Scan View-Master Reels to Digital Video. Its the View-ReMaster!




Introduction: Scan View-Master Reels to Digital Video. Its the View-ReMaster!

About: CodeMakesItGo focuses on creating projects that are related to software engineering, easy to understand and entertaining to watch. Well hopefully...

For this project, I made a View-Master Reel scanner. I call it the View-Remaster.

In short, this will scan in 3D View-Master reels and create a side-by-side (SBS) video that I can watch on YouTube. So I have been scanning in a reel every week on my Reel3D YouTube channel. Cool name right??

The Reel3D channel is here, take a look at the scans I have done so far. New video every week!

I've been wanting to create a reel scanner for a long time. I've had these 3D View-Master slides since I was a kid. Recently I dug them out and began thinking about how to scan them in to make a digital video. It actually took me about 6 months to make this project from idea to working prototype. I'm actually still working on it tweaking little things here and there. Funny thing about engineering, you can always find a way to improve your design.

The actual scanning of the slides was a fairly straight forward concept. The part I was worried about was the image processing. But I jumped in anyway and would figure that out when I got there.

For the scanning mechanism, the hardest part for me was getting the right lens for the camera to capture a slide. It was basically a trial and error. Tried 25mm 30mm, 12-50mm, and a combination of extension tubes to get the right level of zoom. I found that the 30mm with a 5mm extension tube was the best solution. It provided a 'macro' like image with little distortion. The second most difficult item was the reel support. This is the part that the reel sits on and has magnets to hold the reel down flat. I must have printed out a dozen of these things with very small adjustments each time. Every time I changed something, I saw a way to make it just a bit better. 

I used an Arduino Nano to control the positioning of the slides and the background light to illuminate the slide. I thought I needed RGB LEDs so I could do some color correction for the older slides that don't have KodaColor and have faded. But found that I get little improvement from this because the USB camera has auto-white-balance and it does a pretty good job with color fade adjustments by itself. But I can still adjust the brightness using the FastLED library. I also started with the ring LED and later moved to the Jewel LED for more even light distribution on the slide. The entire scan process is automated so it will align to the 1st slide and then start scanning each slide automatically. But, you have to manually set the slide on the scanner so there is no way to scan in a batch of reels at this time.

I then have to run the captured slides through a processor to stitch the individual slides together. This is all custom code. It will automatically rotate the slides, create a side-by-side (SBS) image, and use OCR to automatically create the text for each slide. Finally, I open a project in DaVinci Resolve and change the root directory to the slides captured. It will automatically change the video content and I can just press the render button to create the video. Each video is exactly the same length, timing, and audio. So at least that part is easy.

The full video of the build is here on my CodeMakesItGo channel


  1. You will need a camera. I chose the 8mp camera so I can scan in at 4K. Nice thing about these cameras is that they ate manual focus. This way I can be sure they will always be focused on the slide.
  2. To create a fake macro effect, you can use extension tube. These will change the focal point of the camera and create an inexpensive macro lens.
  3. The brains of the operation will be controlled by the Arduino Nano.
  4. You will need one position sensor so that the Arduino knows when the slide is aligned and where each slide is located.
  5. I used little magnets to hold the reel in place.
  6. A RGB ring LED to backlight the slide.
  7. A solid state switch to turn on and off the spotlight.
  8. A 3D printer because you need one anyway
  9. Cardboard VR goggles
  10. Stepper motor and controller
  11. 12" Aluminum rod to mount the cameras
  12. Spot light

Step 1: Get to Printing!

There are several parts that need to be printed. All of the parts to print are attached and were designed in Fusion 360. It will take about a full day to print everything. Which is good news for you, I had to do this multiple times just to get everything to work correctly. It finally does and now you have the working version.

Also, if you want to make modifications, let me know and I'll send you the Fusion 360 files instead.

Step 2: Gather the Fun Bits

While your printer is hard at work, gather up the remaining material.

We will need the following hardware: 

  1. Arduino Nano will be our main controller
  2. Jewel LED, pictured is a Ring LED but I found the Jewel works better. It provides a more even background light.
  3. The 28BYJ-48 stepper motor with controller
  4. Position sensor
  5. Screws to secure the stepper motor, sensor mount, and reel support.
  6. Polyethylene sheet to diffuse the LED
  7. And (not pictured) a bearing for the reel support to rotate with.

Step 3: Reel Support Magnets

The snap ring will help hold the reel flat against the reel support. Because some reels are bent or not completely flat, I used strong magnets to help hold the reel flat while scanning.

I used a dab of super glue to hold the magnets in the printed parts. Be sure they are all positioned in the same orientation so that they will be attracted to the reel support. This isn't as easy as it sounds. Best way is to let two magnets attach together. Then mark the out side of them both with a permanent marker. When placing them into the snap ring and reel support, be sure that the black dots are showing for the snap ring and not showing for the reel support. 

Step 4: Reel Support Gear

Mount the helical gear to the backside of the reel support. Be sure to get it as centered as possible. Doesn't have to be perfect, but then again it does. I used super glue because I think it works really well for PLA parts and we just used it to glue in the magnets so why not.

At this point the reel support is complete, set it aside and let it rest.

Step 5: Stepper Motor

Install the stepper motor and attach it with two screws and nuts. I just used any 2 matching pair I had in my parts bin. Because the mounting tab is so close to the motor I had to grind down one side of the nuts so that it can fit against the stepper motor. Nice thing is now the nut will not spin and I can cinch the stepper motor up from just the top side of the platform.

Step 6: Backlight LED

Solder wires to the IN, PWR, and GND on the Jewel LED, then pass the wires through to the back side and smoosh down the LED in its position on the base. The Base will have a small cut out that the Jewel should fit perfectly in.

Step 7: Position Sensor

I used some old computer screws to munt this part. Sorry I don't know the sizes of these. Trial and error. But anything you find that works...will work. After fixing the sensor mount to the platform, mount the position sensor to the sensor mount.

Step 8: Light Diffuser

Time to test your skills and cut out a circle the best you can. If you are super cool maybe you have a CNC or laser cutter that can do this. I am not, so had to do it with a coping saw. And the result shows a human cut this out. I used the inner and out trim rings we printed as a template. As long as it fits fairly well in the base it should be ok. We will hide the imperfections with trim pieces we used as a template. Again, just glue down the trim pieces to the diffuser. You don't have to glue the diffuser down to the platform unless yours it not sitting flat enough or you just want to.

Step 9: Reel Support Attachment

Press the bearing into the center of the platform and secure it with the bearing holder. Not sure why I have no pictures of the ball bearing, I honestly don't have anything against ball bearings.

Then pass a long screw through the center as the axel. Long enough to also pass through the reel support and reel mount.

  1. While holding the screw in from the backside, place the reel mount over the axel.
  2. Then place the reel support on top of the reel mount.
  3. Finally add the nut onto the axel to secure them all together. 
  4. Screw in the axel until the nut is flush with the reel support.
  5. The reel mount should now spin freely. 
  6. Cut the screw afterwards to clean it up.

Step 10: Arduino Time!

Connect all of the wires and install the Arduino as pictured. There is a little cutout in the platform for the USB port to stick out. Also mount the stepper motor controller in the bottom corner of the platform. Dress up the wires to your preference. 

Here is the pinouts:

  • PD2 -> stepper motor controller 1
  • PD3 -> stepper motor controller 2
  • PD4 -> stepper motor controller 3
  • PD5 -> stepper motor controller 4
  • PD6 -> Optical sensor input
  • PD7 -> Jewel LED input
  • PB2 (D10) -> Spotlight toggle

Step 11: Test Fix Test

At this point we should see everything working.

After flashing the Arduino code. The backlight should turn on. 

Using the Arduino IDE serial monitor, you can send it commands to test its functionality.

The are the serial commands to send, each one expects the enter key followed by the command:

"N" = move to the next slide

"A" = align to the first slide

"S" = stop

"U" = Step up

"D" = Step down

"B<value>" = Change the brightness to the specified value. 0 = off, 255 = brightest. Example "B255"

"L<value>" = turns on\off the external spotlight. 0 = off, 1 = on. Example "L1"

"C<R>,<G>,<B>" = Changes the LED RGB color. Example "C255,255,255" for white.

Step 12: Camera Mount

Insert the 12" aluminum rod into the platform and secure with 2 screws. The are 8x32 screws at 1/2" length. You will need 6 of these if you use two camera mounts. You can also use threaded inserts if you have them.

Next, slide on the camera mounts. These are generic camera mounts and work for my cameras but may not work perfectly for your setup. 

Then attach the camera to the mounts. You will have to spent some time adjusting them so that you get a good view of the slide. I used a 30mm lens and a 5mm extension tube for the slide camera and a 5-50mm adjustable lens for the reel camera.

I've attached results of the camera position for my setup. I have to leave a little room (border) around the slide so that it is easier for the software to crop it out.

Step 13: Spot Light

I used generic photo LED light that I had for YouTube videos. But you should be able to use any light. I also added a couple folds of parchment paper to help soften the light a little bit. 

To control the light I used a switch that I can trigger from the Arduino. This can be any relay but I used a solid state relay and it works perfectly. The spotlight is needed to get good results of threshold images and OCR the text. We control the spot light with the Arduino so that we can turn it off while the backlight is on, making the slide colors just a bit more vivid. Then we turn the spotlight on while the backlight is off to get a good slide frame. We use the slide frame to crop the slides and rotate the image if needed.

Step 14: Time to Scan

The project is basically done at this point. It will take a little bit of fine tuning for camera adjustments and lightning. After that follow these steps:

  1. Run the Capture application
  2. Adjust backlight brightness and test on multiple slides
  3. Run the automated capture for the reel
  4. Run the Process application
  5. The Process app will adjust the OCR text, threshold images, rotation, and creates the final slides.
  6. Once the final slides are created I touch them up with a standard photo touchup application
  7. Finally, I create the video with DaVinci Resolve.

The Capture and Process applications I'm using are on the GitHub page

Feel free to create your own as the interface to the scanning platform is pretty easy to use. If you did not watch the video, it will demonstrate the Capture and Process application much better than I can here. Plus its a cool video...I think.

Step 15: Watch Video


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    6 days ago

    My Dad gave me his full setup. I have one weaker eye so the projector with polarized glasses was the best approach for me. Many reels are starting to fade so this scanner setup is just the tool I need.


    Reply 5 days ago

    Awesome, if you need help building it feel free to reach out.


    7 days ago

    Hi! Super cool project :)

    Hey, I have some "technical" view master information you may be very interested in. But I don't wanna just randomly paste it on the internet. Shoot me an email, if you're gaga over VM like it appears, you'll likely very much wanna chat with me....

    email done phonetically below....

    ef aye ex why ee are see h eye tee @

    Hope to hear from you!


    9 days ago on Step 11

    Really good idea to keep the old Viewmaster but I have to admit to still making the reels from my old stereo realist camera I have dating way back in years.

    Just have to remember to tell the film developers what its for, The main trouble now is getting the actual reels and I have had to resort to cutting them out on a C02 laser I have, it cuts out the template beautifully.

    I still do digital stereo and use stereo photo maker to process them into Holmes cars, nothing like viewing them in the original way.

    Nice project.


    Reply 8 days ago

    Thanks so much for checking this project out! That is pretty amazing you still use the realist camera. Not because it is old but because I don't' know where you find film or a place to process it anymore. Maybe I could make a digital 3D camera for hobbyist, let me know if you'd be interested in that. Thanks for sharing, I didn't know about the realist camera until now. I'd be interested in how you take 3D pictures, maybe make an instructable for that.


    Reply 7 days ago

    No problem, it was interesting to see what you had made. The stereo market is huge , especially amongst older people like me approaching 60 and even the younger ones with the insta 360 and other cameras out there, the 1inch sensor on the Ricoh is by far the best quality 350 camera there is for under 1000GBP. The quality is incredible. Im talking 360 here not stereo, there are stereo only cameras and in fact i do have a twinned pair of gopros which work very well but not so good on the IPD as its too close.

    Canon have also just bough out a new stereo lens attachment in the 2k region.

    I myself shoot digital VR using a DSLR, insta 360 and the Ricoh, I also shoot pure stereo on the Fuji W3, Twinned gopros still and video , I also have a small selection of only stereo digital cameras and of course using a slider or by hand you can do what is known as the cha cha method of shooting stereo by taking one pictures and then sliding the camera on the same line about 7 cms and take another identical picture, no good for moving objects but perfect for inanimate objects. It works very well .

    You can post process using a windows based software called Stereo Photo Maker which in the stereo world is the best software there is and its free. It looks old fashioned but its not, its incredibly powerful piece of software that comes from Japan.( in english)

    The stereo realist IMHO is still one of the best ever stereo cameras, They actually sell now for a reasonable sum if in good condition and you can have them fixed by Dr T. who will basically fix pretty much any problems with them.

    They are very easy to use exactly like a DSLR camera in manual mode, use a light meter to determine your settings, pop them on the camera and just shoot.

    For good shots you do need to understand photography a bit to get the best from the camera and you can of course force the exposure and do other manual tricks to capture the perfect stereo pair as it is a twin lens camera.

    You can also buy the red dot viewer for it and look at stereo pairs in that or with a labour of some love make your own viewmaster reels as they are now almost impossible to buy any longer, I think I said I cut my own from my template I designed and use my C02 laser to cut out the wheels and openings etc for the images.

    Developing is very easy, just go to any good photography shop and tell them to develop it in a certain way or do it yourself. its easy to do.

    You will need a cutter to get the correct stereo pairs and then mount them in the wheels until its full and play.

    In my opinion it is still one of the best ways to view stereo, nothing really beats the old view master clicking away and you can get a led light kit for them if you look around or use a projector to present them on a screen and where appropriate glasses.

    I love making the reels and I make old fashioned Holmes cards for my antique viewer that I have, Stereo photo maker allows you to do this very easily and I print them straight out on a small Sony dedicated picture printer i have.

    A lot of the original Holmes cards were also postcards so you can print the pictures one side and pass it through a regular printer the other side to add the address and message bits like on the back of a post card.

    With a little bit of practice you do not need a viewer to view in stereo you can do freeview (google for explanation)

    One of the best known advocats for stereo photography is Dr Brian May from the rock group Queen, he is a avid stereo photographer and has written several books on it and has documented queen from almost the beginning in stereo and you can buy these from his online shop at The London Stereoscopic Company Ltd.

    It would be interesting to see what you would come up with on a stereo 180 rig, but please dont spend a lot as there are some very good cameras out there in the 3 to 500 dollar range which will produce a stereo pair.

    I am europe based and a couple of years back the USA bought out a set of apps along with a viewer so that your iphone would fit into it and you could get the viewmaster effect on your phone.

    I'm lucky enough to own that kit as its now of course discontinued.

    Let me know please on here if you have a further play. Its always great to see someone having an interest in stereo and it does have a big following mainly in the us, japan and uk.

    What most people do not realise is that stereo has been around as long as normal photography and in the 19th Century it was very big and one of the only ways to get simple entertainment. Of course during the World Wars and other campaigns stereo photography was used all the time for reconnaissance flights , It proved very valuable for sorting out targets and so on.

    Now of course we have stereo satelite coverage!



    Reply 6 days ago

    Thanks for the detailed 'ible @codemakesitgo and also the wealth of extra information you've provided on film 3D photography @spiritiburner.

    I too am a fan of stereo-photography, I managed to pickup a View-Master Personal Mark II, the film cutter, and a projector about 10 years ago from an auction. Purely got it out of nostalgic warm feels and because I liked experimenting with film cameras (I used them a bit in my wedding photography work). While I've not shot a heap of stuff on it (I did have one brave couple who asked me to shoot some of their wedding though and that turned out brilliantly) I have loved shooting with it. I'm hoping to take the camera and cutter with me on a trip around Europe at some time in the future (when everything settles again) and am really looking forward to making my own travel reels of that journey!

    I'm in the UK so have been happy to see Dr May really driving a lot of interest in the area. A sad side-effect is the bargains I used to see are not around much anymore, but there are more people playing in the field and that means new things are being explored all the time!



    Reply 6 days ago

    Agree the bargains are slipping away. I use to buy at less than $.50 a reel now it is getting closer to $1.00 each. I've also bought about 50 Tru-Vue film strips. Thinking about how to scan those in too. Should be a fun project.
    Thanks Neil and Matthew for the information. Would really like to see some of the reels you two created. I think that is amazing you are making them yourselfes.


    Question 7 days ago

    Where did you get the camera? All the USB cameras I find have fixed lenses. Sorry if this info is the instructable, but I didn’t see it.


    Answer 7 days ago

    I used a camera without atuofocus, only manual focus lens. Which makes sense for this application because the distance to the reel is never changing. This is the camera I'm using:

    I tried a camera with autofocus and I have to wait for it to focus when the spotlight turns on or off. So made the scanning process take longer.


    8 days ago

    This is a very cool project! If I still had any of these, I would definitely build this. Thanks for sharing!


    Reply 8 days ago

    Thank you! It was a fun build, bonus is that people seem to enjoy the videos.


    11 days ago

    Really well done! Fantastic project and documentation 😍


    Reply 8 days ago

    Thanks again Jessy,😁 I have more on the way. Instructables is such a nice community, you don't get chewed out for making little mistakes or not executing perfectly. Thanks for making this a safe creative space.


    11 days ago

    An amazing project! Very well presented and documented. It brings back memories of yesteryears .


    Reply 8 days ago

    Thank you so much! If there is a reel you remember looking at, let me know and I'll see if I have it to scan in for you.


    8 days ago

    Are the pictures you have on YouTube for “cross-eyed” viewing, meaning R swapped with L? Looks that way but I could not tell 100%. All the best for your endeavours.


    Reply 8 days ago

    Yes and No. For each reel I upload a cross view and a parallel view. The title of the video will indicate which one it is. But, for the earlier versions, I only did parallel view. So if the title doesn't indicate it, then it is parallel view. I originally thought people would watch these with the cardboard VR viewer. But the community let me know that most people just free-view these and would like the cross view option. Thanks for checking out this instructable!


    Question 8 days ago on Introduction

    Wow, an amazing project! I just acquired a set of view master viewers along with about 20 reel packs. What was the total time it took you to complete this project? Total cost of materials and parts? Total time to process one reel of pics from start to finish? Thanks!