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Splicing Dozens of 3” Film Reels to 7” Reels

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May 18, 2011 by admin

There are some home movie transfer to video service providers that will accept your shoebox full of 3” movie reels and splice them onto much larger reels. We don’t think that this is a kool idea for a variety of reasons.

From the business standpoint we must maintain our profit margin if we are to stay in business. Every time we touch a client’s films we erode our margin. Most of the transfer to video orders we receive come in on fifty foot 3” diameter reels. Splicing them to larger reels would mean an increased cost in terms of both labor and hardware which would of necessity be passed on to the client. If splicing the film reels results in increased quality then we would do it and adjust our prices accordingly. If, however, it results in no tangible benefit to the client, then we will not splice.

Once spliced the resulting home movie film reels will play unattended for upwards of twenty-five minutes. This will free up the film transfer operator to do other tasks such as rewinding other movie film, splicing or repairing others, grabbing a bite to eat, etc. This is probably more common with the frame-by-frame operations where the film transfer must by definition run unattended since the process takes so long. The transfer company can realize a substantial savings by splicing your film. Consider also that with film running unattended for extended periods there is no “safety valve” if something starts to go wrong causing damage to the film.

Our transfer process requires constant attention to the film projection so we would not realize a benefit from splicing. It would represent excessive overhead for us.

Another advantage to the transfer service provider is that if using consumer grade equipment it is quite likely that merely touching the projector will change the alignment between itself, the projected image, and the capturing video camera. Minimizing “projector touches” at the expense of “film touches” will represent a net time savings to that transfer service provider.

For advantages to the client, if he or she were going to project the movie films in the future then splicing to larger reels would be a clear advantage. It is unrealistic to think that this will be the case.

Another possible advantage to the client might be for ease of storage. Instead of keeping a shoebox full of dozens of 3” reels the client will only need to keep three or four easily stackable reels in a convenient location.

Let’s consider some of the disadvantages. Probably the biggest disadvantage to movie reel splicing is that in many cases a level of archival documentation will be lost or made unavailable. It was a common practice in the days of home movie film to write information about a film’s content on its leader. In most splicing operations the extra leader is simply discarded losing forever any documentation that might be written thereon. If not discarded it becomes inaccessible buried under many tens of feet of home movie film. Consider also that spliced home movie film is separated from any box and/or reel that it came in. A service provider will at least almost never discard these items but it now becomes a difficult task to associate the film transferred to video to its corresponding archival information.

Some of the transfer service providers advertise that they will splice your movie film at no additional charge suggesting there is an advantage. We recommend, though, that you ask them not to splice your movie films. Fortunately, most home movie conversion and transfer service providers that we know of do not splice.


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