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A Special 16mm Transfer to DVD Nuance

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May 27, 2011 by admin

We are presenting a continuing series to explain what effects, phenomenon, and peculiarities one should look for in evaluating the quality of a home movie film conversion and transfer to DVD. Many of these considerations are applicable to regular 8mm, Super 8mm, as well as 16mm film conversion and transfers. The consumer does not have to be an expert but merely needs to know some key elements to be aware of. There are many transfer service providers that will perform these services with varying degrees of excellent quality. However, it only makes sense to do some homework first so that you can avoid others which might give you disappointing results.

In this sixth installment we will examine the “choppiness of 16mm” transfers.

The rewards in the conversion and transfer of 16mm home movies to DVD are immense in that the quality of 16mm relative to 8mm films is breath taking. Yet conversion to digital media of 16mm silent home movie film represents some very daunting challenges.

The following discussion delves into technical issues so if you get lost and just want to know what it all means skip the next two paragraphs.

The first battle we have is with eliminating the flicker or rolling bar effect. With 8mm home movies all we have to do is vary the projection speed to null out the differences between the projector shutter speed and the video scan rate. It is a much different story with 16mm silent home movies. These were typically shot at a frame rate of 18 frames per second (fps). The actual speed varied somewhat due to tolerances in the consumer grade equipment. Attempting to capture to video at this speed and synchronize the projector shutter speed to the video camera scan rate (including adjustment of the video scan rate itself) to null out the rolling bar is a losing battle. The synchronization, however, is simple when the film is played at 24fps but that introduces still another problem.

When we play film originally shot at 18fps (plus or minus maybe 1fps) at an accelerated rate (24fps) we get a “Keystone Cops” effect. That is, everything moves fast: people strolling in the park appear as if they are doing a power walk; 1934 Model-A Ford cars turn corners at the speed of light and do not roll over; and more silly things to watch. But synchronization of the projector shutter with the video camera scan rate is doable and the motion is smooth and fluid—just fast. The “Keystone Cops” effect is then nulled out in post editing where the video is slowed down 40-50%. But this produces its own negative effect in that motion has a slight choppy appearance if not properly addressed. Often times though it will go unnoticed because the effect is so slight.

When you review 16mm silent home movie film pay careful attention to slow moving objects such as a boat floating down a river. If you look carefully you may be able to detect that the boat is moving in tiny increments rather than having a fluid motion. This is not necessarily bad as there are times when it is unavoidable or not discernable except under close scrutiny. Remember, we are dealing with decades old legacy technology so there is only so much that can be done. It is, however, something to look for when judging the quality of a given 16mm silent home movie film transfer to DVD.

At W. Cardone Productions we utilize a process that either minimizes or eliminates this effect.

Please look for additional posts where we will discuss still other considerations relating to home movie film conversion and transfer to DVD. And also please remember that at W. Cardone Productions we are among the top service providers treating your family treasures with the respect they deserve.


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