I just wanted to say thanks for the great article on transferring home movies by Garrett Maynard in your November issue. I restore and edit photos professionally, but recently added film transfer services because of the demand. I currently use the basic screen projection method, and get very good results. But I’m always looking to improve my quality.
In Garret Maynard’s article, “Celluloid to Cyber,” he dramatically overstates one significant issue. He says, “Every day that goes by is a day that degrades your celluloid movie memories.” That’s theoretically indisputable, of course, but I would argue that film is a much more robust storage medium than any tape format. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t transfer your film to video or DVD, but don’t be misled about the supposed fragility of film.
I shot and edited a lot of Super 8 movies in college in the seventies. Over twenty years ago, I had a fairly state-of-the-art transfer made to VHS. Boy, does it look awful now.
Then, about 10 years ago, I had my films professionally re-transferred to 3/4″ video. They looked great, and still do, although 3/4″ is now more obsolete than Super 8.
Then I had more of them transferred about two years ago to DV. That transfer included Super 8 film shot on Kodachrome in 1975. It looks like it was shot last week. And I’m talking good film chain transfers, not super-expensive Rank transfers. There’s almost no image or color degradation, and very few scratches, despite having been projected dozens of times, long ago.
Certainly, film can fade and suffer degradation, but most of the film you see that looks bad on video is the function of a bad transfer, not of “faded” film. Homemade transfers, by definition, will look substandard, now and forever. When I shoot Super 8 now, I have it transferred immediately, I avoid projecting it, and I hang on to the original film.
Since I had over seventy-five 400-foot reels of Super 8 movies of the kids from years ago that I wanted to burn to DVDs, I felt commercial copies were far too costly. So I found an excellent Chinon 7500 sound projector with variable speed on eBay and purchased a Sony Hi8 camcorder. I started this project about 4 years ago and completed it last year.
I projected the movies directly into a reflector box (available from B & H) and recorded them to tape. I connected a 21-inch TV monitor to the camera so that I could adjust the speed of projection to avoid flicker. Keeping the projector speed at approximately 21 fps worked best. Because of the age of the projector, it had a tendency to vary speed itself so it meant a constant vigil at the monitor.
I then captured the movies into the computer and edited them in Adobe Premiere. The first thing that I had to do before editing was to adjust the speed back to the normal 18 fps or else the sound is from Donald Duck and the movie looks like a race. I found that about 90% speed gave the best sound and motion. It’s also a good idea to adjust color somewhat since some of the older films lose some color and clarity.
I used Adobe Encore to burn to DVD, which allows creativity in making menus.
My only disappointment was that I could not control the compression enough since you lose some detail in the transfer to the DVD.
I enjoyed Mr. Maynard’s article.
In our review of Pinnacle Studio 9 in the November 2004 issue, we stated that “Without a surround sound encoding codec (or even a stereo AC3 encoder), you can’t output surround mixes to your DVDs.” In fact, Pinnacle Studio includes a Pro Logic II surround sound encoder which allows you to create DVDs with surround sound. Dolby Digital 2 Channel and 5.1 Channel encoders are also available as a $9 upgrade. We’d also like to note that the latest version of the software, Pinnacle Studio Plus, offers a second video track and supports picture-in-picture and chroma key, unlike Studio 9, which only had one video track. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.