Wednesday 16 June 2010

Chosing a Cine to Video Conversion Company

If you are researching the best way to have your cine film transferred you will find an abundance of people trying to get your business and a wealth of information on the methods they use to transfer your precious memories.

Companies offering transfer services range from one man in his bedroom (who thinks he can make a few pounds), to established companies like ourselves. We have over 30 years experience in this highly specialised field. Websites can be misleading; a one man business can make himself look like a multi national organisation. Our customers will tell you that we have been in business for many many years and that we continue to offer good service and competitive pricing.

Transfer Methods
It can be very confusing when you ask how your cine film will be transferred. The most basic method used is where old projectors display your film onto a screen; a camera is then mounted beside the projector to capture the resulting images. This sounds perfectly sensible; however, the quality of the result will be affected by many factors.

Firstly the quality of the projector used: Most projectors are bought second-hand and used until they fail and as you will gather as you read this article they simply are not designed or built for the purpose of telecine.

Secondly and most important, is the question of synchronisation. The PAL TV system we use in this country operates at a refresh rate of 50HZ.. Put simply, the camera produces 50 images per second. It is important the frames per second at which the film is projected is matched to the 50Hz exactly. This requires a speed of either 16 2/3 second or 25fps. Most projectors run at either 18fps or 24fprs. This inconsistency introduces a flicker to the transfer which is emphasised
by the projectors 3 or 4 bladed shutter. This method also requires the transfer to be carried out in a totally light free environment which rarely happens.

At the other end of the Transfer scale is the "Flying Spot" system. This method is used to copy Hollywood Block Busters on to video. In fact this method is not so widespread nowadays as few movies are still shot on film. In this method each frame is scanned individually and then digitally combined.. There are only one or two specialist companies using this system, it is very expensive and the increase in quality is not always noticeable. Remember the process was designed for much larger film gauges.

Transfer technology has moved on and specialist archive company MWA Nova or Germany have released the Flash Scan HD aimed at producing archive quality transfers from 8mm film. The systme uses a sprocketless transport system that uses a laser to sense the sprocket holes of the film. This along with a high definition camera unit enables us to capture superb results direct to our computer hard drives which are then used to create a DVD of your cine films

We also use a number of Telecine Machines which are made for us in America. These machines are designed specifically for the process and, using the latest technology, have even over come the issues of synchronization. Allowing us to transfer film other than 8mm with excellent results.

Emulsion side or base side? You may come across the term Emulsion side scanning whilst researching film transfer methods. Don’t be persuaded that it’s any better; certainly don’t pay extra for it! The film emulsion (which carries the image) is coated on a crystal clear plastic base. The picture looks exactly the same from either side, unless the film base has in effect been sandblasted by unusual abuse. We might point out here that every 35mm movie print you have ever seen in a theater, and all currently made 16mm prints contact printed from negative, are shown with the base side towards the projection lens. If this routinely caused any quality problem, the situation would have been corrected 100 years ago.

Transfer firms who offer to buy your old projection equipment. This means only one thing. They use old projectors for their transfers. But surely any projector can easily be used for Telecine transfers? RUBBISH! Most projectors have too slow a pulldown cycle for this, even with the addition of a 5 bladed shutter. Besides, a 5 blade shutter is only correct for transfer to NTSC video at 24 FPS or to PAL video at 20 FPS (frames per second.) Also, for adequate speed accuracy, the TeleCine machine must have either an AC synchronous motor or a crystal motor, together with timing belt drive. Finally the average projector lens lacks the needed source diffusion to avoid hot and dark spots in the image.

Should I pay the high price for single frame at a time transfer? Put simply, NO. A normal projector mechanism gives plenty of time to capture the images when running at normal speed, if it is done correctly. Your eye is not able to appreciate it, but in normal speed running, the film is already perfectly still in the gate some 80% to 90% of the time. The remaining 10% to 20% of the time the film is being pulled down to the next frame at 5 to 10 times the average speed.

Who will handle my film?
Some would say that the most important factor when choosing who to trust your films to is the people. Transferring cine film requires a blend of technical skills, artistry and understanding of the customers needs. Don’t be fooled by the statistics some people quote. For example... Some newer companies will tell you they have transferred half a million feet of film. In reality this equates to around 650 hrs of film.

We have 3 Transfer Technicians working each day and they transfer this much film, and more, every month. The facts about our staff are that we have 5 experienced Transfer Technicians with over 25 years of experience within our company.

Cleaning your film.
Most cine film is in surprisingly good condition and only needs dusting with compressed air during the transfer. Other cleaning methods can actually do more harm than good. Several companies offer a cleaning service which involves wiping with swabs soaked in isopropyl alcohol. This will lift the dirt but will also dry the film making it more brittle and if the dirt builds up on the swab it will scratch the film.