Introducing pixl-latr - an innovative, low cost and effective solution for digitising black & white or colour negatives and transparencies.
If you’ve ever tried to digitise a negative or transparency with a digital camera, you’ll know that two of biggest headaches are keeping the film in place and flat; and backlighting it in a uniform manner.
pixl-latr is the new low cost, simple but effective way to solve both of these problems when digitising 35mm, 120 (up to 6x12) and 5x4 film formats.
How it works
pixl-latr is a simple product made up of a few parts
For 5x4 film: Place the negative or transparency within the pixl-latr’s 4 locator pins. The locator pins are spaced slightly larger than the size of a 5x4 negative to allow for film size variance. This also allows a small amount of room for manoeuvre within the frame.
Slot the frame onto locator pins to hold the film in place.
Place the pixl-latr on a light-box (a tablet computer also works), or on the stand in front of a light source, and then photograph your film with a digital camera.
For 120 and 35mm film: locate the film against the top of the side locator pins.
Slot the frame onto locator pins, and then slot the gates into the frame. The top and bottom gates are for 120 film.
All three gates are for 35mm film.
The locator pins are set at a position such that the lower film gate will just cover the edge of the film. This allows for little or no coverage of the edge of the image within the 120 frame and as well as showing part of the sprocket holes of 35mm film.
Once photographed, bring files into software, invert, crop, and apply various tweaks to obtain your final digital image.
Who it’s for?
pixl-latr is a handy tool for anyone looking to digitise film with a camera rather than a scanner - here are just a few ways it can be used:
Digitise with a mobile phone!
Place your film into the pixl-latr, put it on its stand in front of a window or lamp, and snap away. With apps like the forthcoming FilmLab this will become increasingly easy with little extra expense beyond your pixl-latr and the chosen app.
With a consumer camera and a cheap copy stand!
Attach the camera to the stand. Place pixl-latr under the stand on a light box or tablet computer and snap away.
With a pro-spec camera and a full-size copy stand!
Attach the camera to the stand. Place under the stand on a light box or tablet and snap away.
There are many other ways pixl-latr can be used to help you digitise your film - as a simple and effective piece of the digitisation puzzle, I know the film photography community will come up with all sorts of creative ways to get the best out of it!
pixl-latr help democratise digitisation of film formats from 35mm up to 5x4
The diffuser effectively diffuses almost any light source for a uniform backlight.
The stand allows pixl-latr to be used in front of any convenient light source - even a window or side lamp
The diffuser removes the possibility of pixels from a tablet or smartphone screen showing in the scan
The diffuser has a light texture that removes any chance of Newton rings
The frame is sized perfectly to hold the edges of 4x5 film and holds the edges of the negative flush to the diffuser with a light friction fit on the locator pins
The upper and lower gates are sized to accommodate 120 film formats between 6x6 and 6x12
The 35mm gate allows for 18x24mm (half frame) 36x24mm (full frame) and wider formats including the Xpan 65x24mm frame
The gates hold the edges of the film flat, thus helping to deal with curling problems
With particularly curly film, extra pressure can be applied to the gates if need be.
How it came about
I started my photography life shooting film as a child in the early 90’s, then started with digital in the early 2000’s, and now I find the lines between film and digital are a little blurred.
Like many film photographers these days, most of my film photography ends up as digital images. How they transition from the analogue to digital domain has always seemed like a costly or overly complex problem to solve, especially for those interested in medium and large formats.
The original idea for pixl-latr came from a desire to shoot, develop and scan 5x4 large format film. I bought a Harman Titan pinhole camera, a MOD54 and set out to shoot my first large format photos.
When it came to scanning I couldn’t justify the cost of a new large format scanner, tried and failed with secondhand units that needed antiquated operating systems to run, and finally settled on digitisation with a digital camera and macro lens.
I cobbled together a bit of a bodge-job rig out of a sheet of translucent acrylic as a diffuser, taped down the corners of the negative, and with it leant up against a window, I got my shot.
It was far from perfect, but it worked. So I went online looking for a product that would do the same job.
No such luck, so the idea for pixl-latr was born…
A few years later, 3 different product design companies (finally setting on Steve Lloyd of Chroma Camera), more prototypes than I care to imagine, the odd migraine, and a new found hatred for the word “tolerances”, I finally have a fully functioning prototype with only a couple of small issues to iron out...
pixl-latr is very close to being a finished product - as such, it has crossed my mind just to make a batch and ship to order - but upon reflection, I decided Kickstarter was the way to go.
The most economical way to make pixl-latr is to make them in batches of 504. As you can imagine this initial outlay is quite high.
I have also been struggling to self-fund the tooling required to manufacture the locator pin/foot out of rubber, instead of the off the shelf metal product it is currently made of.
Finally, I need funds for some of the things I didn’t even dream of when I started this project - things like final retail packaging. If successful, Kickstarting this project will fund all of these things which will dramatically speed up how quickly I can take it to market.
I’ve also found myself increasingly keen for pixl-latr to support the film photography industry, as well as the community. As well as raising funds to launch the product properly, if successful Kickstarter will also help prove there's a market to potential retailers and more importantly, a future distributor.
Whilst I could sell pixl-latr through my website shop alone, by working with an international distributor post-launch, I can guarantee to get pixl-latr into more people’s hands all around the world, which has to be a good thing for the growth of the community.
With profits from unit sales being shared between me, the distributor and retailers will - albeit in a small way - help build on the analogue photography industry too. I’ve previously been quite vocal in my desires for the analogue photography industry to grow, so this felt like a good opportunity to put my money where my mouth is.
Risks and challenges
I’d like to think that I’ve overcome most of the potential problems with pixl-latr. For such a simple product, I can’t believe how many hurdles there have been along the way.
Getting pixl-latr to the level of the prototype it’s at has been a massive challenge, and as mentioned, I’m still dealing with some minor design changes. With the remaining part being so simple, I would hope that the process shouldn't bring up any complications - but it might!
This is certainly the biggest risk to the project. That being said, none of the issues in so far have been insurmountable, so I would hope the real-terms risk will only result in delays to delivery.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)