Transferring Legacy Super 8, Regular 8mm & 16mm Film to Digital and DVD – Helpful Consumer Knowledge
This article is written to give home users and business owner's helpful insight on how to transfer and convert home movies and legacy film like Super 8, Regular 8mm and 16mm film to DVD or digital. This article is designed to share with users our experience as professional video editor and help people who want to attempt on their own or searching for a reputable company to transfer your film. This article will not provide you with detailed technical information nor do we support any specific software or equipment manufacturer. The intent of this article is to simply share our experiences as we have used over 100 different types of software and equipment both home-user and professional series. As you read this article further we use the word "home-user" a lot. It is important for you to understand we are referring to exactly that, the average home-user with store bought equipment; non-professional series. You will find this article is also designed to help users understand the film transfer industry and eliminate the "secrecy" that most companies try to exploit. A lot of company's claim there is no secrecy and they have a proven method that only they know about yet, they will not disclose their method. Basically, they play the same game that they claim their competitors play. When you read the information on a lot of the websites that offer legacy film transfer of Super 8, 8mm and 16mm film you will see this to be true. The answer is they are all partially correct, there is no secret! There is no hidden mystery, film transfer has been conducted for over 50 years and proven methods are available for all levels of consumers to utilize whether your needs are home-user or commercial. It is all based on the consumer's budget and the quality of the equipment a company uses. Of course, cleaning of the film is equally important.
The industry is really broken down into two types of companies, commercial/industrial and home-user driven service. As we explain further you will quickly understand how and why the industry is structured this way. Again, all based off the budget of the consumer that is wanting to transfer their film. A company's clientele base will dictate the type of equipment they use to service their customers.
Let's start with Commercial and industrial based companies. These companies offer High-end legacy film restoration, digital re-mastering and true archiving. These services are not cheap as their equipment ranges from typically 50k to 100k and more. Some companies own true million dollar Hollywood level re-mastering equipment. Companies like this that offer Hollywood level re-mastering are typically not affordable to the average consumer. They do not charge per foot like most companies that offer services to home-users. Transfer services from these companies are very expensive and can cost several hundred dollars for just a few reels of film and up to several thousand dollars depending on the exact re-mastering and restoration services you contract with them for. Notice the keyword "contract", you cannot purchase from these companies on-line with PayPal or a credit card. A legal contract is usually drafted between the customer and studio highlighting payments terms and conditions. Basically, a company with equipment that cost a hundred thousand dollars is not going to transfer your film for.10cents a foot; that typically just does not exist. So, typically when you see a company that is priced to transfer film for the average home-user their prices will typically range from.10cents a foot to.20cents a foot and many are home-based studios, they do not have "Hollywood" level equipment. They will make it sound as if they do, but the short answer is they do not. At the same time, they do not need to. We will explain later why it is not needed for the average home-user to use "Hollywood" level reproduction. A good example of what we are referring to when we say "Hollywood" level, just think of the famous Wizard Of Oz. That film was not reproduced and color enhanced for.10cents a foot, we can assure you of that. Many small companies will lead you to believe they are offering "Hollywood" level to the average home-user when simply they cannot produce that level of service.
Second type of company is home-user based clientele. These companies offer services to transfer "granddads and grandma's" home videos from legacy Super 8, Regular 8mm or 16mm to digital and DVD. Videos shot in the 60's to early 80's with off the shelf store bought home-video cameras, is typically the clientele for these companies. This type of company can typically offer most home-users a good descent product (transfer service) at an affordable rate. Most of these companies operate out of small studio next to the local supermarket in a local shopping center or even home-based studios. What's important to understand about these companies, they DO NOT truly own million-dollar equipment like some will try to lead consumers to believe. The truth is; they do not really need to own million dollar equipment. These companies can produce good results with high-end home-user equipment and/or low-end professional series equipment. The reason they lead consumers to believe they own "Hollywood" level equipment or have some-kind of secret process is simply to try and out-sell their competitors. It's simply a sales tactic, nothing more and nothing less. For the most part, the small home-user based company uses older telecine equipment designed to transfer Super 8, Regular 8mm and 16mm film to VHS or other forms of media. All these types of equipment offer a video out using standard RCA connectors (Red, White and Yellow) that allow a recording device whether VHS or DVD burner to be plugged into the output. Older manufacturer of telecine equipment included companies like: Elmo, GoKo, Triad, Panasonic and Sony. They all offered a similar variation for telecine technology for the time. These machines are still found on eBay and if kept in good condition and serviced well over the years can offer a good transfer of your film. It is definitely and older technology and yes, some of them can damage the film but that typically happens when operator is not familiar with the machine or the machine is in poor condition. For the most part your film is old and the reason you're transferring is to have it on DVD so you can easily play and watch it on your nice TV. So, if the film condition becomes derogated a little, is it really a big issue? In some-ways it's really not because you have it on DVD and making several copies is the key! How many times do you really plan to pay for transferring to DVD? I would imagine just once; correct?
So, be careful of companies that claim all else will ruin and destroy your film because all other machines use a "pressure plat" except for theirs. The last concept we want to explain to you that in the beginning we mentioned we would explain more in detail later is why the average home-user does not need to go to or pay for true Hollywood level re-mastering/transferring to digital or DVD. The reason we feel it is not necessary is that most small companies can offer you a really good product (image quality of the transfer) at a really affordable rate. Unless the company you chose is projecting an image on a white wall or on a white movie screen and recording it with a camcorder for the most part most small companies use very comparable equipment. When you research multiple small home-user based companies you'll find their rates to be very similar. Ranging anywhere from.10cents a foot to.20cents depending on the quantity you have. The reason the rates are all similar is basic market-driven economics. The consumer demands that price range and will not pay a whole-lot more. The equipment cost that home-user based company's use, meets the standards of the consumer expectation. That's what for the most part, all home-user based companies use very similar equipment and film transfer processing and all offer very similar rates. The true difference that divides home-user based companies is service and ethics! The level of service they offer and the most honest form of basic business ethics and practice is what you are truly paving for.
Technically, most companies produce very similar results. One company over another does not really produce a far better product from an image quality perspective. Many companies will have very complicated explanation of the telecine process on their website even though they claim it is a simple process for them but no one else. You will see words like dots-per inches, pixels, fps rates (frames per seconds), scan-lines, flicker-rates and many other technically driven terms. The newest one I have seen is flicker-to-transfer rate. I have no idea how that even works; nor do I think most people even care. The reason a lot of these terms do not matter is because a good honest company that uses good quality equipment, the automation of the equipment will sync all this for you. The difference between one machines flicker rate and another is sometimes so minimal and minuet that the human eye will not even notice unless you have Super vision that is. That is the reason we did write a technically driven article. Our experience has made us understand that for the most part, all new modern quality equipment produced within the last 5yrs years will yield very similar results.
In closing there are two questions to really ask your-self before choosing a method, service or equipment to transfer your film is, how much time, money and labor do you want to put into this transfer project? Do I want to do it myself or pick a company that can do it for me? After reading this article, we hope we have provided you with enough information to help you better decide what method and service provider will best meet your expectations and project requirements.
Thank you for reading and hope we have helped you!