I’ve finally done something that I have been meaning to do for a good couple of years….I’ve built a line tester! Scanning animation drawings is such a pain in the bum, so this will be a huge time-saver. Since built-for-purpose line testers can cost a fortune, I made one by cobbling together other junk. I first needed a camera that could capture images of a decent resolution straight to my PC, but that had a small price tag. I opted for a webcam. The Microsoft LifeCam Cinema to be exact – a webcam that can capture images with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. It’s of course nowhere near as good as an SLR camera, but it only cost £45. The camera is great because it’s focus and exposure settings can be altered via the software on the computer.
I next needed some way of fixing the camera in place over my animation drawings. For this I went for a similar solution to many other animators, in the form of a photographic enlarger. I found a Durst F30 enlarger on sale just down the road from where I live for £30. This piece of equipment consists of an adjustable stand on which a box rests, containing a lamp and a lens mechanism. I dismantled the box, taking out all this stuff. The hole left by the lens was small and circular, similar to the diameter of the webcam housing, albeit a little too big. My solution was to cut a strip of foam and wrap it around the camera, so it fit snugly into the hole in the enlarger box (see the image on the right). I removed the rubber clip used for mounting the camera to a computer monitor.
Once the camera was in place, I fed the USB cable up through the enlarger housing and down the back of the stand. I finished off by rebuilding some of the housing around the camera to provide a bit of protection.
You can see the final product in the image on the left. There are two components still not in place. I require one or two lights to illuminate my animation drawings, and I need a pegbar to register the paper correctly.
I love how easy it was to put this together. My little DIY projects usually end in tears, but this one worked great. The camera was an almost perfect fit for the stand and the base of the stand is the perfect size for 12 field animation paper. Below is a quick test of the equipment using the lamp from my animation desk and a glue stick.