DIY upscale VHS video to HD (free)
Let me share with you a hidden treasure that took me a while to find! For a long time, even though I was using an expensive editing program, I was not getting satisfying results when upscaling SD video (i.e. VHS tapes) to HD. I sure am now!
Note: If you are a competitor of ours, please, stop reading here. ;)
It was thanks to Andrew Swan, a respected professional blogger writing in great detail about this subject, that I now proudly offer affordable, high quality HD up-scaling.
If you're curious about the cost of our upscale service, please follow the link to our online estimator tool: cost for transferring and upscalling 10 tapes of 1 hour each.
You may adjust the current numbers according to what you actually have in your video collection.
Or, if you want to try your hand at "bumping it up" yourself, you can follow Andrew's instructions, below.
A few things to keep in mind, before you start. It takes quite the investment in time and electricity! Expect a 1 hour tape to take 3 hours worth of processing time -- and that's on a speedy computer. My office gets warmer, even with my water-cooled computer, as it processes away on these files. Ah, but the results are so well worth it.
Tutorial by Andrew Swan - step by step video
has been blogging since 2008 about video processing. In his 45 minute YouTube video here
, he explains how to use AviSynth
and all the required filters to properly de-interlace and upscale your SD video files to HD 720, or full-HD 1080. He'll walk you through all the steps of downloading, installing, and processing an SD video file.
Some To-Dos along the way
Before starting, it's a good idea to prep your files. Clean up the start and end times of your initial capture (file) by editing out the "snowy" parts. Bring the glaring whites and deep blacks into a more pleasing viewing range. Pay attention to the color intensity in your highlights and bring those down a bit in order to bring about a more natural looking result.
Now that he files are cleaned up a bit, it's time to upscale.
If you have many files to upscale you may be interested in using a Python
script to help you automate the process.
I programmed a Python script that helps you batch-process one file after the other, without having to call the script again for each file. You can find the script
that I shared on Andrew's Blog, or you can directly downloaded the script from our FilmFix website by clicking here
. Just edit the lines of code to reflect your particular file locations, and name the files numerically. (Sorry - that's all the support I can give on this subject, here. For consulting, naturally, I need to charge my hourly rate.)
Other Up-Scaling methods
There is an upscale method called "super-resolution". Super-resolution up-scalling utilizes a different approach and yields a different result. You would end up with a non-TV standard size video that will have to be downsized to fit either HD 720 or 1080. And, this method takes even longer to process - not an appealing option.
Video Upscale samples coming soon...
Our Super-8 transfer as compared to theirs
Recently, we were given a tremendous gift! A customer, Rob C. of Washington, asked us to please re-do a transfer he had done elsewhere, because he was disappointed with their work. He felt some trepidation sending his reels to a second company for fear our results might be similarly dismal. Well, he was so pleased with our transfer that he complied a comparison for us to use on our website's blog. What a gift!
Below are his words:
"I had some free time, and I created a high quality frame capture of your conversion, the same frame from the other company conversion, and a merged version where I show how their scan only covers 40% of the actual image you captured (i.e. they lost 60% of the frame). I selected 2 different frames where it’s impossible to recognize the people, and you are welcome to use these in your website if you like (please do not use the others). I think it highlights the quality you offer pretty well."
1st transfer performed by the other company.
Here the two transfers are overlapped. Theirs is inside and ours is the outer edge. See the beautiful colors we were able to restore?
At FilmFix we capture the entire frame from edge to edge.
Because of our superior 10-bit capture, when a film's colors are challenged, we are able to improve them to a large degree with the "secondary color correction" image enhancement option. And, when a film was over-exposed or under-exposed, we can improve that to a large degree as well with our added option of "secondary color correction."
1st transfer performed by the other company
Our FilmFix transfer -- We capture the whole frame, from edge to edge.
By overlapping our transfer and theirs, you can better see what is missing in their work. Their image is muddied, the colors are completely off, and their image lacks crispness.
You'll note that the grass on the outer edge of the above example is not very crisp. This is because "grain reduction" was applied to the transfer. "Grain reduction" has advantages and disadvantages. It gets rid of many scratches and imperfections, but it does tend to slightly soften the image. That's why when a customer chooses "grain reduction", we like to provide their transfer in two files -- before and after -- grain reduction was applied. (So, check that box on the order form if you want both versions.) The two files will require a bit more data storage, but it's very rewarding to have both versions of the final footage. Customers love it!
We are sorry to see some of the shoddy work that is being done in this industry. It does nothing for the industry's reputation.
While we always enjoy restoring our customer's films, it is such a pity to learn they've wasted their time and money elsewhere before finding us!
Nicole's challenge and sweet-stuff for us!
FilmFix got a nice mention on the Nicole Sandler Show this week, but because of her network's policy, she was not allowed to indicate our company's name. Listen to how cleverly she handled that! It's sweet and made us smile -- broadly. Additionally, it gave us goosebumps, because being acknowledged like this has a way of touching the soul.
"Psst" .... Laura (co-owner of FilmFix) even speaks for a few moments in the middle of this brief clip. Please have a listen!
For her birthday, Nicole Sandler has a donation matching challenge running, for a limited time. If you believe in independent progressive media, please consider donating -- even a small amount is great.
Click here for access to Nicole's FilmFix discount - 5% off regular FilmFix price
Click here to donate to the Nicole Sandler Show
Nicole's Amazon Portal Link
8mm Wolverine rental
If you don't know what's on your family's treasured films, you can rent a Wolverine from us for a couple of weeks and have a look!
Knowing what you have, before sending it off, is a nice way to organize your collection. Then, we can professionally transfer your precious memories in 2K resolution to obtain the best possible full-HD (High Definition) outcome.
We'll put your transfer either onto a Blu-ray, USB stick or hard drive or a combination of your choosing. We can also put it on a DVD, but that only holds a lesser quality "Standard Definition" transfer.
Note: Operating the Wolverine does require a little technical know-how. YouTube has helpful videos, and we include a copy of the "User Manual" with the rental.
FilmFix Wolverine Rental - (U.S.A. only)
It's $80 to rent for 2 weeks. You pay shipping, both ways, and fee varies depending upon where you reside. We are located in Ojai, CA and ship out via USPS "Priority Mail" with a "Signature Confirmation."
A $300 refundable deposit is required and is returned to you once we receive the machine along with its accouterments, in fine working order. Shipping fees range between $12 and $45.
Wolverine MovieMaker-PRO 8mm and Super 8 Converter - new $400 / we do not sell.
If interested in a rental, please fill out our FilmFix Wolverine Rental Agreement
and send it to us as an attachment via email, or 'snail mail' works too.
The reason we bought a Wolverine
Since we were receiving multiple inquiries asking, "Do you use a Wolverine?" to perform your transfers, we thought we had best know what type of transfer the inexpensive machine delivers. So we bought one -- their better model! The results are markedly different. The effort a customer needs to put forth to use the machine is also markedly different than a customer utilizing our 8mm transfer service
Details about our professional 8mm transfer equipment
Clearly, we offer our customers beautiful film transfers by attaining all that is possible from any given film. We offer the additional image enhancements of "image stabilization", "secondary color correction" and "grain reduction", if a transfer calls for it.
Plus, our customers have repeatedly noted our great customer care, and it shows in our stellar customer testimonials
(dating all the way back to 2005.)
Wolverine PDF User Manual
We hope you don't hesitate any longer ... those memories are fading off the films stored in a box in the drawer or closet.
Super-8 close-up shots
See Mother Nature, shining brightly, in this fine footage!
The camera work of these two clips was exceptional.
Thank you, Mr. Commons, for letting us use this as a sample transfer on our website.
Clip courtesy of Mr. Spencer Commons, with expressed written consent -- All Rights Reserved.
Cracked and discolored Super-8 Test-Transfer
Maria was thrilled with what we achieved on her small 3-inch Test-Transfer reel. Therefore, she granted us use of fun parts of it on our website.
The Super-8 film was littered with tiny emulsion cracks. Originally, the multitude of cracks provided for a very hectic viewing experience.
So, we used our additional image enhancement option of grain reduction to remove these cracks as best we could. We also restored some of the discoloration by means of our secondary color correction work. The film had turned a strong magenta, in color, and had lost its yellow color layer. The result: The film looks more natural.
Clip courtesy of Maria Ikenberry
, with expressed written consent -- All Rights Reserved.
Watch our top-notch Super-8 film transfer
I, Nathaniel, very much enjoyed transferring this particular collection of mini-documentaries which the Rene Family filmed during their International vacations. These treasured films were very well stored, and the camera work was outstanding.
Clip courtesy of Robert M Rene MD
, with his expressed written consent -- All Rights Reserved.
Children to the rescue (film from 1938)
Classic all metal fire engine, in high pursuit - even amidst snowflakes!
Here is 8-decade old 8mm black and white film with all its charm ... and then some.
We use this clip with expressed written consent from Phil Hugly -- filmed by Lina Studer nee Dubois. All Rights Reserved.
Freeport Stadium May 1958 winning driver of car 269 George Peters.
Clip courtesy of Richard Girards
, with expressed written consent -- All Rights Reserved.
Goodness -- what is this?
Winner of most unique splice award
One day, we came upon the most unique 8mm film splicing technique ever used -- a staple. It sure made us laugh!
In all the years of seeing the various film splice work that our customer's have done, the use of thin metal was something that really surprised us. Hey - it worked for them in the moment but would not do in our equipment.
With each reel, we carefully check all splice for integrity. If we find them broken, weakened or exceedingly poorly done, we replace three per reel -- FREE of charge.
If more splices are needed, in order to affect a nice transfer, we charge a nominal fee for additional needed repairs. Most reels don't require more than three, if that.
And the "runner up" award goes to ...... user of white "first-aid" cloth tape (long since turned brown.)
Chaplin in parade promoting The Kid
While all cherished footage that we have ever transferred is an honor to us, here at FilmFix, this is the most treasured footage we have ever digitized.
It's short but very sweet, and it proves that each second of every reel is being monitored, while we preserve our customers' precious memories.
These brief moments were shot on 8mm film and show Charlie Chaplin
self-promoting the movie "The Kid
" -- the one which brought him into the limelight and International fame. The parade took place in Switzerland, circa 1932. We assume it was that year based on the date hand-written on the film canister, even though he released the film in 1921. This must have been how he started to endear himself to the Swiss people, long before he made his final move there.
Apparently, Charlie Chaplin was know to self-promote his movie by "dressing up" in his iconic Tramp outfit then joining parades. Seemingly, the parade had other characters from other motion pictures but nothing that I could definitively recognize.
In this clip, do you notice how Mr. Chaplin is using a whistle in order to draw attention to himself? We think it's a brilliant way to draw eyes toward him!
To explore more about Charlie Chaplin and his Swiss connection, please visit this page
Use of clip with expressed written consent from Phil Hugly -- filmed by Lina Studer nee Dubois. All Rights Reserved.
What about moldy looking VHS tapes?
Mold on VHS tape - or what is it?
Evident crystal-like white powder looks like mold at first glance. In realty it is a chemical reaction that happens as the VHS tape slowly breaks down.
A tape that looks like this will not play back in your deck for very long. Soon enough, the fine, flaky powder will cover the inside of your VHS deck, and the VHS deck head which reads the tape will stop producing a clean image. You will start to see more and more dropouts, as that powder continues to build up on the head.
Inside look -- close up of powder build-up caused by older degrading tapes
VHS drum head cylinder which reads the tape
Eventually, the deck will need to be sent out for cleaning, because those long cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol will only work as a "quick fix" for so long.
The tapes below required a special hand-cleaning treatment before being transferred. First, the tape case is disassembled then carefully cleaned.
Opened VHS tape is ready for cleaning
The activity happens in a protected environment.
Cleaning machine is used in a protected environment. Paper tape rolls continually get renewed as tape is cleaned.
Grain-Reduction in Motion
We'll start by showing you the end-result, so let's work backwards.
This short clip shows the effect of grain reduction when applied to your footage. Take special note of the detail in the skirt portion of her dress. Where there is motion, grain reduction tends to blur the image slightly. When motion ceases or movement is slower, the image is more crisp and in focus.
Some people prefer the results of grain reduction, because it softens scratches, lessens obvious debris which may have remained on the film (even after a careful hand-cleaning), and it reduces the mold pattern on films which may be affected by such a misfortune.
Below, is the same clip without grain reduction applied. Above you did not see what you will see on this clip.
Take note of the rather long hair-like piece of debris which was embedded in the emulsion of the original film. It appears on the right side of the frame just as she steps down onto the second step. The grain reduction cancelled that debris right out. It can cancel out quite a few flaws.
Over the years, we have noticed the preference of our customers. It's about 50-50 as to the grain-reduction choice. Some like the softened, cleaner image. Some prefer to see the image in greater focus - flaws and all!
Now, showing you the entire frame as it's captured by our equipment you will note the sprocket holes, on the left. See all that movement? Our "image stabilization" option has cancelled out most of it, and we provide a result with a nice and steady image. It's a joy to watch!
Our additional image enhancement option of "image stabilization" is inexpensive, and most customers opt for it.
NOTE: Do not let the sprocket holes jumping all about give you any pause ... they will not show on your final transfer (unless you prefer to see them, and you let us know that choice.) The magnitude of those sprocket holes jumping about gives you an idea of just how shaky the original footage was.
Clip is courtesy of Phil Hugly, with expressed written consent -- all rights reserved.
It's all about privacy!We respect your privacy.
You retain the copyright of your treasured family memories!
Not all companies can say that. Please check their "fine-print" to make certain they will not sell or share your personal family footage to an unknown source.
Over the years, we discovered too many other companies retain copyright of your
personal memories. If they retain copyright, they can use or sell your footage, as they wish. What you likely thought was a private transaction is not. We find it disturbing that unbeknownst to you, those dearest memories could end up anywhere.
It was astonishing for us to discover a company who was offering their transfers at a low price, and providing low quality work too, only because they were trying to hook customers -- then sell their footage to make a large profit. We can just imagine their further motives!
If privacy is as important to you as it is us, please do your homework -- then, call us.
Our transfer equipment
We use a telecine xenon flash scanner. Here are some of the parts of our system.
Because many of you asked, we show you the type of camera we use. It's a professional JVC video camera, model GY-HM750U. What makes it distinctive is its 3CCD image sensor.
Having a 3CCD sensor, and not just a CCD or CMOS sensor, is critical in capturing a true image. The camera provides an HD-SDI output signal, which holds the 10bit Full-HD image information. That HD-SDI signal gets captured by a computer.
The extra color depth of our 10bit, over most transfer houses' 8bit, provides a more refined range for precision color-grading. The camera is pricey but worth it!
3CCD professional JVC camera model GY-HM750U
The lens we is the sharpest 60mm macro lens Canon makes. It's from their EFS series. The lens is held by a special lens holder which allows us to finely tune the image framing getting your whole image perfectly framed during our initial capture.
Flash Scanner Control Box
This is the brain of our flash scanner. The box uses two 8-core microprocessors to control all the required elements of the flash scanner.
The five elements are: the motor and video signal interlock, the strobe laser interlock, the color of the light, the light intensity automation control with added manual override for fine adjustments, and the mechanical adjustment required for any varying shrinkage of the film.
8mm flash scanner control box
Our 8mm Xenon Light Flash Scanner
of our scanner is a studio class Bauer projector.
The robust German machine (frame) provides the films transport and a stereo duo-play sound playback. Removed from this frame were the original motor, the mechanism of the pull-down claw, the lens, and the gear wheels. They were replaced with a new motor, new interchangeable gear wheels for 8mm and Super-8 film, a new light (a xenon light strobe with color filters and diffuser), a film density reader that pre-reads the film for any required automated exposure corrections, and a laser that reads the sprocket holes' edge for proper strobe timing.
The optics for the light, includes a special encasing, color filters, IR and UV filters to protect your film from the light, light diffusers, encoders, servos, and a whole range of electronics.
Shown here is the laser and the light of the film density reader.
Many films did not have sound, but for those that did, we keep the sound interlocked to the image as your film gets scanned, frame by frame. In addition we record, in parallel, the analog sound at an extreme high sample rate of 192kHz. This recording replaces the camera's inferior sample rate sound. This extra step allows for a true 48kHz sound rate, even after we do our final
slowing down for playback at proper speed.
And yes ... that's me! A Brooks Institute graduate* at the controls during every frame of your transferred film. I watch very carefully and adjust the light making sure all is going well. *Santa Barbara, CA - 1996 - official diploma appears on our website
Manual light adjustments during transfer allow for a more fine-tuned capture.
Laser with micrometer adjusters to fine tune laser positioning
Laser reading edge of Super-8 film sprocket hole.
Locking down the light rod along the path the xenon light is traveling
We don't use substandard, non-professional equipment.
If you are intent on transferring the film yourself, you may have considered using one of the inexpensive models appearing on the market several years ago. It is wise not to expect decent results from these, and be prepared to invest a inordinate amount of time for each reel.
May we boast for a moment? Our work is clearly superior to those DIY transfers for several reasons. (Send us a small free, 3" Test-Transfer reel -- we often run a special. Look for details on our website.)
Also, those machines will not capture sound, if your film happens to have a sound strip. However, we will capture it -- at no extra cost! The sweet voices get perfectly interlocked and synced up with the film's image.
Will rusty reels harm my film?
Rusty reels have a detrimental effect on the film.
Time can be very hard on old metal film reels.
It accelerates the decay of the films as it reacts with the film's silver. Film archival houses won't even let rusty reels be stored at their facilities.
It is high-time to get these films first moved onto plastic reels, and then see what sort of needs they have. Conditioning the film will be a crucial second step, before a transfer is attempted.
We carefully hand-clean your film.
After inspecting your films, we begin by asking ourselves, "What will benefit this film the most?"
The professional brands we use to clean your film are: "VitaFilm", 2 types of "Solvon", Christy's film cleaner, and "FilmRenew."
In our 13 years of experience, we have noted that all films benefit from cleaning -- even films coming straight from the lab! Many films do not require extra special care -- a careful hand-cleaning will do. Other films, though rare, require a pricey film solution called "FilmRenew" (not shown here.)
To note: We never use "VitaFilm" to clean film that has been spliced using tape, because it dissolves the tape.
We have excellent cleaning practices: We start with clean hands (thus the gloves), clean surfaces, and cleaning cloths that are fresh. These things make an important difference.
Below, the film was quite dirty, but with a careful hand cleaning, we achieved very nice results. Sometimes dirt will get securely embedded into the film's emulsion. In certain cases, some of that dirt will remain. Still, plenty will be cleaned off.
Careful hand-cleaning is part of a successful film transfer.
Here, there was some mold with the addition of tar built up on the film. We speculate that the owner was a smoker and enjoyed their cigarettes, or perhaps cigars, while watching their treasured family memories.
Dirt and smoke, in the air, can cause a considerable build up of residue on the film.
Oops -- don't send like this!
Without padding, things can get quite disheveled and the box can more easily tear, during transit. Please remember to pad it a bit and tape the box -- both on the bottom and top.
Please add a little padding so this doesn't happen. We very carefully pack all return shipments!
When a shipping box has some "play" inside, the box's structural integrity suffers. It's inevitable that during transit boxes get tossed about a bit.
Sometimes we receive them with tear in the corner or side of box. If you pad out those corners and edges some, it both helps protect your material and adds some fortitude to the box.
Rest assured -- in our history no box has been so damaged that any precious family memories have fallen out of the package or gotten notably damaged, during their trip to us. FILMFIX seems to be a special name and the carriers really do take note of the contents!
In fact, we have a 100% track-record for receiving every package sent to us in all our years in business, when using a carrier that provides a "tracking number." That's an astoundingly reassuring record, we think!
Which of these doesn't belong?
One of these reels is not an 8mm film. It's 16mm leader.
The fourth reel from the left is quite an odd sight to see. That's because it's a leader of 16mm film - cut in half. This is something that was sometimes done with double perforated 16mm leader but never with regular perforated leader. The leader cannot be projected as it is, because every second perforation hole is missing.
Is it normal 8 or super-8 film?
Without looking at the reel's center hole, one can already determine what kind of film is wound onto each of these two reels, below. It's a sort of geeky puzzle to solve, but this is just my kind of thing. Try to figure it out which is Normal 8mm film and which reel is Super 8mm film.
Hint: look at the light reflect from the film
Again, look at the light reflect from the film
Did you figure it out?
Hint: It has to do with how the light reflects off of the film's outermost edge revealing alternating bands of light reflection. Normal 8mm film has these bands, because the original film gets cut in half, at the lab, and when wound onto the reel it shows up in this fashion.
(Another way to determine Normal 8mm film from Super 8mm film is to look at the size of the reel's center hole. Normal 8mm film has a smaller center hole than does Super 8mm film.)
Curling 8mm film
When film gets old it can start to curl, because it is shrinking. The shrinkage amount will depend upon what type of base the film was made of and in what conditions the film was stored.
Fluctuating temperatures and changes in humidity affect the outside edge of the film, and in time, will cause shrinkage of that outside edge of the film, as seen in this image below.
Don't wait until your film has curled and become moldy - transfer it now!
This outer part can no longer be transferred and will break if a transfer is attempted. Using a special solution of "FilmRenew" helps some film regain elasticity, but the outer third of this film is beyond repair. The inner two-thirds could be helped by soaking the film in "FilmRenew." Still, there is no guarantee what image quality will be achieved.
Here's some curled 8mm film. One third is damaged but some was saved!