How good will my 8mm film to dvd transfer look on an HDTV?

March 31st, 2009

With everyone moving to high definition TVs and high definition DVD players this question comes up often. How good will my 8mm film to dvd transfer look on my HDTV?

 

Most HDTVs have 1080 lines of resolution. Standard definition TVs have 480 lines of resolution. Your film has between 800 and 1000 lines of resolution. So, if you transfer your film using a standard definition process (SD, Pro SD process), your HDTV will need to up convert the video from standard definition to high definition. If you’ve ever had an old picture blown up, you know that the blown up picture looks almost out of focus and grainy compared to the original. The same happens for 8mm film to DVD transfers. What looks good on your standard definition TV will not always look good on your HDTV because the video had to be blown up to HD resolution.

 

Because most people already have an HDTV or will have one in the next year, more and more customers are interested in a high definition 8mm film to dvd transfer (Platinum process). Going through a 8mm film to dvd transfer will allow the film to look the best it can on your HDTV.

My 8mm Film to DVD transfer is very dark, what now?

March 27th, 2009

If you’ve recently had another film transfer company your 8mm film to dvd and it turned out very dark then most likely they didn’t do any color correction or restoration.

Most movie film will get darker and will color shift as it ages. Video Conversion Experts offers a Gold and Platinum processes for 8mm film to dvd conversion which includes color, exposure, grain and scratch restoration. They use professional film restoration machines that the Hollywood Studios used on 35mm and 70mm film in the 1990s.

Even with these restoration machines, don’t think that the film conversion will look like current day standard or high definition video. The current film condition is the starting point. The 8mm film to dvd restoration machine will correct the majority of color, exposure, grain and scratch issues on the film.

There are some things that it cannot correct in a 8mm film to dvd conversion. For example, the restoration machine cannot correct film that is not in focus or double exposed or that has heat or humidity problem.

The next time you transfer 8mm film to dvd, make sure the company offers some kind of restoration.

How Do I Transfer My 8mm Film To DVD

March 18th, 2009

Transferring 8mm film to DVD can be a time consuming, expensive and complicated task. Most people are willing to search out a 8mm film conversion company that can do it for them while others want to try it themselves.

In either case, you want to sit down and think about the importance of your film to yourself and your extended family, what skills and equipment you have or are willing to buy and how much time you have to invest in the 8mm film to dvd project.

For most people, time, skills and/or equipment are the issues which cause them to search out a company that can do it for them. Before you do that, you need to understand what type of 8mm film to DVD processes there are and which one best fits your needs and budget.

Before we jump into the different 8mm film to DVD processes, let’s go over some basics. Video has several characteristics that determine how good it is. One of the most important characteristics is the number of lines of resolution. The resolution determines how detailed and sharp the video is. If you’ve ever watched a standard definition (SD) video channel on an HDTV and then switched to the high definition (HD) version, you notice that the HD version is much sharper and detailed. The reason is that standard definition video has 480 horizontal lines while HD has 1080 lines.

In a similar way, your old 8mm movie films have a maximum resolution. The maximum resolution for an 8mm film to DVD transfer is limited by the film grain size and the size of the frame. Research has shown that 8mm film has the equivalent of 800-1000 lines of horizontal resolution. So, a standard definition 8mm film to DVD transfer will only be able to capture 480 out of the 800-1000 lines of resolution on your film. A high definition 8mm film transfer will be able to capture all 800-1000 lines of resolution on your 8mm film since it is a 1080 line video format.

In addition to resolution, the type of film transfer is equally important to the final video quality you receive from your 8mm film to DVD transfer.

There are a few basic types of 8mm film to DVD transfer processes. More than 95% of the companies out there today use a real-time transfer. That is, they capture the film at the same speed that the film normally runs at using a camcorder. There are several ways to perform a real-time 8mm film to DVD transfer. Some shoot the film on a screen and record it with a camcorder. Some use mirrors and a camera. In general, any type of real-time transfer will result in video that is 30-50% worse than the film’s current condition.

A second and much newer 8mm film to DVD transfer process is called frame by frame. A frame by frame process means that each 8mm film frame is captured like a separate digital picture. This process still uses a camcorder, but it is using it to take a picture of each frame of the film. This does produce a better quality in the end. A frame by frame process will result in video that is 20-30% better than a similarly configured real-time process.

The ultimate film transfer process uses a professional film scanner. Instead of using a camcorder to capture the film, a scanner is used to scan the film. As you can image, scanning a photograph will give you much better quality than using your camcorder to video tape a photograph.

So, at this point you’ve learned that film transfers can capture at standard definition (480 lines) or high definition (1080 lines). You’ve also learned about the 3 different types of film transfers being used today. In order from least to best quality we have:

1) Real-Time Standard Definition (least quality)
2) Real-Time High Definition
3) Frame by Frame Standard Definition
4) Film Scanner at 480 lines
5) Frame by Frame High Definition
6) Film Scanner at 1080 lines (best quality)

You’ll find all four processes being used today and you’ll see the price reflect that. Real-time standard definition processes go for 10 to 15 cents/ft, real-time high definition for 16-21 cents/ft, frame by frame standard definition 21 to 28 cents/ft and frame by frame high definition for 40 to 60 cents/ft

The film transfer processes above are the basics types and do not include any restoration by themselves. Because over 90% of the old movie film we see needs restoration work, you may also want to consider companies that can do film restoration work after the film has been digitized.

Film Transfer Types: Comparing Different Companies and Different Methods

March 5th, 2009

Real-Time

Today, over 95% of the film transfer companies use a real-time transfer process. A real-time process means the film is captured at the same speed you would normally run it if using a projector. In fact, most real-time transfers use a projector or a modified projector with a camcorder. You could even setup a crude real-time 8mm, Super 8 or 16mm film transfer system at home using your projector and a camcorder. As you can imagine, using a camcorder to record the film is not the best method. In fact, you loose about 30% to 50% of the quality during a real-time transfer. Some companies use a high definition camcorder instead. It might make it look 5% to 10% better. The problem isn’t the camcorder but the film transfer transfer method, meaning that the camcorder is recording the film as it plays. Because of the transfer speed and nature of a real-time capture, the resulting video frames are usually slightly blurry and the colors are faded and washed out compared to the film.

Using Standard Definition Camcorder: Average 12 cents/ft
Using High Definition Camcorder: Average 19 cents/ft

Frame By Frame

In a true frame by frame film transfer process, the camcorder used for capture is used like a live feed. Each time a frame gets into the gate it sends a sync signal to the computer to capture the frame. As you can imagine, capturing each frame separately takes much longer and requires high-end equipment. This is why there are only a few companies offering a frame by frame 8mm Super 8 or 16mm film transfer  process. Beware, there are a few companies that use the term “Frame by Frame” with the term “Real-Time” in the same sentence. These are two difference processes that don’t go together. What’s happening is the companies are using a real-time process but trying to capitalize on the term frame by frame. Once the video is captured, any editor allows you frame by frame access to the video. So, be aware. If they use the term real-time anywhere then they are using a real-time process and not a frame by frame process.  A frame by frame process will result in video that is 20-30% better than a similarly configured real-time process.

Using Standard Definition Camcorder: Average 20 cents/ft
Using High Definition Camcorder: Average 40 cents/ft

Film Scanner

Using a film scanner is the ultimate film transfer process. Just like you scan a photograph into your computer, our film scanners scan the 8mm, Super 8 or 16mm film. Instead of using a camcorder to capture the film (like a real-time or frame by frame process), a scanning device reads the film at a fixed length. As you can image, scanning a photograph will give you much better quality than using your camcorder to video tape a photograph. The same is true for film.  Using a film scanner will result in video that is 30-50% better than a similarly configured frame by frame film transfer process.

480 line per frame scan: Average 28 cents/ft
1080 line per frame scan: Average 60 cents/ft

Knowing these different film transfer types will allow you to compare apples to apples when talking with different companies. In addition, there are other film transfer articles which may help you understand it better. If the company doesn’t use thoe terms, have them describe how the film is captured. Most likely it will fall into one of the 3 categories above. Lastly, make sure you look for references or comments made by former film transfer customers which can tell you a lot about the customer service of the company.