Sunday, 1 April 2012

Transferring Cine Film to DVD

I'm not sure why I developed an interest in Super 8 movie making. I think I might have bought a projector first and followed it up with a camera. Both camera and projector were Kodak models bought from the CO-OP in Derby, and these were gradually changed over the years until I ended up with an Eumig sound projector and a Canon cine camera. Although people talk about video bringing about the demise of cine photography for me it was the fact that the Canon camera became unreliable (the trigger would not always operate the camera) and the drive belt failed on the projector. I searched for spares for the projector but to no avail. The end result is that the equipment, and more importantly my home movies, have sat gathering dust for the better part of 25 years.

It was always important to remember the film!

Earlier this year, and worthy of a blog on its own, I started creating an e-book relating my experiences of a Tanzanian/Kenyan safari that we'd taken in 1990. I was convinced I had a cine film of the trip so I decided to look it out in the hope that I could use it as material for the book. Although I was bitterly disappointed to find no such film existed, it did create sufficient interest in the films I did find that I decided to have a selection transferred onto DVD so that I could watch them again.

I found a camera shop in Gloucester that provided a service, read the blurb, spoke directly to the company and decided to take the plunge. A programme on the BBC had indicated that the best process is entirely digital and involves photographing each frame of the cine film, removing any scratches and blemishes and restoring the colour. When I noticed that a "premium service" was available locally I enquired if they would be following this process and was slightly disappointed to be told that the equipment was prohibitively expensive and that the premium service featured the standard "video the film as it runs through the projector" but it would be watched over at all stages to ensure maximum quality was maintained in the transfer.

Wild Zebra herd in the Masai Mara 1987
 For my first batch of transfers I chose my four latest films featuring Saint Lucia, Kenya (an earlier trip than the one that went "missing" and Rajasthan. I am delighted with the results. Of course it will never be the same, rearranging the furniture to set up the screen, turning the lights off, the drumming of the projector and those tricky moments when the film jammed and the film burned in front of your eyes, but modern TVs are as large as a screen used to be so apart from a sense of occasion we aren't missing much.

Filming on location in Rajasthan 1989

I also asked for editable files to be provided and I used them to create the little taster that is attached. Of course this is something like an one and a half hours of cine film edited down to five minutes but I trust you find it enjoyable. So I will definitely press on and have my other movies transferred; who knows what gems I might find? Unfortunately not a film of Tanzania and Kenya, but at least you will be able to read the book!

Example of video created from transferred cine film