When most people think of film restoration they are thinking of projects like the colorizing of the Wizard of Oz. This is was not really film restoration but film colorization. Film restoration is a process by which the original work of art is restored to its original condition. Meaning, if your film color shifts blue as it ages, part of a film restoration project would be to shift the colors back to their original color balance. We both restore the film and we can also improve the film beyond what was originally recorded. For example, all film has these little film grain dots. Thousands per frame. We can remove these to provide a more clean and clear image. Similarly, if the film has stabilization problems, we can stabilize the film as well.
If you are looking for the best quality film restoration, you’ve found it. We use the world’s best and most expensive professional motion picture film scanners and Datacine machines for your 8mm, Super 8, 16mm, and 35mm film. Film shrinks over the decades. So running your film today through a projector or film transfer machine that uses the sprocket holes will damage the film. We get several calls a day about people damaging their film by trying to run it through a projector. The same goes for these low-end film transfer machines used by local camera and video conversion shops and even the big box stores like Walmart, Costco, and Walgreens. Make sure your film is scanned on a sprocket-less roller-based film scanner (like our Pro HD, Pro 2K, or Pro 4K). Luckily Video Conversion Experts can help. Damaged sprocket holes? Shrunk film? No problem and we won’t damage your film!
There are two aspect to 8mm or Super 8 film restoration. The first is scanning resolution. The second is correcting for the film degradation that has happened over the years. Film restoration is not intended to fix original recording problems like a film that was shot too dark, too light, or out of focus. So, the customer needs to keep this in mind as they set their expectations for any film restoration project.
As mentioned above, any good Super 8 or 8mm film restoration starts with a high-resolution scan of the film at or above the resolution of the film. So, the film needs to be scanned at 1080 or 1556 lines of resolution. You can’t scan the film in at 480 or 720 lines and expect it to look as sharp as the original film. So, that is step one.
Step 2 of good film restoration is to perform as much of the restoration at scan time instead of after the scan. Anything restoration done at scan time is done uncompressed. Usually, anything done after scan time is done on lightly compressed video. So, it is generally better for the scanner to perform as much of the film restoration as possible. For amateur film, our Pro HD and Pro 2K provide color, exposure, and surface damage restoration at scan time. We do follow that up afterward if there are any other areas in need of restoration.
In terms of setting proper expectations for the project, you need to keep in mind the limitations of any film restoration project. For example, if the original 8mm film is blurry, the restored scanned version will be blurry. If the super 8 film was shot too dark, most likely the restored version will be too dark. So, the overall goal is to get a digital video that looks as sharp and has the same color and exposure as the original film when it was first taken.
The one area that we haven’t hit on is surface damage. Surface damage can include scratches, nicks, dust, dirt, humidity damage, and cracking. These are the most common. The Pro HD and Pro 2K can hide about 50-80% of these issues using light diffusion. But, some of these issues have altered the image. For example, humidity damage leaves a stained outline of water drops on top of the film. Some people say it looks like dried show flakes or paw prints. These types of film damage really can’t be fixed. Another example is cracking of the film or scratches that have affected the image layer. Typically cracks on the film have created a scratch along the crack that has affected the image layer. So, these types of issues cannot be fixed either.
So, keep these things in mind as you evaluate your options and evaluate the film restoration job you get back from us or any other film scanning company.