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kpmedia 03-17-2011 04:58 AM

Suggested Film to DVD Professional Transfer/Conversion Services
 
Because we've gotten a lot of emails about this, I'm making it a new FAQ post:
The actual list is further down the page, but you really need to read everything here, in order.


Preface -- a.k.a -- Who NOT To Use for Film to DVD Transfers

If you go to Google and type in "film to DVD" or "film to DVD service" -- or almost any similar query -- you'll mostly end up with low-end slop shops and scammy-quality services as the results. Many of them are referred to in the industry as "transfer mills" because they herd your video through as quick as possible. They care about your dollars, not their quality. In fact, some of them are so bad, members have pointed out specific services in our Myths & Misinformation forum here at The Digital FAQ.

Many of these companies are known to use sloppy amateur methods. For example, using a DV camera to videotape your film as it plays on a movie screen. That's unacceptable low quality work that you could do at home -- but of course, shouldn't, because it looks like crap.

It's also easy to permanently mess up film. Consider this:
  • DVD is rather good about being resilient to "death by use" since the player does not actually touch the disc at any time, in order to play the video. A laser simply bounces off of it.
  • A VHS tape is wrapped around the guts of a VCR, and I'm sure you've see a tape get "eaten" at some point in past decades. Remember that tape is a thin and flimsy polyester or similar film. The major benefit to a tape is that a person never actually handles the tape -- only the machine will come into contact with it.
  • Film, however, is handled by both people and equipment. If you get some amateur to transfer your film, it could come back full of fingerprints, partially mangled or outright destroyed by John Q. Meathooks.
And as somebody who values recorded history and memories, that's horrible. Unacceptable risk!
When looking for a list of companies, Google is not your friend.


What to Look For in a Professional Film to DVD Company:


If you want quality film transfer work performed, be sure the company fits the following 7 criteria:

1. Cleaning = Requirement.
Film is dirty. Film is affected by static electricity and is itself a magnet for dust, lint and whatnot. And then it is not only stuck to the film, but it will come off in the scanner or projector, making quality even worse, as that compounded dirt is then scanned/recorded into your final digital video. Unlike tape, which is sealed or semi-sealed in a casssette, a film reel is exposed to the elements. (Yes, that includes reels stored in metal canisters. At some point, it was open.) If the company does not pre-clean your film, look elsewhere.

2. Look at what formats are supported. A good tell for a film service is by the number of formats they support. Or at very least, in their demonstrated knowledge of formats, as found in their site documentation. For example, higher end film, such as 35mm, requires somewhat expensive hardware to process and/or convert. Companies offering 35mm work are generally very serious operations, and not "weekend warriors" that were able to cobble together a makeshift "film studio" in their strip mall location, home or garage, using homebrew gear or low-grade equipment they bought off eBay or Craigslist. (However, I would note that some facilities have built themselves around 8mm film, Super 8, 16mm and Super 16 -- one if which is on our suggestion list.)

3. Scare Tactics = Amateurs.
If their site is dedicated to telling you about how horrible DVDs are, or how they have the only good method, run away. If their main message is "transfer your film nows, before it disappears forever", then find somebody else. Those who peddle themselves as all-knowing masters of a secret transfer formula are usually amateurs desperate for work. Professional companies spent their time telling your what they will be doing, rather than focusing on a list of bogeyman myths about how your film is disintegrating.

4. Bad Site = Bad Hardware = Bad Service. If the company's site looks like it was designed with Netscape Gold in 1995, then find somebody else. If the business in question won't even spend funds to create a decent site, or lacks the skills to do it themselves, then what makes you think they've spent any funds on quality hardware and software to power their operation? In some industries, this isn't a good tell -- but this is video, and video is part of the media industry. In this field, attention to aesthetics is important. If they think their rotten site looks "good enough" then imagine what your film-to-DVD work will look like!

5. Mail Your Film, Don't Look for the "Local Company". The best film transfer facilities tend to be located in private office space or warehouse space, and can only be reached by email (for initial contact) or phone. The "local guy" will usually outsource your video anyway, if they're not using amateur in-house methods. And the latter does happen quite a bit.

6. Avoid DVD Recorders!! To retain any semblance of visual quality, your film needs to be transferred to an uncompressed format, lossless format, or at worst, the DV format. (DV, not DVD.) Quite a few sloppy operations cram your film through a makeshift telecine box or projector kit, and then output the camera to a cheap DVD recorder they've bought from Walmart or Best Buy. Even if you're seeking film to DVD work, you want the master capture to be non-DVD. And honestly, it's a good idea to request a copy of that master, be it files on a hard drive, or DV tape. Remember that DVD is compressed, and if you ever want to edit that footage, you'll get better quality from the pre-DVD version.

7. Deshake? Deflicker? Color correction? See what, if anything, the service does to address flickering and shaking. Both flickering and shaking are a direct result of the method used to transfer the video. The better the method, the less flicker or shake that must be addressed. This may or may not be an additional charge, as it's film restoration/conservation type work.


And now .... The List.

For many years, we've written suggestions through emails. And these are the companies that have always been known to perform well, both for individuals (the folks at home), as well as companies and studios in need of film transfer work.

Some Parting Thoughts...

While there are probably more decent services, remember that many of them are quite terrible. You ignore these suggestions are your own peril (or rather, the peril of your irreplaceable film).

I'll be in contact with several videographers and studio managers in coming months, with an intention to expand this list to at least 10-15 possible qualified, recommended and vetted known-good services.

As always, the goal of The Digital FAQ is the help folks like you meet your digital media needs. We may not offer high quality film work ourselves, but we're more than willing to help you locate one that does. (But if you have some video tapes laying around, and need VHS to DVD, etc -- contact us. We do tapes!)

I hope this has helped save you some effort and avoided a nightmare. :)

lordsmurf 03-17-2011 05:21 AM

Also....

If anybody has experiences with these film to DVD transfer houses, or some others not mentioned here
-- good OR bad, both are encouraged! -- then please reply to this post. It will be most appreciated. Reviews are welcomed and desired.

Thanks. :)

alabeth 02-18-2013 09:38 AM

Thanks for your recommendations of film transfer companies. Your post is almost 2 years old, I was hoping to get some feedback on a company that now goes by the name pixcel. It used to be called filmtransfer.com. They have many different options and are quite pricey, however, I'm looking for the best quality I can get.

Your original post had mentioned that you would be updating the list. Did I miss that post?

Thanks in advance for you help,
Juanita


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kpmedia 02-18-2013 09:40 AM

It's up to date. :congrats:

I re-visited those sites in November 2012.
The rename was probably recent, in January 2013. As far as I know, it's the same company. The domain is still the same.
I looked for more reliable film companies, but really didn't find anything.

If you need anything else, just ask. Thanks.

alabeth 02-18-2013 12:07 PM

Thanks.
I also checked out Video Conversion Experts, and they seems reputable and knowledgeable, too. I'm a stickler for a well thought out website, and sVideo Conversion Experts really does have very good information. I've also read some very good reviews for them.
Thank you for your article. It helped me look for some key features when making a decision.
Juanita

admin edit: see next post

lordsmurf 02-09-2016 08:05 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Quote:

Originally Posted by kpmedia (Post 14969)
Woodland - for 8mm film, Super 8 film, 16mm and Super 16 film. (Not suggested for tape transfers, only film.)

Sadly, Woodland has gone out of business. :(

Quote:

Originally Posted by alabeth (Post 25095)
Thanks.
I also checked out Video Conversion Experts, and they seems reputable and knowledgeable

That is NOT a quality company! :mad4:

They have a lot of myth, misinformation, and outright lies on their site.

For example, their sample images (see attached) are nonsense.
- You can't really convert VHS to HD, much less 4K.
- They purposely made the "lower quality" images dark compared to the others. Brightness levels have nothing to do with resolution or even "pro broadcast" playback.
- The HD/4K image is awful, and they've simply increase sharpness in something like Photoshop, as it has horrible ringing (halos). The chroma noise is terrible on all of them, and means that pro equipment was NOT in use!

The same is true for both their film and analog tape information. It's all nonsense and lies.

If you care about your videos, and the video quality, don't use those people. That's horrible. :smack:

pumapuma 03-25-2016 01:13 PM

Thanks for all the valuable information. This site is super helpful.

I'm looking to have quite a few 8mm and super 8mm reels scanned, and I'm really focusing on getting a good scan and less so on the actual post-processing. It would be nice, but I can do that myself or in the future. The two companies in your list look really good, but is there any reason to not use a somewhat smaller shop using medium to high-end film scanners? I'm not referring to homemade telecine like you mention, but MWA Flashtransfer Choice like machines.

Here are some example shops that I am referring to:

Movette Film - Uses FlashscanHD
Northeast Historic Film - Uses Flashtransfer Choice. Scanning supports their non-profit historical society. Seems good.
Tailor-made - Use both FlashscanHD and Flashtransfer Choice.
Memorable - Used to be Pixcel, not sure if film transfer is still their focus. They used FlashscanHD.
Etc.

Would there be a significant difference between the two recommended options in this guide and one of these? I have yet to be able to find a good comparison.

Thanks again for all your help and dedication.

lordsmurf 03-25-2016 09:51 PM

The biggest difference is "wet gate" transfer. Without it, you leave all the dust/hair/dirt/etc on the film. It can be almost impossible to remove in post.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wet-transfer_film_gate

Non-"wet gate" transfers are wholly inferior, and a waste of time and money.

The suggested places use it, and the ones you list do not.

from http://www.posthouse.com/8mm-to-digital:
Quote:

Older film often has some dirt, debris, and unsightly scratches. These issues can be reduced or completely eliminated using a Wetgate system. The function of a Wetgate system is to remove extraneous dirt and debris while concealing the appearance of scratches. The film goes through a fluid filled chamber that rinses off loose particles while filling in the physical scratches with a clear liquid temporarily; this prevents light from refracting and showing the scratch. When going from 8mm to digital with a Wetgate the scratches will be somewhat concealed if not completely hidden. The system we use at CinePost can “Wetgate” Full Aperture 35mm, Regular 35mm, Super 16, Regular 16mm, Super 8, and Regular 8mm.

pumapuma 03-30-2016 05:08 PM

Thanks Lord Smurf for your response. You're insight is ever so helpful in a confusing landscape of hidden details.

As follow-up, I have contacted both of the recommended services (CinePost and Cinelab) and I gathered the following information. So everyone is aware, I am mainly interested in 8mm/S8 transfer service.

CinePost
  • Both the "Flat-rate Home Movies" and "Professional Telecine" rates are for the exact same people and equipment during transfer (w/ Davinci color correction). If you are transferring home movies it ends up being much cheaper to use the flat rate option.
  • Uses wet-gate transfer system on Rank Cintel Turbo
  • Using the flat rate service and baking in some estimates for hourly film prep ($50/hr) I estimate that it would cost approximately $0.52/foot all-in.
  • Shipping is charged extra
Cinelab
  • Offers 1080p transfer on their telecine machine, and 2K+ on their new Xena Dynamic Perf scanner
  • Does not offer wet-gate transfer on any of their systems. They said that there is not a major advantage to wet-scanning as it will not fix any scratches that affect the medium. They might just be trying to save face in response to my question. They also mentioned there is a considerable environmental impact to wet-gate scan due to the fluids used.
  • $0.27/foot on the older telecine machine, and $0.50/foot for 2K resolution on the Xena Dynamic Perf. These prices include film prep.
  • Shipping is usually included if the order is more than $200
As you mentioned previously:

Quote:

Originally Posted by lordsmurf (Post 42995)
Non-"wet gate" transfers are wholly inferior, and a waste of time and money.

Does that mean that CinePost is the only recommended transfer service available right now in the USA? Maybe there are more options in Europe... Considering that the prices are comparable, does it make more sense to do 2k resolution with Cinelab (or one of the other 2k transfer services) or do 1080p with CinePost? Is there any more detail on a 8mm frame that could practically be captured above 1080p?

What makes this harder is that at ~$0.50/foot, these options end up being very expensive when transferring more than a few 7-inch reels. If not going with the CinePost wet-gate system, would it make sense cost wise to also look at the other scanning services mentioned previously that use the MWA Flashtransfer Choice (and similar high end transfer systems)?

Thanks again to everyone on this forum for all your wisdom.

lordsmurf 03-30-2016 09:01 PM

Re-contact Cinelab and ask them what they do to pre-clean the film before scanning. Wet-gate is ideal, but I vaguely recall them having a special process to clean everything.

And if not, we may drop them from our list. We don't want to suggest inferior quality transfers.

Any film photographer that used Photoflo understands how important it is to clean film before any processing.

msgohan 04-03-2016 11:22 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pumapuma (Post 43196)
Considering that the prices are comparable, does it make more sense to do 2k resolution with Cinelab (or one of the other 2k transfer services) or do 1080p with CinePost? Is there any more detail on a 8mm frame that could practically be captured above 1080p?

Hmm. What exactly do you think 2K is? It isn't that 1080p = 1K and 2K = ~2000p (it's consumer 4K that equals 2160p). 1080p is vertical and 2K is approximate horizontal.

In the cinema world, 2K implies other things like a larger colorspace, but resolution-wise, you're not gaining anything going from 1080p to 2K.

pumapuma 04-04-2016 12:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lordsmurf (Post 43201)
Re-contact Cinelab and ask them what they do to pre-clean the film before scanning. Wet-gate is ideal, but I vaguely recall them having a special process to clean everything.

I re-contacted Cinelab and they said that they do no additional or special cleaning of the film before it is sent into the machine for 8mm/S8 film. They said that they rely entirely on the telecine's "Particle Transfer Rolls" to do the cleaning. For larger film types (non-home movies) they said that they will use a Lipsner Smith cleaner, which uses alcohol, transfer rolls, etc to do the cleaning. They have yet to use this machine on 8mm film.

pumapuma 04-06-2016 04:54 PM

So to wrap things up, it doesn't seem to make sense to use Cinelab over CinePost for 8mm/S8 film. I am still looking for a good second options as ~$0.52/foot seems a little rich for me. Does anyone know what the best 2nd tier scanners options are? Maybe options in Europe or Canada?

Thanks!

lordsmurf 04-26-2016 08:50 PM

dyfan knows of another wetgate option: http://www.digitalfaq.com/forum/news...per8-film.html
Quote:

Check the below link for a facility that uses a wet-gate transfer system and can employ color correction (if you need it)...
http://www.thetransferstation.com
As noted in that thread, never ship cheaply. UPS or Fedex 3-day or sooner (not ground) is suggested. The less time that something is in the mail, the less time is has to get lost or damaged.

pumapuma 10-13-2016 01:29 PM

Hello,

I just wanted to update everyone on the approach taken after all my research.

I ended up going with CinePost and can't be happier with the results. They were amazing to work with and I ended up getting a great deal on the processing. By sheer luck, I stumbled across their listing on eBay, similar to the below:

http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53...-/120906003627

It was listed for $19.50 per 50-foot-reel of 8mm or super8 (all-in), plus they have a 'make an offer' option. I offered $16.50 and they accepted. This works out to $0.33/foot, which is significantly better than what I could negotiate with them on the phone (~$0.52/foot, see previous post).

Anyway, hopefully this helps other people looking to get their home movies done in HD quality with a wet-gate system at an affordable price.

msgohan 10-13-2016 11:05 PM

Thanks for the info. That's bizarre that their eBay listing for the service has a Make Offer. :huh1:

Winsordawson 01-09-2017 12:52 AM

This thread has been very helpful, both with the site's review and pumapuma's experience. For the sake of continuity, I thought it would be better to post here. I was about to choose CinePost but came across another company that was suggested, Cinelicious

They don't seem to offer wet-gate transfers, instead using "SCANITY, a revolutionary new high dynamic range, 2K/4K electronically pin-registered scanner from Digital Film Technology."
http://cinelicious.tv/services
http://cinelicious.tv/news/inscanity...to-cinelicious

Better than wet-gate, or just hype?

jtech1 02-21-2017 07:03 AM

Lost my post due to 44 day box not checked... so typing again... :)

I have been doing research into film scanning services and my research mirrors what is here pretty closely. Cinelab was at the top of my list... and the filmscanningexperts (or one of their other 200 names) appeared to me as a scam site too. They use various city names and web site names to appear local, and their "sale" tactics raised red flags for me.

I need to look more into the wetgate service. cinepost seems to be lacking some professional features... they use telecine (video process) and not datacine (scanning process), and have no DPX output option. cinelab says they clean the film... they also provide higher res transfer than cinepost.

cinepost does not seem to indicate what resolutions they have available... they only talk about ProRes as "high resolution"... which has nothing to do with actual resolution of digitized material. cinelab clearly offers everything from HD to 5K. My understanding is that even old 8mm film has between 2K and 3K of resolution in it. And I have seen recommendations to scan 8mm at cinema 4K (4096x3112) to oversample... and assuming you may want a UDH 4K version for a 4K Tv (3840x2160), it would only be slightly downsampled from cinema 4K resolution, instead of upsampled from a HD or 2K scan.

I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has used cinelab (or cinepost or other) and may have more feedback on these last decisions I have to make before shipping film.

lordsmurf 02-21-2017 02:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jtech1 (Post 47920)
My understanding is that even old 8mm film has between 2K and 3K of resolution in it. And I have seen recommendations to scan 8mm at cinema 4K (4096x3112) to oversample... and assuming you may want a UDH 4K version for a 4K Tv (3840x2160), it would only be slightly downsampled from cinema 4K resolution, instead of upsampled from a HD or 2K scan.

My "BS-Sense" (like Spidey-Sense) is tingling. :P

Can 8mm film hold 2K of resolution. In theory, sure.

In theory.

But the actuality is not so. Your 8mm film was likely shot with a consumer camera, not a professional camera under optimal condition with costly glass. The optics on those home cameras were terrible. Even the "best" glass was awful. There's simply no way that you can resolve 1080p of detail, much less 4K. Not happening. Even standard 720x480 NTSC (x576 PAL) SD is often more resolution than it needs.

The palette and the recorded information is NOT the same.
- The palette was the theory, the film itself, and had fine grain.
- But the paintbrush used (image recorded) was ... well, honestly, it was more like fingerpainting! Big smeary strokes. And you convert the strokes, not the palette.

Even 35mm film (still or moving) has resolving noise around 2K, and 4K is just a waste of processing time and space for video. And the worse the camera optics, the quicker the quality falls. Unless you were shooting primes, usually $1k+ for anything over 100mm, it's not high quality. Not sharp. Only the "nifty fifty" were a decent low-cost prime, at around $100. Even my own still images, shot on decent film using decent glass, show lots of noise by 4K.

And 8m is about half the size of 35mm.

16mm is just as bad.



Let's break down 2K and 4K.
  • 2K = ~2000 pixels, either 2048 (film) or 1920 (HD)
  • 4K = ~4000 pixels, usually referring to UHD 3840
Those measurements are horizontal, and the vertical is about half of it.
  • 2K = ~2000x1100
  • 4K = ~4000x2100
And those are also widescreen 16x9-ish (twice as long as high) aspects. Traditional film and video was 3x2 and 4x3, not 2x1 (rounded 16x9).

35mm film has a theoretical scan of 4000-7000, depending on who you talk to. It's still argued, and has been for 20 years. The catch is that you need the best films that exist, using the best glass, using the best shooting methods (tripods, mirror up, no wind, etc). Perfection is required for that resolving power. That much can (usually) be agreed to.

But 35mm actuality is about 3000x2000 (being a 3x2 aspect), with good glass and good methods. In other words, still not your average mom/pop shooters. Cheap glass (or plastic), no tripods, movements, etc, yields lower quality. Again, resolution quickly tumbles, so you're looking at about half numbers for non-ideal shooting.

Half that for 8mm.

So the ideal 8mm actual max is ~1500x1000, that's less than 2K. And if you were not using best practices with the best cameras, you're looking at about half that: 750x500 which is close to 720x480/576 SD.

Math helps. :)

Too many people make suggestions of "2K is required!!!" (very often have zero knowledge of the subject OR they're trying to sell you something), and folks like yourself unfortunately believe it. But when shown the math, you start to realize what you've been reading is myth and malarkey.

And that's why my BS-Sense was tingling. I can't stand video myths. Video is hard enough without the added nonsense.

jtech1 02-21-2017 03:11 PM

Thanks! I appreciate the feedback.

I agree that resolution names get more confusing with TV marketing mixing terms.

Cimena 4K (as oposed to TV 4K UHD) used by most film scan companies I looked at is 4096x3112.
Cinema 2K (as opposed to HD1080) used by most film companies I looked at is 2048x1556.


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