Transferring Super 8 film to HD
November 18, 2010 1:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to have my family's old Super 8 films transferred to HD, and I'm trying to narrow down where to have it transferred.

My family has around 5000 feet of old Super 8 movies. I'd like very high quality HD transfers to archive them to a hard drive and re-edit them into something approximating a chronological impression of our family. I'd held off previous transfers to VHS or DVD as I never felt those formats did a good job of representing the look and feel of Super 8, but HD video would appear to be able to capture Super 8 well.

I've narrowed things down to two main options:

1) Video Transfer Center, who are nearby, use a FlashScan HD film scanner, and have lots and lots of great reviews on Yelp. The downside is that they only do 720p transfers, not 1080p. They provide the footage in Prores 422 HQ, which would seem to work well for me (I'd be editing on a Mac).

2) They offer 1080p transfers with what looks like a MovieStuff HD frame-by-frame telecine. They're also cheaper on a per-foot basis than Video Transfer Center. The downsides are that they're not local -- I'm not sure if I can deal with having these films in the mail again, as waiting for the delivery last time was nervewracking, and there'd be that extra cost for shipping back and forth -- and I'm not entirely sure that the Blackmagic MJPEG codec would provide as high a quality or useful file.

I'm leaning towards Video Transfer Center despite the higher cost price, as they've been highly responsive to my questions, their methodology seems sound, the good Yelp reviews and the fact that they're nearby -- in spite of the higher price.

Does anyone have real-world positive experience with other HD Super 8 transfer firms, experience with either the FlashScan HD or MovieStuff transfer units, or any other advice on things re: codecs, potential issues, etc.?

I'm in the Bay Area.

posted by eschatfische to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
720 lines is probably the max resolution you'd expect to reasonably get out of Super 8, so I wouldn't consider that much of a limitation.
posted by zsazsa at 1:43 PM on November 18, 2010

Send a 100' three minute test roll before committing everything. For one thing, have the test material transferred standard definition and high definition. There may be no advantage to HD and you could save money. Costco does video transfers so I would test them, too.

When I had our family movies transferred, the service did not turn off their auto-enhancement software as I asked. So everything was too saturated and contrasty. Beware of that.

Try to send a hard drive with your film for the service to transfer onto.
posted by conrad53 at 3:05 PM on November 18, 2010

I was looking into this and Costco does not give you data DVDs. You would have to rip the movies in order to edit them.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:27 PM on November 18, 2010

I did end up taking the film to Video Transfer Center, and everything turned out really well. The quality of the transfer is impeccable -- they seem to care deeply about quality and film detail. The service truly was great, and they were done sooner than expected. Not cheap, but not uncompetitive. I highly recommend them.
posted by eschatfische at 6:40 AM on December 17, 2010

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