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Film transfer - 16mm to HD

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Drew Grimes
Film transfer - 16mm to HD
on Jul 5, 2011 at 2:23:06 pm

Friends,

I'm working on a video for a museum exhibit, working almost exclusively with archival stills, and some 16mm films. The project will be projected using Watchout in a non-standard aspect ratio on a curved screen that will be about 16 feet by 5 ft. People will be standing about 6-10 feet from the projection surface. Pixel dimensions are:

width: 3552 pixels
height: 1080 pixels

All media will be presented in a motion graphical environment we're making in After Effects, so it won't all need to be 3552 pixels wide. However, it will need to be 1080 high.

My question has to do with film transfers to HD video. There are a few archival 16mm films that we are interested in using in the project. There is a local transfer house that uses a Flashtransfer16 and then pillarbox upconverts the video to 1080i with a Terranex VC200. Does anyone have any experience or knowledge of this equipment? I'm guessing that there is a transfer workflow that captures the film directly to an HD stream, instead of upconverting, but will the resultant video quality be better than the output of the Terranex VC200?

Thanks very much!
- Drew


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Walter Soyka
Re: Film transfer - 16mm to HD
on Jul 5, 2011 at 6:55:05 pm

[Drew Grimes] "There are a few archival 16mm films that we are interested in using in the project. There is a local transfer house that uses a Flashtransfer16 and then pillarbox upconverts the video to 1080i with a Terranex VC200. Does anyone have any experience or knowledge of this equipment? I'm guessing that there is a transfer workflow that captures the film directly to an HD stream, instead of upconverting, but will the resultant video quality be better than the output of the Terranex VC200?"

Yes, capturing in HD from the beginning would be better (though the Teranex is very nice).

Digitizing at 4K would be better still, as you will have to scale 1440x1080 HD footage up 2.5x to meet your target horizontal resolution -- HD will soften considerably.

That said, it's archival footage, so your audience may be more forgiving than you'd think -- especially if you add a little stylistic treatment.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Drew Grimes
Re: Film transfer - 16mm to HD
on Jul 5, 2011 at 7:43:43 pm

Thanks for your thoughts Walter. Actually, I wouldn't need to scale the 16mm all the way to 3552 pixels, because there will be a graphical environment made in AE that achieves that width, and the transferred 16mm media will be presented in windows in that graphical environment. I will need to be able to scale to 1080 high though.
- Drew


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Walter Soyka
Re: Film transfer - 16mm to HD
on Jul 5, 2011 at 8:01:04 pm

In that case, the Teranex upconversion might not be so bad.

What is the quality of the archival footage like? If the original 16mm is tack sharp, then I still think you'd get better results from an original HD scan. If it's a bit dodgy, then I don't think it will matter as much.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Drew Grimes
Re: Film transfer - 16mm to HD
on Jul 5, 2011 at 8:09:03 pm

Cool. It's pretty sharp - professionally made, not a home movie. The transfer house offered to make me a test transfer of a minute or so, so I may take them up on that.

- Drew


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