Film Transfer Types

Real Time - Frame by Frame - Film Scanner

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Film Conversion Equipment

The type of film scanning machine used for your 8mm, Super 8, 16mm or 35mm film conversion will have as much of an impact on the quality you receive as the resolution of the scan itself will. For example, if you wanted to digitize a photograph and tried doing it two different ways. You first put the photograph down on a table and took a picture of it using your smart phone or camera. Then you took the picture and scanned it using a flatbed scanner. If you compare the two side by side on your computer it will become really obvious that the flatbed scanner produced a digital image as good as the photograph. However, the picture you took with your phone or camera does not look close to the quality of the original photograph.

The same goes for scanning your 8mm, Super 8, 16mm or 35mm film. The real-time and frame by frame machines below are using a camcorder to take a picture of your film. The motion picture film scanner and Datacine machine are scanning the film. The results will be significantly different.

Film Conversion Equipment

Real Time

  • The lowest class would be your high volume retail resellers like Walmart, Costco and Walgreens.
  • They all farm it out to a company in California. They all squeeze the supplier to the point where they have to do it as cheap as possible with the cheapest equipment and cheapest work force.
  • They are usually using modified projectors and camcorders in a closed/open box system. It’s kind of like using a camcorder to record your film off the wall as it plays in the projector. These machines cost about $2000-3000.

Frame by Frame

  • The next class would be small independent companies. Basically your mom and pop shops that sell cameras or video games and in addition will transfer your film and tape to DVD.
  • Typically they are using real-time or frame by frame machines – basically modified projector and camcorder setup. They charge about the same or maybe a bit more than the high volume retailers like Walmart but the staff is usually better trained and they might be able to give you personal attention that you can’t get from the Walmart’s of the world.
  • There are probably about 500 of these small independent companies around in the USA today.

Professional Film Scanners

  • The last class would be companies that professional scan film. Some only work on Hollywood films. Some do a mixture of Hollywood and semi professional work. A few span the entire spectrum from Amateur film to Hollywood films.
  • Because these companies do some amount of professional film scanning they will have the most expensive and best quality machines to scan your 8mm, Super 8, 16mm or 35mm film. The machines they scan on usually run in the $100,000 to $500,000 range.
  • if you are looking for the best quality these are the companies you want scanning your film. In addition, these companies usually do some amount of restoration. So, color correction, grain reduction, etc.

Even though resolution is important, you'll find that the more expensive the machine is the better quality you will get from it. Just like in the old days the saying was that you get what you pay for. That's true whether you have it done locally or sent somewhere else.

There are many different types of professional film scanners made between 1980 and the present day. They range from the Rank Cintel to the Spirit to the ARRI scanner.

Your film has probably color shifted as well and all movie film has film grain (tiny dots) on it. So, you want to look into film restoration to help make your film look as good as it can.

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Our service is the best in the business and so is our customer support. If for any reason you are unsatisfied with our results please contact us to discuss any options. *Quality of film conversion and restoration is dependent upon condition of existing film stock and/or videotape; severely deteriorated original materials may be beyond the reach of even the most sophisticated restoration methods. To learn more, see our exclusive Film Conversion Technology, Slide Transfer Technology, or Video Transfer Technology. Online Video Customer Index.