Monday, October 19, 2009

Pro8mm Tip of the Day: How to Pick a Place to Scan Your Super 8 Film

As I was working on updating my own VIMEO and You Tube Channels this weekend, I lost myself in the many great Super 8 films that people have posted. I found that I can spend endless hours just watching everyone’s stuff, and of course, since this is my profession, I am always curious about the cameras, film, processing and scanning workflow. Some of the DIY folks have produced some really good stuff. Great in fact. Filmmakers who enjoy the power of one, and have the time to maticulate over moving their super 8 film to digital can achieve a decent result, providing they understand how to minimize the dirt, and the film was lit correctly to begin with.

What I found somewhat interesting however was how many scans done at facilities are producing results that look so bad. In many cases, worse than the DIY telecine that filmmakers have done.

So here is a tip I hope you will use. Before you choose a place to scan your super 8 film, go to YouTube and Vimeo to see what kind of quality a scanning facility can offer. Most companies now have samples of their stuff up there, or their clients have tagged what facility did the scan. Check out as many as you can find. You will be amazed at the range of what you see.

As I looked at all of my competitors stuff, as is human nature to do, it validated for me the differential between the quality of the scans that we provide far exceeds the differential in the price. One more thing…don’t be fooled by “fake” HD. HD is a native 1080 scan that comes directly off the scanner, not an SD telecine scan that is up rezzed in a computer.

Check it out for yourself. © Phil Vigeant, Pro8mm 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why You Should Not Transfer Your Home Movies To DVD


As hundreds of people around the world prepare to attend Home Movie Day this Saturday, October 17th, I started thinking about how much misleading information there is on the internet from transfer houses about preservation and archiving your home movies. First and foremost is that a DVD does NOT preserve your film. A DVD is only a copy of your original film master by which you can watch your home movies. You cannot even edit a DVD transfer. As more and more people begin to think about putting their super 8, regular 8 or 16mm home movies into their Mac or some other edit program, so they can “do something” with them, I think it is important to think about why having your home movies scanned to DVD might not be the best choice. Most importantly, you never ever want to throw your original home movies away. This is your master that you will return to time and time again as scanning technology and applications change, and it needs to be cared for and protected.

The Center for Home Movies is a 501-C-3 not for profit organization that has done a tremendous job in raising the collective conscious of the public by having this annual Home Movie Day event worldwide. Home movies are our legacy, and offer a unique “you are here” view of decades past. They are an important part of personal, community, and cultural history. Go to their website to find a Home Movie Day event near you. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed! The event is this Saturday at numerous locations around the world. Participation is simple: Bring one or more reels of your 8mm, Super8, or 16mm home movies to the event. They will inspect, and project them on a first-come, first-served basis. Damaged films will not be screened, but preservation specialists will offer expert advice on caring for at-risk materials. No films of your own? Just come and watch the show! It is free!

So as people begin to think about their archive, and perhaps select a reel or two to bring to Home Movie Day, this leaves the question, what should I do with MY home movies? You may no longer have access to a working projector, and more importantly, you would like to share your home movies with other family members. You may want to find out who else in my family has films. Maybe aunts, uncles and first cousins have films that show a different perspective or event than what your dad shot.

Pro8mm has scanned millions of hours of regular 8 , super 8 and 16mm film for the worlds most famous faces AND the general public. We feel so strongly about home movie preservation and that it should be done by a reputable company who will handle your one and only archive with integrity. Your home movies are just as import to you as the Hewlett/Packard’s, The Coppola’s. The Eagles, Van Halen, Bette Midler, Evan Picone, Estee Lauder (I could go on and on) are to them. Do you think that Richard Nixon would have sent his home movies to be transferred at Costco? To me this is like needing an organ transplant and finding a place that will do it at or the Kidney Depot. It is the same with your home movies. You only have one set of originals. So why not take the time to find out who is transferring them, what kind of experience they have, what kind of equipment they use and is the equipment safe for your film given its age and condition. Trust me, I have heard all the horror stories and many transfer facilities use primitive homemade equipment, some of which I have actually seen at trade shows. You could not pay me to put my film on anything that looked like it would scratch it, tear the perfs or chew the film!

Some places offer home movie transfers to DVD’s very cheap on equipment that only cost a few hundred dollars. We scan home movies on a one million dollar piece of equipment that was originally bought to do production work and documentary work of super 8 and regular 8 film. Your home movies are treated the way any professional production would be treated. Nothing drives me crazier than people who have the attitude why go to all that trouble .. “well it is just some old home movies” . I think people feel this way because your typical cheap transfer looks so bad compared to the original film which looks so incredibly good projected on a big screen. Well, here is a clip that I put up on FACEBOOK of “just some old home movies” from the 1940’s that were my grandfathers. I had no idea that he was on the Board of Directors at The Blue Hill Credit Union, or that my great grandmother Rachel was so shy when the camera was on her. I never “got that” from the stills I had seen of her. My relatives went absolutely CRAZY! They loved it. Now I am getting my family to help me tag who these people were. Just think…The Power of Home Movies and the power of the internet. In order to do this though, your film has to be encoded to a file format not DVD. Films that are scanned as files can be used in an edit program on a Mac or PC, and, you can create stills from you film clips.

If you think having your home movies scanned by a professional motion picture company, here is what I suggest.

Set a budget. even as small as $100 -$200 dollars
Scan to file format only what you budgeted for. I would go for best quality , not quantity.
Share this high quality scan with your relatives to see if family members would like to share the cost and pool their films together to create a family archive. I think you will be surprised how many people might be interested in contributing
Do not feel that you have to scan everything at once. For my family, we scan an hour a year. You can also edit little clips and put them up for special occasions; For example, for my daughters 25th birthday, I put on FACEBOOK her 3rd birthday shot on Super 8 film. It was the greatest gift!
No matter where you scan, please take the time to find out the following by asking the facility these questions:

Find out what kind of equipment the facility has. Is it a film chain where they video tape your images as it goes through a projector. If it is, it will never render the quality that is on your original film. Or is it a flying spot scanner that is sprocketless. These render superior quality to film chain or single image capture telecines, and allow you to color correct the film. Many Ranks have a daVinci color correction system. This is like photoshop for your movies . Flying Spot Scanners are especially ideal for shrunken or badly damaged film.
2. If it is a flying scanner, what kind is it and how old is it? Transfer technology has been progressing rapidly since the 1980. The newer equipment can make substantially better images form your film.

3. Who is doing the transfer? Is it a real company or a home based business? Is it a trained film handler or archivist, or is it a minimum wage employee without professional training that is paying more attention to the internet or cell phone then your transfe

4. Do you have a choice of one light (single pass) or full scene-to-scene color correction? One light is best economy. Full color correction offers best quality and is done at a 3-1 ratio.

5. Is the film cleaned first and how? Dirty film will render a dirty transfer. Do they have technology to minimize the appearance of dirt and scratches on your transfer, such as Y Front technology?

6. Do you have a choice of standard definition or high definition? Is the high definition a “native 1080” HD scan, or is it “up rezzed’’ in a computer. Many places will call your scan an HD scan but it is film that has been video taped with an HD camcorder.

7. What do you want to do with your home movies? Do you want to edit clips to put up on Facebook, YouTube or on your iphone? Do you want to generate stills? Do you want to over-lay audio to take oral histories from family members? If so, then you do not want to transfer to DVD. You want to put them in a file format on a hard drive.

Whatever you decide, take the time to do the research. Think about how you want to share the movies. The internet now makes this so easy and so much more fun. You only have one archive. Preserve it for yourself, and for the future! And remember. Never throw away you original film! (c) RhondaVigeant, owner Pro8mm, October 2009