There are many different methods available for transferring film to DVD and digital and a significant difference in the levels of quality between them. Since most companies don’t reveal very much about their service, it’s hard to know what you’re really getting. You may have noticed that most companies conveniently do not reveal the resolution or transfer quality information on their websites. We’ve compiled over 23 years worth of research into the various methods available to provide you with a foundation of information to help you choose the service that’s right for you and provided a summary here.
Projecting on a wall or screen
This may be the simplest method, but it definitely the worst method available. I think most of the companies that used this process have gone out of business. As it sounds it involves pointing a movie projector at a wall and videotaping it with a cheap camcorder. There are so many reasons why this is bad. Even if a screen is used instead of a wall you can expect the picture and color to appear washed out or faded. There will be significant flickering of the image and you even see the texture of the wall coming through into the image. At one time there were a few places that opted to use a cheap film transfer box that typically yields similar results. I don’t know whether any of these companies are still around but, I don’t recommend wasting your money on this.
Telecine film transfer
More than half of the firms doing film transfers are employing the use of the Elmo (or similar) Telecine projectors. These units were manufactured in the 1980s when VHS was the primary format for video recorders. As a result, the video chip inside the telecine machines was only capable of transferring film at 240 lines since the picture resolution of VHS is only 240 lines. Unfortunately the telecine machines being used now are these very same machines. Even though DVDs will handle at least 480 lines movie transfers from these companies will only yield VHS quality of 240 lines. It’s hard to believe how much some of these companies are charging for this. The last we knew, Costco, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS and RiteAid are among the companies that ship their customers’ films out to another company that uses this old, out-dated technology.
Frame by frame film transfer
I have to admit this sounds like it should an ideal method of film transfer, at least on paper, but it’s not. The idea of scanning one frame-at-a-time should produce better results, but it’s limited to the video chip being used for the transfer. Most of the devices I found being used never exceeded 450 lines of resolution. Ultimately, the quality of the transfer will be determined by the quality of the video image processor or video chip being used.
16mm / 8mm Film scanning
One of the better methods available for the transfer of 8mm film and 16mm film involves the use of a Rank Cintel film scanner. Hollywood movies have been transferred using one of these machines. While it does provide a decent product, the machine itself is quite expensive and the cost for transferring your home movies may be be unreasonably high. 8mm films contain such a small image and are often very grainy, so it may not be worth paying a lot more for a tiny improvement in transfer quality.
Our custom-built film to video movie transfer method involves a mid-air transfer using high-contrast imaging from the film directly onto a $10,000 800-line, 3 CCD chip video capture device. A cost-effective, high-resolution option that provides more than 3 times the resolution and clarity of the old telecine machines mentioned above and costs a lot less than the Rank film scanner. In addition to transferring more of each frame of film than most of our competitors, it allows for manual brightness adjustments and moderate color-correction during the transfer process. It produces some of the best results we’ve seen at this price level for film transfer. We invite you to try it out yourself.
We also offer a color-correction option where we can make adjustments scene-by-scene to correct for colors that may have shifted over time.
We were one of the first companies to offer the Gold Archival DVD, digital master tape for your film transfer. We were also one of the first companies to convert 16mm film and 8mm film to MP4, AVI and MOV files.
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