Video UP-SCALING to HD
Up-scaling your video to HD is a wise option to consider when digitizing your old video tapes. Professionally up-scaled footage results in a much nicer image when viewed on a large TV or computer monitor! We think you'll be surprised.
Our FilmFix up-scaling differs in that we perform steps 3, 4, and 5 (detailed below), and other companies don't.
For "computer geeks": If you're comfortable using command lines in a terminal, here is how to go about doing the up-scaling yourself.
After up-scaling. Click on image to view big; is best viewed on a large computer monitor.
original frame - before up-scaling
FilmFix's up-scaling - benefits and extras:
- The upscaled file is an MP4 file and can be viewed on any modern device. While a "Smart TV" has its limitations, it knows what to do with an MP4 file. To note: .avi and .mov files will not play on each and every device.
- Your up-scaled image quality will be superior to your original capture in SD, when viewed on an HD monitor. Up-scaling strongly reduces the typical jagged edges on diagonal sharp lines -- which you'll notice in SD sort of look like jagged "stair-case" edges.
- Our up-scaling is a two step process. First, we correct (as much as possible) for overexposed whites and underexposed blacks. And then ...
no overexposure correction
with overexposure correction
- In the second step of up-scaling, the standard all-black side bars on either side of the frame, get replaced by blurred side-bars, which is common place in today videos on the Internet or on TV. You've probably seen it -- they are colored, side-extension "bars" and are a blurrier and diluted version of whatever frame we're on.
- And finally, during the up-scale process, we crop off just the messy looking first and last couple of lines (on the top and bottom of image) as well as a minimal amount on the left and right of the image to present a cleaner looking view.
NOTE: Some of the more advanced TVs offer an 'internal up-scaling' option, but the quality does not compare to ours. Ours is far superior and it's not only because we add steps 3, 4 and 5! The algorithm our computer uses is far more sophisticated and processor intensive than the quick on-the-spot TV upscale feature. (Sample images to follow, as soon as a particular customer gives us their approval.)
We can fit up to 23 hours of up-scaled video onto a 256 GB flash drive.
"Magic cords" - do they work?
These video transfer cords hit the market, and people started digitizing their tapes at home. However, it seems people are not getting satisfying results with these things.
It appears that it is probably not capturing true "S-Video quality" analog signal to digital. Perhaps, it is instead using a little trick of utilizing the signal from pin 2 and 3 of the 4 pin mini-Dim plug (wiki info on S-Video) to "capture" a less colorful and softer looking video image. These days specs are hard to read and sometimes difficult to trust.
There is a reason why we do NOT use any of this here at FilmFix -- we stick with what we know for a fact works exceedingly well!
If you already have a so-called Magic cord with converter like this, and are intent on using it, it would be good to jump down to our "Set-up Check List."
Diamond VC500 available here at B&H for less than $36.00, but before you buy, it's good to know its limitations.
The Diamond VC500 specs say ....
"Video Capture Formats: MPEG 4, MPEG" and "(600 MB to 3GB required for 1 hour of recording)".
The upshot is: You will be capturing a highly compressed video, because a standard quality video file uses about 13GB for 1 hour of recording -- not merely their advertised 600MG - 3GB. Sure, using their cord you'll end up having the convenient MP4 file, but later if you want to upscale your video to 1080, it won't work. It will just look muddy and unsatisfying.
This is why we don't use this type of "magic cord."
It's advised to do your research and read other's reviews -- available online.
Sure, it's easy to set up -- but user beware!
Don't use the yellow RCA plug!
Video decks and cameras normally provide a video-out connection. Only a few higher-end units provide you with an additional S-Video connection. Please make sure to NOT use the yellow connection for the video signal, but instead use the S-Video mini-Dim plug.
You will be able to get an image using the yellow plug, but it is a substandard, much lower quality image.
Yellow RCA plug will only carry a substandard composite video signal
On the right are S-Video In and Out ports - on back of deck
Do it right by using the better video signal with an S-Video chord, as seen above
A clean S-Video signal "is king." If your unit only has a yellow RCA plug, consider using a different unit that has an S-Video plug. It really makes a difference! You may want to try your luck on eBay for a unit that is in good shape and which provides you with an S-Video port.
Don't be fooled by this adapter cord
RCA / S-Video adapter - only to be used as a last resort
Our advice: Do not use one of these converter plugs. They will not bump up the image quality, they will only bump it down.
What we use at FilmFix:
We use professional decks that offer S-Video signal in and FireWire out (a.k.a. IEEE 1394.) And, we go from FireWire out straight into our computer to produce the best quality recordings possible.
The magic really starts to happen when we start up-scaling the captured material to 1080 HD. Here is a link to our do-it-yourself blog post on how to go about that.
Set-up Check List
- Be sure to use the S-Video signal (not the yellow RCA video connector -- as explained above in this blog post!)
- Make sure you are using at least a USB 2.0 port (or a faster port - ie. 3.0.) The USB 2.0 port should be able to keep up with "up to" a 60 MB/s data stream. Your video signal will require about 15MB/s see here (... provided I did my math correctly. Our calculator is still a work in progress ...) So, the upshot is a USB 1.0 port will not be able to keep up with that kind of data and you will have definite, and serious dropouts.
- Check that your internal hard drive can keep up with the data-rate you will be writing at. Defragmenting (a.k.a. de-fraging) your hard drive prior to recording is a good practice -- especially if your hard drive is getting full.
- And lastly, be sure to capture a stream with a minimum amount of compression. So, do not use an MP4 type. You will need that extra data for the upscaling process.
- Make sure you are not using this so-called magic cord with a dinosaur of a computer. Video capturing and processing in real-time will require some computing power. It is not because your phone can do it, that your computer can also do it! And while it is doing it - do not be playing your favorite video games in the process.
- After transferring your first tape, please STOP and check. Play back the entire recording - don't just "spot check" it. Make triple sure your transfer looks as good as you expect it to and that you are happy with what you just captured.
Stay digital if it is already digital
Mini-DV and Digital-8 tapes hold digital data. If you have Mini-DV tapes or Digital-8 tapes, please do not use the above discussed "analog" magic cord. Instead, stay "digital" by using a fire-wire connection to your computer.
35mm Film Resolution
Here is the upshot: Resolution of film is, in general, 5.6K. And, we scan at 6K. Scanning at any higher resolution does not improve the image any. So, fancier transfer equipment does not yield a better image.
If you print at 300DPI (the printing standard), you can expect a quality print from our high resolution scan. This will be true for images printed up to a size of 18.7" x 12" (for 35mm film.)
Keep in mind that the quality of the image will vastly depend on the original type of film used (fine-grain or regular) and the type of lens that was used (sharp and expensive or a budget-lens.) Additionally, the outcome will depend upon the prowess of the photographer.
MP (Megapixel), DPI (Dot Per Inch), and Printing Size
||Image or Frame
Size in pixels
|Print Size in inches at
|1.6 × 1.1
|1.9 × 1.1
||1600 × 1200
||5.3 × 4.0
||1920 × 1080
||6.4 × 3.6
||2048 × 1536
||6.8 × 5.1
||2592 × 1944
||8.6 × 6.4
||3072 × 2304
||10.2 × 7.6
||3264 × 2448
||10.8 × 8.1
||3648 × 2736
||12.1 × 9.1
||4096 × 2160
||13.6 × 7.2
|Apple iPhone X
||4032 × 3024
||13.4 × 10.1
||4288 × 3215
||14.2 × 10.7
|Resolution of 35mm Film
(1) (2) (3)
||5600 × 3620
||18.7 × 12.1
|Our FilmFix slide transfer system (4)
||6048 × 4032
||20.1 × 13.4 (10)
|Braun 6000 (5)
||7150 × (7150)
||23.8 × (15.4) (10)
|Canon 5DS (6)
||8688 × 5792
||28 × 19.3 (10)
|10,000dpi Scanner (7) (8)
|| 5,00010,000 (9)
||7150 × (7150)
Foot notes and sources
1 35mm film 20MP https://pic.templetons.com/
2 35mm film 21MP https://www.quora.com/
3 20MP "A 35mm scan with an effective resolution of 3900 contains about 20 million pixels, that's enough in order to take out all image information from a 35mm film in terms of resolution." (source)
4 FilmFix visually inspects and manually adjusts each slide for its optimal exposure. The camera we use is a Sony a900 12-bit and has a Dynamic Range of 10.6.
"In theory higher bit depth provides an advantage in terms of image quality, but frankly I don't see it." (source)
5 Braun 6000 (16-bit) if scanning for ME MultiExposure "The tool is called ME in the software and serves as a means to increase dynamic range" up to Dynamic Range 3.8 Dmax
6 Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR Camera (14-bit Canon Origin), Dynamic Range 10.6 Dma
7 Braun 7000 (48-Bit)
8 Pacific Image PowerSlide X Automated 35mm Slide Scanner (48-Bit)
9 "Is advertised as 10,000dpi but is 5,000dpi" (source)
10 It can be argued that printing anything larger than what the film resolution holds will bring a better image, but the only thing it will do is increase the grain size and produce a fuzzier-looking grain.
MP4 files at 18fps!
A silent almost unnoticed breakthrough has happened in the play-back arena. It used to be that only computers were able to manage the play-back of files with frame rates that did not conform to the TV standard frame rates. These days, your Smart TV Roku Media Player can do it too! This is HUGE for us here at FilmFix, because it means that we can finally provide you with a more compatible file that plays each frame back just like the film was intended to be seen.
Smart TV's are slowly revolutionizing the way we view our old film. Now they play back 16fps and 18fps MP4 files, just like any computer. This is big, and shows you how small things -- as Frames Per Second -- matter hugely.
This topic is quite geeky, but for the curious reader here is a truncated synopsis on the subject.
TVs sync to 30 frames per second (25fps in Europe, etc.) That frame rate is linked to the electric AC current's frequency of 60Hz (50Hz in Europe, etc.) Films are shot at all sorts of different frame rates: 12, 16, 18, 24, 25, 29.97... up to 70fps and beyond. In the past, the only way to get these films to play back correctly, while preserving their true playback speed, was to double-up (or drop) frames to a standard TV frame rate of 30fps.
The old 3:2 pull-down technique for real-time "Film to Video" transfer
This technique is standard practice during a film transfer (telecine), and is referred to as the 3:2 pull-down technique for converting 24fps to30fps films. (Note this illustration is simplified -- in reality the 3:2 pull-down is applied to the fields of the frames and not to the frames themselves.)
The image here illustrates the doubling up of frames when converting film exposed at 24fps to a 30fps TV standard. You may notice that the pattern is repeating every 4 film frames. The first 3 frames get copied cleanly, then the next frame gets doubled up; thus its name 3:2 pull-down.
Tid bit: In the olden days, to save the video onto a TV-standard tape was to record the video signal in real-time -- field by field. Today, it all gets captured frame-by-frame, manipulated and kept frame-by-frame until it is time to produce the final output. It's a much different approach.
The outdated approach of outputting files for your TV
Now this is where it gets ugly, because converting 18fps to 30fps is just messy. It is doable, but as you can see, in the image below, the pattern is less regular. That messiness is particularity noticeable when the camera-person shot long left-to-right (or right-to-left) panned scenes. It ended up looking jerky and far from smooth, upon play back.
This shows the traditional (but dated) approach of providing you with a playable MP4 file or any of the other source file (ProRes or AVI.) Note that we, FilmFix, used to provide you not with 30fps but rather 24fps files, because a 24fps file is a Blu-ray frame rate standard that is Internationally understood and compatible.
Now imagine if you have an even lower frame rate, say, 16fps for Double-8 film? This lower frame already looked bad and then ... it got worse.
A new improved way to depict film on your Smart TV
Your old TV operates at 30 frames per seconds, whereas Smart TV's have a higher frame rate of 60fps (the same as your average computer monitor.)
As you see in the illustration below, the higher frame rate has the advantage of evening out the color-differences better during playback. With the above illustration at 30fps it was more obvious when the frame doubling did not line up properly. For instance, orange has just one frame in the MP4 file (and on the TV) whereas in the Smart TV 60fps that one orange frame is better represented and blends in better.
Most importantly -- play-back of MP4 files at a 18fps frame rate is now supported! Actually, any specified frame rate will work.
The Roku Media Player from your Smart TV knows how to interpret the speed of your MP4 file to back it back correctly.
And now this makes it possible for us to produce MP4 files (and other master files) that offer a 1-to-1 representation of each Film Frame; be it 18fps or 16fps, or any other frame rate, without having to double up any frame in your MP4 file.
Your Roku Media Player will know how to stream an MP4 file that has an unconventional frame rate (such as 18 fps.) Exciting!
The upshot is: Your Smart TV is able to play back MP4 files that have varying frame rates, just like your computer can. So, this finally opens up the possibility of truly changing the experience of how films that were originally shot at 16 or 18fps, or any other frame rate, are played back.
So much for the truncated synopsis. (For the even more curious person, there is more to it -- here. For instance there is an explanation about Drop or Non-Drop Frames.) Enjoy!
The True Frame-Rate Advantages
- File supported payback on any device that knows how to play back MP4 files, including Smart TV
- Pans look cleaner, less jerky
- More compatible for re-encoding to a limiting DVD standard
- Post-Production image stabilization is no longer a required "must-do" before finalizing files
The True Frame-Rate Disadvantage
- It is a bit tricky to make these 18fps (or 16fps) files - we use FFMpeg for that (see code below)
How to check your MP4 file's frame rate
Go to the file's "Properties", right-click, and under the "Details" tab (or similar), you'll see this info:
FFMpeg Changing Frame Rate, without re-encoding
To output the final 16fps ProRes files, without re-encoding use the code below. (Note: I added the third line of code
-an because the file has no audio.)
ffmpeg -i original.mov \
-c:v copy \
-video_track_timescale 16 \
FFMpeg Changing Frame Rate going from ProRes to MP4
To re-encode from single frame (any fps) ProRes to a 16fps MP4 (without audio and some light sharpening.) It will process at approximately the speed of 1x. (The same will also work for AVI to MP4; just change the second line of code to read:
ffmpeg -r 16
-i original.mov \
-vf smartblur=lr=2.00:ls=-0.90:lt=-5.0:cr=0.5:cs=1.0:ct=1.5 \
-c:v libx264 \
-pix_fmt yuv420p \
-b:v 50M \
-tune grain \
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
Andrew Swan has been blogging since 2008 about video processing. In his 45 minute YouTube video here, (sorry he since removed the video from youtube - the link is now going to a different video) 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
FilmFix doesn't use a Wolverine for transfers, but 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.)
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 that personal family 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, choose 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
The skeleton 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.
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 metal 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?
A fun puzzle for film "geeks":
Try to figure out which of these two reels has Normal 8mm and which has Super-8 film wound onto its reel.
One can determine what kind of film is wound onto each of these reels just by noting the difference in the way the wound film appears. However, a prerequisite is knowing how the film was processed, at the lab.
Hint: Observe the difference in how the light reflects off the edge of the film.
Do you see the striped pattern? These revealing measured alternating bands of light reflection will give you the answer. The smaller hole in the center of the film reel can also be a clue -- but careful, see below.
Now, look at this reel and note the light reflecting off the film's edge. The notable meaured line pattern is missing; and the center hole is much larger.
Did you figure out which is which?
The top image is Normal 8 film (a.k.a. "Double 8" or "Regular 8"), and the bottom image depicts Super 8 film.
The Normal 8 film has these measured alternating patterned, banding sections, of 25 feet in length, because after processing at the lab, the original film gets cut in half. The lab then wound it onto the reel and it showed up in this fashion. More detail - here.
As for the reel's center hole size: Normal 8mm film has a smaller center hole than does Super 8mm film. Yet, there is something to keep in mind: Either type of film format can be mistakenly wound onto the wrong type of reel. That's why it's so handy to know how to discern the perforation hole size difference (or, that distinguished alternating, patterned banding of Normal 8 film, as described above.)
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!