Film to Video Transfer
Also known as intermediary reshooting, GCM offers Super-8 and regular 8mm transfers to video. This service was started originally for the fictional movies which owyheesound shot on film. The idea was to shoot on film for its higher quality and then transfer it to video to create Edit Decision Lists (EDLs) for professional negative cutters to assemble the raw footage. It also served as a method for allowing owyheesound to show its films on the internet without a lot of unnecessary added costs. While this has been the primary reason for developing our techniques, it has gone far beyond that out of requests from various other independent film companies in the area as well as from the average Joe’s wanting to preserve their home movies.
OK, there’s a million sites that offer 8mm and Super-8 film transfers to video. While many of these companies are valid and do a great job, most of them are absolutely horrid. Even many professional commercial establishments are sub-par on this subject. These places often use a simple projector pointed at a screen or even a simple piece of paper to produce the image. This is often picked up by a consumer grade camcorder which then feeds a VHS deck for the recording portion. Even such places that offer DVD often record to VHS first and then merely copy to DVD. These places are rampant on the internet and often leave their customers wondering why their once brillient looking home movies now look like….well….faded, worn, out of focus home movies.
While the movies themselves have often degraded significantly, the film still looks far better in projection than it does after transfer to a home video format. Even more reputable transfer houses use only a slightly more advanced approach. These houses use a “telecine projector” which is a projector that contains a cheap plastic screen on which the movie is projected through a mirror and lens assembly. While theoretically these systems are a far cry better than the “camera-pointed-at-projector-screen” houses, there’s often much to be desired. Of course, the higher quality houses utilizing full on telecines with built-in image multiplexors where the film image is projected directly into a CCD are almost impossible to find anymore. Then there’s the “work printer” method where the image off a modified projector is focused directly into a camera. This yeild very good results but is also very rare. Then finally, the cost-prohibative Rank-Cintel process which, though retains the most quality, is the most expensive and rare.
Most of these “transfer mills” are negligent in their approach to reshooting film on a video format. As stated earlier, GCM and owyheesound developed our own methods of transferring film. This came about after much searching for cost effective quality solutions with no avail. Most transfer houses used machines of very poor quality due to lack of maintainance. Most of these places never cleaned their machines (and none of them cleaned the film before the process). Many of them used the “shoot off a screen” method and provided absolutely horrid results. Even the screens were often of substandard quality and dirty on top of that. Another huge shortcommings is that most of these houses offered either VHS only or they recorded to VHS first then dubbed the tapes to the medium of choice. Make no mistake, many houses never tell their customers this. One must ask if the image can be captured directly to disk, DV or whatever else may be needed. It was because of these fact that we developed our own methods of converting our valuable film stock to video.
GCM bridges the price/quality gap ever so slightly not so much with technological advances but through care. This is the only affordable place where each film is hand cleaned before the transfer process begins. Each film after cleaning, is then run through a modified Bell & Howell 466A (which is least likely to damage film) through a modified telecine convertor into a 3CCD digital camera where the image is directly sent to a computer hard drive without intermediaries. The big difference is in the care of each project. Instead of being restricted to what the telecine determins is the normal viewing area of a film, the gate of the Bell & Howell has been physically enlarged to expose the entire film plane including the perforations. This is manually focused through the telecine convertor to the camera which will be manually adjusted to capture as much of the image as possible.
This may not seem like much but remember, in most transfer houses, the gate of the projector cuts off 10% of the image on each side, then the telecine screen cuts off another 10% while the camera is zoomed in to prevent getting the edges of the screen, thus cutting off another 10%. Finally, the viewer’s TV screen has an overscan region that cuts off an additional 10%. This equates to a lot of loss in the end result, about 34% of the image is never seen again by the viewer. With GCM’s process, the telecine chain is set up so that even part of the perforations of the original film are captured in the camera. The presence of these perforations are cut off by the overscan region of the viewer’s television only being revealed if viewed on a non-overscan system such as a computer. This means the entire usable image is seen by the viewer.
Because of the care and ingenuity used at GCM, all customers thus far are repeat customers, giving comments that indicate better quality than houses that transfer film to video as a main source of income. There are two options available, auto-exposure transfer which is still supervised under strict guidelines and “scene-by-scene” where the exposure of each scene is manually adjusted for best results. The auto transfer yeilds very good results for the price but the receiving camera takes a short period of time to adjust to major changes in film exposure. Scene-by-scen is even better but more time consuming as the film transfer must constantly be stopped, adjusted and replayed to get optimal seamless results and is thus more costly.
Transfer of super-8 or 8mm film to DVD, MiniDV or VHS is $6 per film minute plus media costs in “auto” mode. Scene-by-scene transfers are $12 per film minute.
If interested, please contact the owner of GCM Recording Studio in Boise, Idaho at