High Quality 8mm Film Conversion

Posted by Alastair Bor | 6/14/2009 10:38:00 pm | , | 1 comments »

Those of you familiar with Sydney may wonder how I took a picture of the Opera House surrounded by cranes. In fact, this is a screen capture of a film shot in 1969 during my father's visit to Australia (click for YouTube link).
For the past several years I've been progressively digitising all our family's old media such as slides and VHS tapes. Doing so provides easy access, easy duplication and an archive that will not degrade in quality over time. The entire contents of my "family archives" fits neatly on a 1TB disk.
The biggest challenge in digitising old media is finding the equipment to play it. Fortunately for most media such as VHS tapes, audio casettes, slides and even vinyl (or shellac) records, it's quite easy and inexpensive to convert them at home. For audio sources, you can typically plug the player (e.g. Walkman, record player) into the Audio-In jack on your computer in conjunction with some free software such as Audacity. For the video sources you can use a fairly inexpensive video capture card. For slides, there are several inexpensive slide scanners.
When digitising the media, I highly suggest capturing at the highest quality possible. The price of digital media will only go down which means the cost of storage will go down. Digitising at a lower quality will just mean re-doing all the work later when you realise you'd prefer higher quality.
For the media mentioned above, you can do it yourself or pay someone to do it. There are many services that take old media and convert them. Essentially this is simply a time trade-off since the quality of a "professional" conversion is not materially better than you can do at home. You are just trading off time for money.
When it comes to 8mm or Super-8 motion picture film the story changes completely. The equipment required to capture the film at high quality is very expensive and would be uneconomic to buy for a conversion of the "family collection." Converting at home usually means projecting the image onto a screen and using a video camera to record the images. The problem is that the frame rate and picture size (aspect ratio) of film is different to modern video and you will be doomed to a poor quality image. The "correct" way to do it is to individually scan each frame and then digitally convert all the frames into a movie. This basically cannot be done at home.
I discovered a place called DVD Infinity which has a proprietary technology to transfer the movie frame-by-frame. They are not cheap, but the quality is incredible. As an example, I posted some clips from a reel taken in 1969 from Sydney onto YouTube. This 40-year-old reel has been stored like most family reels - in a closet, then in a basement. Time hasn't been kind to the colours, but compare this to some of the other 8mm conversions on YouTube to see the quality difference in the DVD Infinity conversion process. Things to notice are: 1) The image is uniformly bright and goes neatly to the edge of the frame with no vigneting. 2) The image does not flicker. 3) The image does not appear to move forward and backward (due to 'slack' in the projector).
I do not work for DVD Infinity, nor do I personally know the owners, nor do I have any commercial relationship with them - just a very happy customer.

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1 comments

  1. Ravi S Rao // 13 September 2013 at 21:13  

    I admire your upload on youtube of your father's video capture of Sydney. Amazing and a great video. Thanks to you and your father..

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