Recommendations for 8mm to digital transfer companies?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by Undecided, Aug 17, 2012.

  1. Undecided macrumors 6502a

    Mar 4, 2005
    Hi. I'm looking for a service to transfer about 2,400 feet of 8mm film to digital, and I'm overwhelmed. (I also have one reel of 16mm, like 50 -100 feet.)

    I want to do HD, as I gather 8mm is more or less equivalent to about 800 lines.

    I know that recording a projection is the worst method, and that frame by frame scanning is preferred, but then I gather that a "film scanner" is better than frame by frame? Or is that just marketing BS?

    Bottom line: do you have any recommended service providers?

    Right now I'm tending toward Platinum process, but this whole industry seems rife with fraud (outsourcing, not using the method they claim, etc.). And I'm looking at $1,400, with a 500gb drive storing Apple ProRes 422 HQ.

  2. musique macrumors regular


    Apr 10, 2009
    I have over 30 thousand feet of silent 8mm film that my father shot from the late 1940s until he died more than 20 years ago. Fortunately, he spliced things into the large 6" diameter reels and labeled most of it.

    Unfortunately, when I looked into these services I couldn't find any quotes for under $5,000 for all of it (more than 100 reels).

    I decided to try a local video company who does it in house. It cost me a few hundred dollars to have a reel transferred to a CD using the frame by frame method. It wasn't bad, but in reviewing the video I couldn't see any reason to go HD. The original 8mm film footage was just not high quality enough to justify HD.

    Next I tried several reels at a Costco. There was no discernable difference between the job that Costco did and the local video shop. After doing some color grading the video looked adequate.

    I also looked at buying one of those video transfer units (telecine) and doing it all myself. That was a whole trip in itself with so many bells and whistles, most of which were hard to justify. In addition, the units started at $1 or $2 thousand and went up from there.

    Bottom line: I'm going to use Costco, doing a few reels at a time, keeping my eye out for specials when they have them.

    You have a much more manageable collection than I do, maybe it is worth going with one of these premium places. You won't have peace of mind when you send your film to them. But, you might ask them to save a copy of the work until you receive the hard drive back and transfer it all to a back-up.

    Good luck.
  3. Undecided thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 4, 2005
    Thanks. I didn't know Costco did this. It looks like Costco uses, which uses the projection method. It's a little cheaper than, say, ($177 vs. $208) for 1,600 feet using the same method, SD).

    Total would be about $300 vs. $1,400 for HD on a drive (for 2,400 feet). So, I could save a lot, but I'd hate to miss detail. Of course, I don't want to throw money away on some BS about getting a better picture.

    <head spinning>
  4. daybreak macrumors 6502a

    Sep 4, 2009
    If you had a projector you could do the job yourself. Have you ever tried a local video club?. No doubt there are members who started with cine and still got the old equipment.
    I still got mine and still transfer cine film.
  5. jpine macrumors 6502

    Jun 15, 2007
    Go to Craigslist and type in "telecine." You can do it yourself with a minimal investment in a used telecine box, HD camcorder, and used projector. You probably already have a camcorder. You could even run the video through to a computer capture card (e.g., Blackmagic) via the HDMI cable and capture in ProRes 422 and skip the tape or SD card (less compression of the video).
  6. senseless macrumors 68000


    Apr 23, 2008
    Pennsylvania, USA
    I've had 8mm and Super 8mm transfers done by both methods and the scan method is far superior to projection. It's definitely worth the extra money to do it right.

    Make sure your films don't change hands too many times or you have more risk of loss.
  7. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    videoconversion has a 35% sale until the end of August.

    It will be expensive.

    The process takes a longer time to process:

    - cleaning the reels (supplies are expensive and time to clean takes time as well)

    - fixing any splices, adding leaders etc..

    - set up and capture - most frame by frame processes take up to 3x the running length. Some say they run at real time which can relate to the cost as well.

    - processing time compiling the captures into a movie. This is one possibility to save cost. Any reliable film transfer company will provide the option for m-jpeg or bmp / graphic files for a client to compress the files in their own video editing program. Definitely cheaper than having the company output to DVD - should be at least 10% less or more.

    - HD will take longer to process rather than standard. It's usually in HD format with sidebars. The image is definitely larger, but it's not necessarily better as the original footage wasn't filmed in HD.

    $1400 is expensive. It should be no more than $0.35 per foot for HD, plus your taxes.

    Hope that helps.
  8. AndrewDesjardin macrumors newbie

    Aug 18, 2012
    Proper Film to Digital Transfer

    I am truly amazed on the lack of film knowledge exhibited in the responses that I have read from above. To perform a proper film transfer you first have to know the speed at which the footage was shot at even if you do a frame by frame scan. The reason for this something called telecine pull down. So, for example if you shot your film on 35mm double pert at 24 Frames per second, and were going to NTSC 30 (Actually 29.97 for drop frame time code) Frames per second you would need to a 2/3 pull down in which some frames are discard to keep video in sync. If the footage was shot silent, you would need to determine if the footage was shot at the standard silent movie speed of 18 Frames per second or something else. Once again, you would do this through a pull down process.

    Then there are considerations for aspect ratios. Was the film full frame represented by the ratio of 1:33:1 or or some other ratio. Once frame rates and aspect ratios are established, you then need to perform the transfer in a telecine transfer bay where the negative has been chemically scrubbed and cleaned and prepped for transfer. There are transfer system that can operate in a wet environment or dry. I wet environment helps coat scratched surfaces. Then the film is feed through a gate in which the image is projected to a mirror and then a film scanning sensor captures the image to tape or hard drive.

    In some telecine environments, a colorist may be on site to assist in the film transfer doing color correction by scene by scene or doing what is called a one light where everything is ran through at an averaged setting being unsupervised. That is why some transfer services can cost more by how the transfer is accomplished. If you can have the transfer facility convert the media to Apple ProRes 4:2:2 HQ you have more than enough data to make something go to Blu Ray. Scanning up to 2K or 4K resolution is really only necessary for special effects work and theatrical presentation. If audio is present it should be sampled at minimum at 48Khz to have proper sample rates in the high and low end of the audio frequency wave.

    So, that is why it is NEVER a good idea to capture film by projecting it on a wall and then having a video camera record it off a projected screen, because you may get flicker from not have the proper pull down frame rate conversion. Besides the final product looks blurry and ruins the detail that future generations will see in the projected material.

    One final thing to note is that Arri systems out of Germany has a transfer devise that address many of the issues discussed in this post. Just look over at for more details. Arri systems has been around for over 80 years and I have used their gear in film school. Best of success in your transfer project.

    -Andrew Desjardins
  9. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    Hi Andrew,

    Some great feedback - particularly about the wetgate. It's another cost on top usually, but it can yield fantastic results depending on the condition of the reels.

    The only caveat I would add regarding your comment about the speed the film was shot at is : for the most part, people won't know. Your idea is a perfect world situation (and one which would be very handy) But, folks are usually wanting to transfer their parents or grandparents film collection, sometimes shot on 2 different cameras. Those parents or grandparents are no longer around or simply can't remember what speed they used. The best guess is 16 fps for 8mm and either 18 or 24 for Super8 or 16mm. From there, the software allows you to try different speeds.

    That Arris scanning system looks fantastic, but probably expensive.

    To the OP, one other note: try some samples. Use the same reel and send it to a few companies then compare the results.

    Good luck,
  10. Undecided, Aug 20, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2012

    Undecided thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 4, 2005
    It's $1,400 all in. They charge $.36/foot for HD with cleaning, color correction, etc., plus $89 for a 500GB drive to store the files (ProRes 422 HQ or HD-AVI) (which isn't bad), plus a fee to setup, and I might have included DVD versions as well in the calculation.


    For 8mm, use MWA Nova gear.


    I considered that, but with the requirement to pay a setup fee and shipping each time, and to buy (or provide) a drive for the raw files, it'd be too much of a hassle.

    It's only 2,400 feet in 8mm and 100 feet in 16mm.
  11. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    sounds like a good price for the amount! :)
  12. ppc_michael, Aug 21, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2012

    ppc_michael Guest


    Apr 26, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    It's... kind of going to be like that for anything worthwhile. If you don't want to ship, how is it going to get there? If you're not buying or providing a hard drive, how are you going to get your footage back in an acceptable format? If you're not paying for setup, how are they going to put leader on it, splice it together, clean it, and run it through the scanner?

    Have you looked at Cinelab? Not sure if they do wet gate.
  13. Undecided, Aug 21, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2012

    Undecided thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 4, 2005
    Uh, Andrew was suggesting I send the same reel to different places, and comparing the results. Compared to the other person who had 30,000 feet, I have very little, so I'll just do it all in one shot.
  14. malmo14 macrumors newbie

    Aug 11, 2014
    Did you ever decide?

    I know this thread is quite old but I came across it while trying to make the same decision you did. Would you mind telling me who you ended up using and whether or not you were happy with the results?
  15. toobeau macrumors newbie

    Aug 16, 2014
    Undecided, did you ever decide?

    Dear Undecided - As the entry before this one, I'd really appreciate knowing which way you went.
    What company did you go with and were you pleased with the service and results?
  16. PracticalMac, Jun 5, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2016

    PracticalMac macrumors 68030


    Jan 22, 2009
    Houston, TX
    Well, to add to this (and hope the OP will update)

    First off, this is great explanation about different levels of digitizing methods (like to company listed below).

    I 8mm film quality is good enough that despite being a relatively tiny frame it is detail rich images, but is not consistent.
    A sample digitized as 720p is visibly inferior to 1080p, and importantly 720p will not capture the entire width of an 8mm frame!
    At the very least insure the digitizing is wide enough to cover the entire 8mm frame.
    Examples of 8mm digitizing can be seen here (but results vary by how good source is)
    This site says "16mm film has up to 2K (1556 lines)", which is actually an estimate because there is no direct conversion between the grains in film and the pixels on digital film file (analog video has semi-direct). Some films have finer grain, cheaper films have coarse grain. Of course the finer the higher the resolution. Also a properly exposed film will gain while a underexposed will loose too.
    They do not say the lines of resolution for 8mm, but reasonable to assume about 1/2, so 750 lines, roughly SD TV quality (720). Clearly 1080 is what 8mm should be digitized at.

    I have used
    They are exceedingly helpful and will work with you, and the website goes into great detail about what they offer and do.
    They also digitize at ProRes 4.2.2
    Call them with questions and ask what you want done (tell them "nitro Joe" sent you ;) )

    I am looking at another company that offers WetGate scan head that improves scanning of damaged film (which all fill will have a little damage).
    CINEPOST They are expensive, but not much more than other quality companies.
    I have not seen them before so I think they recently expanded their service (only pro to anyone).

    At to other in list:
    Video Conversion Experts Information is lacking, price is comparable to MyMovieTransfer, but is a high end digitizer (ask them for details) Approved!
    Memorable ( AVOID! They say nothing about their process!!
    Got Memories No mention for format or output file, but inexpensive.
  17. PracticalMac, Oct 28, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2017

    PracticalMac macrumors 68030


    Jan 22, 2009
    Houston, TX
    I highly recommend CINEPOST
    The results are fantastic, and work with you to get best results!
    Price is well worth the results!

    UPDATE: With color film there is a slight loss of brightness and sharpness, with rare odd droplet like artifact and sometimes a missed frame. If your film is in very good or excellent condition I recommend MyMovieTransfer instead.

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16 August 17, 2012