My Super8 8mm Experiment – Telecine and motion picture film scanners

After shooting and developing 8mm motion picture film, one might want to transfer it to a digital format. This is quite complicated actually, since there are no consumer or easy solutions available. Most people just capture their original film playing on a projector with a digital camera. Although it looks quite nice in most cases, clearly this can’t be the best way to do it.

Goodbye (summer sun) from monomatic on Vimeo.

There is one project I could find, trying to utilize consumer flatbed scanners with transparency units (TPU) and the Cine Film to Video Suite by W. Kurz, allowing high quality digitization of 8mm, 16mm and 35mm film at low costs.

Basically, one has to manually scan segments of the film, cut out the single frames of the movie, store them as single image files consecutively numbered and combine them to a MPEG II movie using FFMPEG. Obviously every single image can and probably should be cleaned, stabilized and so forth. In addition any sound has to be recorded separately. All in all, a very time consuming process, but still an almost free way to do it.

Within the film industry the process to transfer the original film to an electronic format is called Telecine and is even more complex. During Telecine the film is played and recorded digitally in real time. The most important issue being the synchronization of the mechanical film motion and the electronic video signal.

The most complex part of telecine is the synchronization of the mechanical film motion and the electronic video signal. Every time the video (tele) part of the telecine samples the light electronically, the film (cine) part of the telecine must have a frame in perfect registration and ready to photograph. This is relatively easy when the film is photographed at the same frame rate as the video camera will sample, but when this is not true, a sophisticated procedure is required to change frame rate.”

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecine

The most common methods to do so are 2:2 pulldown and 2:3 pulldown. 2:2 is used for the PAL or SECAM video standard (25 fps) and basically records one video frame for every film frame. Films with 24 fps are just played at 25 fps which is almost not noticeably, apart from a minor audio pitch which can be corrected. 2:3 pulldown is used for the NTSC video standard (29.97 fps) and many others. In these cases a 24 fps film has to be converted into a 29.97 fps video film. For this, 4 film frames played at the slightly reduced speed of 23.976 fps are stretched into 5 video frames exploiting the interlaced nature of video. So basically during Telecine the film is recorded on digital video at slightly increased or decreased speeds, e.g. using the Scanity CCD sensor by DFT – Digital Film Technology. With my 8mm film being recorded at 25 fps, the 2:2 pulldown would be used.

“To avoid the synchronization issues, higher end establishments now use a scanning system rather than just a telecine system. This allows them to scan a distinct frame of digital video for each frame of film, providing higher quality than a telecine system would be able to achieve.”

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecine

8mm - developed 8mm film material - 2

For best quality one comes back so scanning single frames, just like with W. Kurz’s software. With a motion picture film scanner an original film can be stored as a high-resolution digital intermediate file. They are available for gauges from 8mm to 70mm with high resolutions up do 8K and scan the film frames into separate files for each frame as raw data, preserving optical characteristics of the film and allowing non-linear editing. With products like Arriscan by ARRI and the The Director by Lasergraphics for single frame intermittent pull-down or Golden Eye Filmscanner by Digital Vision for continues motion scanning it becomes clear, these are no products for home use.

A Super 16mm Summer from Elliot Rudmann on Vimeo.

This explains, why W. Kurz developed his software. It also explains, why most people choose to capture their original films playing on a projector with a digital camera. As this is no option for me, I have to choose between digitizing the film manually or ordering a high end digital intermediate.

My Super8 8mm Experiment – Getting film material

Unfortunately the variety of 8mm film material still available has decreased over the past years. The popular Kodachrome was discontinued in 2009 and even its processing ended in 2013.

Kodachrome (English version) from schmalfilm magazin on Vimeo.

Although points of sale are increasingly difficult to find, there are some dealers left, Wittner Cinetec in Germany for example. One can choose from the current Kodak Vision3 lineup (500T, 200T and 50D for color negative film and Kodak Tri-X Reversal Film for b/w. Currently, there are some Kodak Ektachrome films left, which have been discontinued in 2013. Wittner also seems to produce 8mm film or at least package cartridges, utilizing materials from Agfa, Fuji, Aviphot, Orwo and Fomapan.

A 50ft (around 3.5 minutes at 25 fps) cartridge costs between 22€ and 40€ with an additional 25€ for development by Wittner. One can easily order cartridges with a coupon for the corresponding development which is valid for 12 months. For testing purposes I ordered some cartridges to try them out with my LEICINA SPECIAL.

kodak-8mm-cartridges

The transfer of 8mm motion picture film into a digital format will be a different story, though. It seems, there is no easy way to this yourself at all, if you are serious about preserving the optical characteristics of the film.

Here are some videos shot with the LEICINA SPECIAL on Vimeo.

My Super8 8mm Experiment – 8mm motion picture film format

8mm film is a motion picture film standard developed by Kodak in 1932 to create a cheap “home movie” format. Its most famous filmed sequence undoubtedly being the Zapruder film, capturing the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Super8 was released in 1965 and quickly adopted by amateur film-makers providing better image quality and picture size. With its innovative cartridge-loading system it became an easy to use system and inspired millions of people around the world.

“The 8mm Revolution” – SUPER 8 Movie Featurette from Cinelicious on Vimeo.

Not only was Super8 a popular film format during the 1960ies and 1970ies, it is still thriving today. Many people still like to shoot with “low cost“ Super8 equipment and then transfer the footage into a digital format for additional editing. Although the cost of the film material and its development increased over the past years, it’s still a good alternative to other motion picture film formats, despite providing a rather small image format.

California Vintage Super 8 Wedding from Living Cinema on Vimeo.

So, maybe I will give this a try.

Kodak 8mm cartridges

My Super8 8mm Experiment – LEICINA SPECIAL

Last time I visited my parents, I took the LEICINA SPECIAL with me. It’s a Super8 8mm film camera produced by Ernst Leitz GmbH in Germany between 1972 and 1977. Ernst Leitz GmbH is the former corporation of Leica Camera AG.

leicina-special-1

The LEICINA SPECIAL records on 8mm film cartridges up to 50ft in length at frame rates of 9,18 25 and 54 as well single frame with automatic exposure (Leicinamatic) with manual focus and macro ability.

It comes with a Optivaron f1.8/6-66mm lense. There also was a Macro Cinegon f1.8/10mm lense at the time, but I don’t have it. Particularly interesting for my taste is the lense mount of the LEICINA SPECIAL. It’s a M-bayonet mount, making it compatible to all Leica M lenses available. I also have adapters to use Nikon and Leica R lenses.

Regarding accessories, I have the ST-1 Electronic Controller, featuring a remote controller, intervalometer, sequence timer, sound synch tone generator and a connector for tape recorders. In addition there are a variety of Cokin filters with a filter mount for optical effects at my disposal.

leicina-special-3

leicina-special-2

leicina-special-4

I will get some 8mm film cartridges and try it out. First mechanical tests keep me optimistic, since everything seems to work just fine.