Paper film’s handcrafted nature creates substantial irregularities that make automated scanning particularly challenging. Most attempts at preserving these films rely on photographing the film frame by frame which is both time consuming and prone to errors. We created a solution that scans a film relatively quickly and then uses software to align and stabilize the films.

Most film scanners assume an almost perfectly uniform film with fixed perforations running on the side of the film and a fixed frame size. Paper films, however, have perforations inside the film frame and the paper strips were glued together by hand every few feet resulting in varying frame sizes. Moreover, perforations often “float” above or below the frame line.


Once captured, the raw film in motion (below, left) needs transforming back into a watchable film (below, right). To do this, computer scientists Joshua Stough and Yuhan Chen coded custom software to recognize and select aligned frames (below, center). In 2023, computer science major Jackson Rubiano took over after Yuhan Chen graduated and extended her work. This process overcame the inconsistencies in paper films’ frame size and floating perforations. We then stitch the aligned frames together and stabilize the resulting film.

Raw 6k footage from Kyōrinrin (left), Software selected aligned frames (center), and stabilized film (right).
Film: Military Parade, scanned at the Toy Film Museum (Kyoto, Japan).