Copying cine film to digital

Copying cine film to digital is relatively easy. I am talking about Standard 8mm or Super 8mm home movies that most of us seem to have acquired over the years either by filming ourselves or by aquiring the from our parents.

Simply you scan a frame, then the next one and then the next one and so on approx 3,240 times for a 3 minute film.

So yes it is time consuming and a 3 minute 8mm cine film can take all morning – or afternoon of course. Then once the film is in the can (love the old speak) we can set about editing. The editing can take quite a while. There are bits to chop out, there are bits to try and restore colour and then there’s camera shake.

Camera shake can be caused by the hand holding the camera to be unsteady, or the camera itself may judder and this is most often noticable at the start of a film. The single image in 8mm cine film is a small image and so the effects of a little movement are very apparent. It can be addressed by stabilising the sequential pictures which usully means concentrating on one spot and keeping it still while the picture frame moves around it. The result is that the frame must be made smaller and so the picture is inevitably cropped. Depending on the film this may have a small or bigger impact. One film I applied this technique to recently cropped so much that the image left lost detail and became grainy. So it is a compromise image stabilisation is like magic – it comes with a cost! (Thats for you ‘Once Upon a Time’ fans out there).

Cine film transfer can be immensely rewarding and of the many projects I have done I can think of none that were a disappointment. There have been projects where the film has been badly degraded but we have brought watchable movie back, there have been some where the customers did not know what was on the film and have had a pleasant surprise.

Occassionally there is cine film that has been affected by dust. When you project a film onto a screen you are probably all familiar with the dust particles. We clean the film before we scan but there is still dust which will persist (unless you use an abrasive which is a no – no). Sometimes, and this is the absolute pain in the backside worst, there was dust in the camera which was recorded onto the film. This has caught me out twice. One project I reshot three times and cleaned the scanner, cleaned the film, scratched my head and finally examined the film with a magnifier. Dust had been in the camera and was clearly visible in each frame. The other project where this happened the penny dropped rather more quickly and I only rescanned twice 🙁    But what to do about it? The quickest option is to crop the frame around the offending particle provided it does not affect the subject of the film, in some cases the film is unwatchable as the dust covers the image and waves about. The best option is to cut the section out, again unless the moment is unique and must not be lost. When we are video editing dust is not a problem, it presents different totally different issues for example mis-aligned tracking which is quite analagous to the dust contamination.

In Final Cut Pro we edit cine films to achieve the best results we can. It can be a problem with large projects as the programme uses lots of storage. A 2 hour film can take 120 gb thats 1 gb for every minute! The final quick time movie at high res 1080p will be about 12 gb and the MP4 rather smaller coming in at about 10gb. We send our movies out on usb or hard drive depending on their size, we can also upload them to You Tube in an unlisted location. This means that you can watch the film on a PC, Apple or modern ‘smart’ tv by either streaming over a network, off the internet or simply by plugging in the usb.

Until next time, David.

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