The technical side of film and video conversions

Key Points

Frame by frame scanning

This term refers to the process of scanning individual film frames into discrete image files which are then assembled into a movie played back at a rate of 25 images per second.

Real time capture...

As the term implies, is capturing the film as it is projected at normal playback speed or in real time. This is performed using a movie capture device rather than a scanner.

Storage and care of film

Photographic film is adversely affected by relative humidity, temperature, light, chemical contamination and of course the age of the film itself.
Film is expected to last about 70 years in ideal conditions. The Australian climate however is not kind to film due to heat and humidity.
Your film should be kept in a dry cool location, away from direct sunlight and not in an airtight enclosure.
Should any of the film begin to give off a pungent vinegar like smell, this is an indication that it's in an advanced period of decay. Act fast to have the films converted before they are lost completely.

What is Frame Scanning?

Scanning frame by frame produces outstanding results

In recent years many advancements have been made in technology to capture and restore film. The original frame scanning equipment designed to restore Hollywood films was too costly for the domestic home movie market.

Special machine vision cameras have been developed that can be triggered to capture fast moving items on production lines for inspection and quality control. These cameras are now used extensively in the industrial sector with pricing dropping dramatically as a result.

Movie film is created when individual still images, moving fast enough, create the illusion of movement. So in simple terms film projection is a conveyor belt of images that can now be captured frame by frame when triggered at the appropriate time. When these individual images are displayed at the correct speed we get a movie file.

Depending on the camera resolution it is possible to capture in full HD format (1920 x 1080) or higher. Because film is made up of very fine grain particles, magnification will increased the grain particles also, making it more prominent. Due to this the film must be conditioned to try and minimise excessive grain and scratches. This process is computer intensive as the software program must determine which is noise and which is part of the actual picture.

During post production a noise profile must be created for the program to identify and remove the offending grain. Once set in motion the software looks at several frames ahead and behind the image to be processed then averages out what it considers to be noise. This process can take several hours of rendering, however the results are quite spectacular.

The video above shows a film being scanned using low powered LED lamps that are extremely bright yet will not burn the film. Rollers guide the film by the edges only eliminating any contact with the image surface area minimising the chance of scratching the film during projection.

Most older projection systems and transfer machines with regular film gates could scratch the film if not kept spotlessly clean. Almost all of the film we receive has been badly scratched through poor handling and projection techniques.

When scanning the film we perform an over-scan that captures a larger area than what is actually required. This gives us room to work with ensuring the film is trimmed to include the maximum frame area. Some film will display debris around the perimeter of the film frame as a result of dust and dirt accumulation over time within the camera aperture. We sometimes trim the film to remove excessive build-up, while being careful not to chop out important family memories.

Difference between Standard 8mm and Double 8mm film

Standard 8mm and Double 8mm film are one and the same.

The original standard 8mm film was supplied in 25ft rolls of 16mm wide film which existed well before the 8mm format became popular.

Kodak decided to modify their existing 16mm film stock to be used for the newly emerging 8mm market and created extra sprocket holes in the film to fit the 8mm cameras and then supplying it in 25ft rolls.

The camera operator would expose one half of the 16mm film in the camera (25ft) then take the film out, turn it over and expose the other 25ft. When the film was sent away for developing it was split down the middle and joined together end to end forming one continuous 50ft length.

The Kodak box would have 25ft of Double 8mm film printed on the box, which was actually 50ft when returned following processing and splitting.

In some cases people would expose both sides of the film and then turn it a second time in the camera resulting in a double exposure on one side of the film. Nothing can be done to correct this double exposure on your film.

Polavision from Polaroid

Polaroid Polavision film came in a cassette type enclosure and was fully self contained. The cartridge had a small lens seated behind the film gate allowing a special projector lamp to shine through the film.

Although the concept was good, the film quality was very poor and together with late arrival on the film scene became a financial disaster for Polaroid.

We are still able to transfer the Polavision film to DVD however the quality of the film is generally very dark, grainy and requires modification to be able to project it correctly.

When compared to the quality of Standard and super 8mm film it is not difficult to understand why it did not succeed.

Due to the extra work involved in the preparation of this format for transfer, it costs a little more to offer this service.