Movie Film FAQ
Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about our film transfers
- What kind of equipment do you use? All of our film scans are true “frame-by-frame”, not “blended frame”. Our equipment captures a high-definition image of each and every individual frame of the original motion picture film. As described below, the computer then creates a digital movie file that is free of flicker.
- What about warped or shrunken film? Because our equipment does not have any sprockets or claws in the film path, we can handle that, too. We have successfully scanned 16mm film that has shrunken as much as 8%, which is huge. Most labs will not accept film that has shrunken over 2.5%. Of course, film that is severely shrunken or cupped will show some distortion in the final scanned image, but it certainly is much
better than losing the images altogether.
- Is Frame-by-Frame scanning easy on my film? Yes. It is very gentle. Our film equipment does not have drive sprocket wheels or pull down claw that might damage the film. The absence of drive sprockets and claw assures the most gentle handling of the film. Our equipment is monitored constantly during the process, never left to run unattended. Equipment running in large transfer operations such as “big box” stores and discount warehouses generally are not continuously monitored.
- Do you scan sound movie films? Yes. We can scan both optical and magnetic sound for Super 8mm and 16mm films. Our equipment captures the highest possible fidelity of the original film sound and maintains perfect sound-to-frame sound synchronization, sometimes referred to as “lip sync”.
- How does the finished video run at normal speed on my computer monitor or TV? Our Frame-by-Frame equipment captures a full image of each and every film frame and sends those individual images to the computer. Then the computer applies a “pulldown” algorithm to convert the captured film frame images to the video frame rate of 29.97 frames-per-second used in the USA. The pulldown process creates a perfectly smooth, flicker-free movie without the “Keystone Cops” fast speed effect.
- Will the finished transfer have any flicker? Absolutely not! That’s our promise to you.
- How much of the picture do you capture? The film scanning equipment is fitted with oversized gates that “see” the entire film frame, even including the frame lines and the sprocket perforations. Then we crop the finished film output to the full image boundaries so that the movies you get back show more of the original picture’s image (side to side and top to bottom) than you ever saw with the old movie projector.
- Do you clean and repair the film? Yes, your films are carefully inspected for tears, broken splices or other damage and are repaired. Then they are cleaned and lightly lubricated. Finally, we scan the film. The cleaning and lubrication methods we use are the same as those used in motion picture theaters.
- Do you splice my movies together onto big reels? No. Commercial “transfer mills” servicing big-box and discount warehouses splice and re-spool movies onto large reels so that they can be mounted on transfer machines and then left to run mostly unattended and unmonitored. They send those large reels with your movies all spliced together back to you. Because we manually monitor your entire film scanning process, there is nothing to be gained by splicing your small reels onto large ones. We return your movies to you in the same boxes and on the same reels that they were on when you sent them to us.
- What’s the video resolution of the film transfer? All of our film scans, 8mm, Super, 8mm, and 16mm, are initially scanned very high definition 2K resolution. Then, for standard definition DVDs, we downscale the movies with computer software to 720×480 resolution, which is standard definition video. If you want a Blu-ray high definition disc, we do not downscale. That way, every customer gets the benefits of a very high-resolution initial film scan at 2K and the precise equipment that we use to make those high definition scans.
- What is Color Correction? Due to a number of potential problems associated with storage, processing, chemistry, etc., some old color movie film might have discolored and over time and become bluish or yellowish. After your movies have been digitized, we manually adjust and restore the color quality of the digital images before we make your DVD. Obviously, we cannot fix all the problems such as poor exposure and focus that may have been caused by the camera operator when the movies were originally shot, but we can restore a lot of the richness of the original colors. This is a valuable benefit that you will not get from a low-cost provider.
- What is Gamma Correction? When film images are transferred to video, the dim parts in the picture that are in shadows are “squashed” or “crushed” into the black. In other words, you can no longer see the details that were filmed in deep shadow. This is especially true if there are brightly lit areas in the same scene. We manually apply Gamma Correction to lift those details out of the dark or black shadows so that you can see them again. Because it is a manual process, big box stores and transfer mills usually do not have the resources or the time to perform manual Gamma Correction. This is another valuable benefit that you will not get from a low-cost provider.
- How Much Fits On A DVD? Although a DVD will hold up to four or more hours of material, we recommend limiting it to two hours or less. We can pack a DVD with more material, but due to the way video is compressed to make it fit onto a DVD, the video quality begins to degrade. We think our customers appreciate good quality video, so we recommend the more conservative general guideline of not more than two hours per DVD. Approximately 30 small 3-inch reels of 8mm film will fit onto a standard definition DVD disc.