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Eclair ACL How to Rig a Simple Digital Counter to Magazines


Not sure if you understood my question.

You're not going to find any LCD anywhere in the world that will digitally count the footage passing through your ACL magazines unless you tell it WHEN to count (and how much).

How to power it, is the very least of your problem. You could put a miniature watch battery inside it, and forgo the need for any external power, the current drain is almost negligible for LCD. But, you are going to have to hard wire the LCD via a circuit to a rotating part of the magazine (or motor) so it knows how much footage is passing by. This will also need electronics to decode the signal. Although it's plausible to use the output frequency generated by a motor (or whatever controller you have) these will more often than not be saw-tooth waveforms, or sine-waves and useless to digital devices unless converted. The signals are also fairly high frequency so you'll need a divider circuit too. The moment you change the motor, you'll render your counter circuit obsolete, because the next motor will probably output a different signal.

Either way, an accurate LCD (or LED) footage counter is a lot more difficult to rig than it seems. You'll have to place a tacho INSIDE the mag to find a suitable place to count movement, and as Clive Tobin may (or may not agree) this is something that creates a whole new industry of problem on it's own. What tacho to use? Optical (light leaks), Magnetic (complex), mechanical (unreliable). And so on.

I had a similar brainwave several years ago to place digital read-outs on ACL magazines, and could only find one suitable place inside the magazine to fit the tacho. When I realised that all magazines would have to be modified in some way to accomodate the device, I scrapped it, as I felt is wasn't practical to market something like that.

Not to say it isn't do-able, it certainly is (especially for your own personal use). But how many people here would like to place accurate LCD readouts on their magazines for let's say $150 per circuit? Is it that important?

As a cheap and simple answer to your problem, can I suggest the use of a digital timer in place of a footage counter? In other words, you have an LCD timer that switches on and off with the handgrip and counts your film use in seconds rather than footage. It won't be one hundred percent accurate (give or take a few seconds is all I'm sure), but it's a hell of a lot easier to rig. No tacho or control electronics needed for starters. You can get tiny kitchen digital counters for a few dollars from most hardware stores. Here's the type of thing I'm talking about, available from Radio-Shack:


You can velcro them to the side of the mag and triggering them is very easy. Anyone can do it. It will still have to be wired to the hand-grip or battery, but this will be an electrical rather than electronic job. Don't know about you, but I'd rather have a TIME than FOOTAGE counter on the side of my mags. And guess what? These timers will count DOWN in seconds and minutes! Actually, thinking of it, I'm gonna go get some...

However, if anyone can come up with a brilliantly placed tacho for the mag (which will allow you to count precisely in frames, seconds or feet), I'd love to hear it.


Robert Latimer
(The Movie House)

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