What are the options - DVD, BluRay, Hard Drive or tape ?
Standard Definition SD or High Definition HD
What do I transfer to ???
There are more than several options.. There are advantages and disadvantages to all of them..
Things that must be considered..
First thing to be aware of is that the aspect ratio (ratio of the horizontal to the vertical dimension) of film is different than that of video.
Standard definition television is 4:3 (width by height) or an aspect ration of 4/3 which is 1.33
Regular 8 movie film has an aspect ratio also of 1.33 - a perfect fit !
Super 8 movie film has a aspect ratio of 1.36 - pretty close to standard definition Tv...
16mm film has an aspect ratio of 1.37 - also pretty close
However High definition TV of 1920/1080 or 16:9 has an aspect ratio of 1.77.... That isn't even close...
To make any of the film formats fit the screen, the horizontal aspect of the image would have to be expanded.. This would make everything and especially people appear far more "fatter' than they really were.. And who wants to appear grossly obese ! The best solution (which isn't really a solution at all) is to "pillar box" the final movie. You can watch it in high def, but there will be black bands to either side to preserve the original aspect ratio of the film... There is simply no way to create additional information that was off to side and which the original aspect ratio of the film never captured or recorded in the first place... That is a tradeoff one has to make in opting for a High Definition transfer. The final movie WILL be pillar boxed.
So why don't we just take the 4:3 aspect ratio of the film capture and crop the top and bottom and then expand it to fit a 1920x1080 HD screen ? That would yield a full 16:9 movie. The problem is that by doing so you are working with an even small area and then expanding it... Yes; it would resolve the aspect ratio problem, but the image would contain 33% less detail... The small format films, especially Regular8 and Super8 were too lacking in detail to begin with. That is not a good tradeoff..
This is shown in the image above. The largest 16:9 darkened image is what would have been captured if the original film was shot in a widescreen film camera. But since 8 and 16mm home movie film was 4:3 ratio, the center slightly brighter box is what the film camera recorded. Thus the darkened area off to both sides would be replaced with black pillar box bars.. We could crop the resulting 4:3 to 16:9 by cropping the top and bottom and then expanding it to full screen. But that results in too much image data loss with a rather significant loss in final detail and sharpness... Simply put: the cure would be worse than the ill.. No obvious in this image but such cropping usually results in cropping off part of peoples heads...
Before getting to the various target format options, here are some things to consider first....
No one ever seems to comment on this problem, but it's a "Biggie". No matter what the target format, be it Hi Definition or low definition, if the camera was not properly focused, "it's gonna be blurry.." There is no cure for blurry images short of using better optics and auto focus mechanisms to begin with... Back in the "old days" grinding a good quality multi element glass lens was an expensive proposition - even "crappy" lenses back then were costly to manufacture.. The lenses and auto focus mechanisms employed then, don't even hold a candle to today's manufacturing capabilities that can grind out reasonably good quality lenses for almost dirt cheap... Thus most consumer 8mm film format cameras had anything but even a mediocre lens on it.. It was either that, or the cost of the camera would have priced it out the consumer marketplace.. The point is that capturing in high definition will not make blurry images any less blurry.
Hand Held Technique
Not all home movie film photographers had good hand holding techniques and hardly anyone used a tripod back then... The camera would often be bounced and jerked around "nilly willy" . Not much more than a blur would be the result as the camera was being bounced around, and the changing background drove the early auto focus and exposure servos nuts... ("nuts" being the proper engineering term used to describe the effects ). Although software some image stabilization is possible within reason, it is far from a cure all... There is only so much bouncing it can correct. On most home movie cameras each frame had a fixed exposure time of 1/60th of a second. The slow film speeds of the day allowed for finer grain but did nothing for light sensitivity... Thus any rapid panning would result in blur. But that's the way it was back then...
Both camera focus and hard held technique will have a major impact on the quality of the transfer no matter what equipment or techniques are used. To obtain quality captured images, you first need a properly exposed and sharp frame of film to begin with..
Just about every transfer company out there shows splendid examples of their best work . What they don't bother to show you are the transfers from films where the camera had poor focus or had almost insane amounts of camera instability.. We can't do anything about the latter either.. But it is worth pointing out that not even frame by frame captures will make a blurry film with the camera bouncing wildly any better...
Film inherent resolution
Small format 8mm film was not noted for it's resolution to begin with.. It was actually pretty poor by today's even standard def TV standards..
The film gate for standard 8mm was only .192x.145 inches.. To fill even a 27 inch tv screen it must be enlarged quite a bit... Try 140x. (do the math !)
The resolving power of the film itself according to Kodak's own data sheets specs most 8 and even 16mm film as being able to resolve 300 lines per millimeter..
Doing a little simple math: The horizontal dimension of an 8mm home movie film gate is .092 inches which is 4.8mm. 4.8*300=1440 lines... Sounds pretty good ! But that assumes a perfect lens with no panning or motion in the image that results in image blur.. The slightest image blur can reduce the resolving power from 1440 lines down to no more that 150 lines or even less. Try zooming in with a camcorder, use the manual focus option and only slightly de-focus the lens.. The inherent resolving power of the format just effectively got instantly "trashed'..
In reality from our own observations due to the inherent problems just noted, most regular 8 and super 8 home movies would yield no more than 300 lines of resolution at best... This is only slightly better than VHS..
We do encounter many small format films that perhaps just by luck of the draw and through manufacturing tolerances ended up with a nice lens that hadn't been dropped or banged too many times with a near perfectly working auto focus and was held reasonably steady... The results are then impressive ! But this is also somewhat of an exception.. To demonstrate the point, place a frame of typical home movie film under a 50 to 100 inspection microscope and take a look... The sharpness will disappear long before the actual film grain becomes apparent...
Result; capturing in HD will NOT give you 1920 lines of actual horizontal resolution.. Not even close - even close to 1440 lines if pillar boxed... With imperfect lenses, image motion and less than perfect auto focus, that just is not going to happen in the 8mm formats..
16mm is much better owing to the larger film area.. That is exactly why Hollywood shoots on 70mm film and not on 8mm. There is simply 76 times the area...
So with this information now in hand, here are the various target format options and their tradeoffs..
Almost everyone has a DVD player now days.... This is a huge advantage if you swap media with family or friends.
Far fewer have BluRay players or even Hi def TV's.. That is just a reality.... Eventually Hi Def will be far more prevalent, but "don't hold your breath"...
Although you can import the video from a DVD into an editing system, it is not the preferred way of editing. Better results are obtained by transferring to a digital tape format or an avi file and importing the data from either of those. Why you ask ? Click here to go to DVD's
All DVD's by definition are mpeg-2 compressed. Something has to give to get all the video to fit into approx 4.3GB... However burning in XP mode thereby using the least compression, allows 60 minutes of video to fit onto a single DVD.. If you are satisfied with the quality of commercial DVD's , then you will be happy with opting for transfer to a standard definition DVD burned in XP..
DVD's are easy to exchange with family and friends. The aspect ratio from film is mostly preserved. 8mm and Super8 movie film owing to it's small form factor was anything but hi definition to begin with... Capturing in HD is not going to give you HD images with much in the way of being able to resolve any fine detail. The small film formats, and poor optics by today's standards were incapable of recording fine detail to begin with..
Most people opt for transfer to DVD because of these reasons.. With so much standard definition content out in the marketplace, equipment that supports standard definition will be around for a long long long long time. As new storage formats such as flash memory start coming in, you can simply transfer to those formats...
The vast majority of our customers specify DVD as the target format..
As a side note: we capture in high definition for all our transfers and then down convert to SD for burning to DVD...
Although compressed like a DVD, it is a high definition format.. Over 3x the detail of standard definition Tv. Taking only the format as a consideration, that is a BIG advantage.
Not everyone has a BluRay player or a HD TV/monitor.
Since an HD camera is used to capture each frame, the image will be a bit sharper owing to the format's higher bandwidth. However; do not expect true high definition - The smaller film formats were incapable of hi def to begin with. A high def capture of a blurry image will appear just as blurry.
Blowing a hi def capture up on a 55 inch or larger HD TV might at first seem like a great idea ! There is a downside to this that most company's fail to mention.. The HD capture will also capture every minor imperfection in the film and show it in all it's High Definition "Glory' as well.. Lower res transfers be they vintage video or film, typically look a lot better on smaller lower res screens. They simply mask hide many of the small "sins".
Media and authoring costs are higher.
The movie will be pillar boxed to preserve the original aspect ratio
We really have no preference either way for the smaller film formats as all our captures are done in HD to begin with. Now if this were 35 or 70mm film, that would be a completely different story. You will have to consider the tradeoffs and the limitations of the small f8mm and even 16mm format films. Will it be better ? - YES ! Will it be that much better with over 3 times the detail ? - NO No way ! There is simply no way to obtain more resolution than was recorded to the original movie film to begin with.
Files are delivered in the avi format. Mac users can easily convert these avi files into ProRes 422. There are many options.. We can capture in SD and HD and for each of those the capture can be MJPG (Motion JPG), 8 bit YUV uncompressed or 10 bit YUV uncompressed.. MJPG is a compressed HD format typically as found on a BluRay disc... figure on about 16GB per running hour file size for SD ... 10 bit YUV uncompressed is exactly that. No compression whatsoever. But file sizes can become horrendous. Figure 106GB per running hr for SD and 700GB per running hr for HD...
Since all we are doing is capturing your film and not doing any editing or authoring of a DVD or BluRay, costs for transfer to a hard drive that you supply are less..
File transfers offer superior quality over even BluRay, as there is far less or even no compression. You have absolute control over content and delivery of the final product.
None come to mind other that huge file sizes and having a computer system with the necessary resources and editing software. If editing uncompressed HD, you will need a fast system that can handle such huge file sizes.
The most cost effective and technically superior way of transferring anything be it video or film for that matter.. It means however, you get to do all the work such as importing into your editing system, clean up, editing, authoring, titling and finally burning either a DVD or BluRay disc... But it also means with the exception of the actual capture itself, you have total control over the end product.
You may supply your own hard drive and receive either mjpg or uncompressed files. Note: uncompressed avi files are huge: Figure 106 GB per hour for SD and 700 gigs per running hour for HD. There is a $35.00 one time setup fee to use your hard drive. Your drive will be newly formatted and have a surface check run on it. Any bad sectors will be mapped out.. Note: all existing information on the drive will be lost. There will be NO chance of recovery... I cannot state this more strongly: make certain the drive(s) you send us contain nothing of value.
If the drive requires a power supply, then you must include it as well as the interface cable as well. Supported interfaces are USB 2.0, 3.0, Firewire, eSata or internal sata. Sorry: no scsi, ide or pata drives.
Most of the benefits of transferring to a hard drive. The only real difference is that the DV tape formats such as MiniDv, Digital8, DVCAM and even Digi-Beta, all use a fixed 5:1 compression... It's virtually a lossless compression for practical purposes. Good enough for the likes of the major networks anyways !
We can capture both SD and HD in the MiniDv format and SD in the others... A high quality format superior to DVD or even BluRay
There really aren't any... You will simply need an appropriate player with a way to import the DV into your editing system.
Inexpensive and high quality. But like captures to a hard drive, you will have to do all the editing, authoring etc. No large file sizes to deal with either.
There you have it.. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Each have their own merits. These are my own opinions and some may disagree. But agree or disagree, the rules of physics can not be negotiated no matter how much we might wish they weren't so.
Last Modified: Nov 27, 2011
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