Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I've been thinking about ways to project large images onto a wall or screen, since that's a fun way to share them with a group: i.e., the classic slide show. But LCD projector resolutions are still poor compared to camera resolutions, and HDTVs have the same problem to a lesser degree as well as being non-portable. Both are expensive.

However, slide projectors can be had fairly cheaply, and the whirr of the fan and the ka-chunk of the slide advance are fun sounds.

Thus: Is it possible to print digital photos to slides that can be projected with a standard slide projector, either at home or by outsourcing to a lab? And if so, what are the advantages and disadvantages?

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Are you asking if its possible to print at home, or to have printed professionally? –  rfusca Jan 2 '12 at 4:02
    
@rfusca, I'd assume this is a lab job, but either is fine by me. Edited to clarify. –  Reid Jan 2 '12 at 5:08

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Yes, this was very popular in the 90s when lots of labs did PowerPoint to slide services. Have a look at the Wikipedia article on Film Recorders. A commercial operation still offering this service in the uk can be found at digitalslides.

Polaroid used to manufacture a desktop slide (The ProPalette range) writer which was essentially a CRT and camera in a desktop unit; you may be able to find one of these on eBay - here is one currently active on eBay

Output to slides is commonly done as 4096x2372; and the images you'd supply would need to be exactly the resolution required by the lab you're using.

You can output to slide and make some very good projections from these at 4k resolution, and as you rightly say slide projectors can be picked up for quite a low price on eBay at the moment. The costs are about £3 per slide, and with a 4k digital projector costing about £15k you can output a lot of slides before you reach that.

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Looks like there are similar services in the USA; a search for "digital slide" reveals several options. Prices seem to vary from about $1.50 to $3.50 per slide depending on vendor and quantity. –  Reid Jan 2 '12 at 18:13
    
p.s. Welcome to photo.SE! –  Reid Jan 2 '12 at 18:13

As Arthur said, what you are looking for is called a film recorder. Unfortunately, you may be dissappointed with the results. The Polaroid Pallette line was popular and on the cheap end, but that was both in terms of price and quality. Some models only had 2k pixels accross if I remember right. Just because you get 4k addressable pixels accross, doesn't mean that is the resolvable features size. It was usually substantially less than that for under $5k film recorders. Essentially, the dots bled into each other.

There were high end film recorders that had crisp pixels at 4k accross, like the Management graphics Solitaire, but those were multiple $10k units. I don't know what's out there now on the used market, but perhaps you can find a bargain. As long as you don't expect the result to be much better in resolution than a good video projector, you'll probably be OK.

Another thing to consider is that most of these units were designed in the 1980s and 1990s so may be difficult to interface to a computer today. Some interfaced via SCSI and others via the parallel port, neither of which are around much anymore. Then they also will require a custom driver. Make sure that works on whatever OS you have unless you can dedicated some old machine to it.

By the way, in case anyone is wondering how these things work, most used a high res black and white CRT with a rotating filter wheel. The red filter would be rotated in place and the red component slowly scanned over the CRT, then the green, then the blue. The image was built up as a composite on the film. If you were to look inside during the process, you'd see little more than a dot or horizontal line on the CRT at any one time. It would take around a minute to a few minutes per frame. Some worked on video signals so would expose a whole color component at a time, but the exposure was still a few seconds per component. Since this all relied on analogy electronics, it would drift and regularly need to be calibrated. Some film recorders (Dunn camera is one I remember in particular) came with a light sensor probe and meter built in for this reason.

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