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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

July/August 2006 HelpLine

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From Film To Video


Q)  Years ago, I converted old 8mm movies to 8mm videotape by projecting to a converter box and taping with a video camera. I'd like to convert the film again with better quality by scanning the film digitally. Does anyone make a scanner that converts 8mm movie film to a digital video file?

Joe Cuomo
Monkton, Maryland

 

 
A)  There isn't an 8mm scanner available, unfortunately-or at least one that would be available on a retail basis. If you think about the differences in size between a 35mm negative and an 8mm motion picture frame, you can see that 8mm is just a fraction of the still image size. Size difference aside, think of how long it takes to scan one 35mm transparency. Now imagine scanning multiple frames—maybe as many as 18 frames per second—and you can see how the requirements of an 8mm scanner would be a tall order.

Now, one could argue that with 8mm, you wouldn't need the resolution requirements of a 35mm scanner. Since you'd probably output to traditional video devices, their pixel count is 720 x 486 for NTSC (the North American television standard) or 720 x 576 for PAL. (If you're used to thinking in terms of dpi or ppi, think "less than 100 ppi.")

There's one more piece to the equation, however: each frame that was placed in the scanner would have to match the exact position of the previous frame. If any frames aren't positioned properly, there would be a very distracting "film weave" as each frame of film jumps around when displayed in sequence. This isn't a feature of current transparency scanners.

If you have the money, there are professional film scanners called telecines that are used for motion-picture transfers. They're expensive (well over $100,000), however, and many don't have an 8mm "gate" for transferring that size film.

Another option is to call a film transfer company to see if its telecine has an 8mm gate. In my experience, the charge for transfer would be several hundred dollars per hour.

There are many small labs that advertise the transfer of film to video, however. Check out what's available in your area and give one a test to see what they can do.

If you have any questions, please send them to HelpLine, PCPhoto Magazine, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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