There’s a good chance you or your parents and grandparents have piles of old film negatives containing snapshots from your childhood or the more distant past. These negatives likely contain photos that would be fun to check out but none worth the hassle and cost of actually getting them developed (otherwise you’d have already done it). Here to fill that quasi-need is FilmLab, a new app-in-development that near-instantly transforms a film negative into a full-size and reasonably high quality digital color image.
FilmLab is currently being funded through a Kickstarter campaign where creator Abe Fettig describes his project. The entire system, as demonstrated in the video below, is very simple: place a film negative onto a light box, then point a smartphone running the FilmLab camera app at the film. The negatives will automatically appear in color; select a particular image and it will fill the screen.
Users then tap the single image again to pull up a focusing sphere; once in focus, snap a picture of the film negative and wait for it to process. Processing takes between several seconds and a minute or so depending on whether it is producing a JPEG or a RAW image file. The resulting image is full-size, meaning you have something that is many times greater in resolution than that small film negative square.
The system isn’t an ideal solution for those who want perfectly preserved memories — the resulting images, by their nature, are soft and still lower resolution than you’d get by scanning a film print at a high DPI. Still, FilmLab could be a very fast and simple way to convert an ordinary old film negative into decent digital images that can be shared directly on Facebook and other social networks with minimum time investment. At the moment, FilmLab’s campaign has reached nearly half of its $20,000 USD goal.