free. So instead, what I can offer is a year of access to FilmLab through a beta channel. App stores do support this, but they are limited to 2,000 users each on iOS and Android. That's why there are limits on the number of backers in those slots.
As a beta user, you'll get new and improved updates to FilmLab for one year after the campaign ends, even after version 1.0 is available to the public. You'll get to try out all the new stuff before anyone else does, and your feedback will help make FilmLab better for everyone. And once version 1.0 is released to the public, you'll get a special invitation to buy FilmLab Pro for only $4.99 (compared to the $29.99 regular price).
I expect to release the first beta version of FilmLab to Kickstarter backers during July, and ship version 1.0 to the public in late summer or fall.
After release, FilmLab will be free to install. Anyone working with film will be able to use it as a digital loupe to view their negatives and inspect individual frames close, for free. The free app will also include the ability to generate a limited number of output files from scans. To save more files, users will have two options. For small projects, they'll be able to buy batches of credits at low prices. Or they'll be able to get FilmLab Pro, a $29.99 one-time upgrade that will include unlimited output files plus pro features like lossless output, additional manual controls, proof sheets, and more.
Thank you so much for supporting this project. I started out working on this as something I wanted for myself, but I'm really hoping it's going to prove to be a useful tool for everyone who still loves film. Your support makes it possible. Thank you!
Risks and challenges
Developing new software is always challenging, and it's notoriously hard to estimate how long it will take. I like to compare it to estimating how long it will take to explore an unknown cave. You know there's a bottom somewhere, but you can really only guess how far down it's going to be.
For this project, it was important to me that I work through the biggest unknowns and technical challenges before bringing the app to Kickstarter. At this point, I feel confidant that the core technology in FilmLab is going to work, and that it's going to be a good app. But there are still some unknowns, and I may be surprised by unexpected challenges. I've tried to leave ample wiggle room in the schedule to account for this.
I have yet to build the Android version of FilmLab. Learning from previous experience, I've designed the code to be as cross-platform as possible. So building the Android app should require a minimum of new code. Still, there's a risk that there will be unexpected hurdles in doing so. Also, there are many different models of Android phones with different cameras in them, and some of these may pose unexpected challenges. I don't anticipate that any of this will be be insurmountable, but it could slow down the project.
Distribution of FilmLab requires approval through the Apple and Google app stores. I've thoroughly familiarized myself with their store guidelines, and don't know of any reason why either FilmLab itself, or the beta-channel distribution method I'm using to give backers early access, would be rejected. Still, this is something not entirely in my control.
Beta builds are time-limited, so to fulfill my obligation to backers that they be able to use the app for free for one year, a new beta will have to be released approximately every 6 weeks. If I got very sick or got hit by a bus, or some other unexpected event happened, and I was unable to release a new build within that window, the old builds would stop working.
Those are the risks and challenges as I see them. If you'd prefer to have a sure thing, you're certainly welcome to wait until the app is done and for sale in the app store. But if you're willing to backing the project in spite of the inherent risks and challenges, thank you! I really appreciate your help in making this happen.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (27 days)