Cine film to Telecine to AVI and then editing

Richard Jones wrote on 1/5/2012, 5:10 AM
I have just found a company that will use Telecine to transfer my Standard and Super 8 cine films to AVI which I intend to load onto my PC and edit (and hopefully enhance) in Vegas 10e before transferring the results to DVDA to burn as DVDs. I know some of you have done quite a bit of this and wonder if you would be kind enough to offer some general assistance and advice.

The following thoughts occur to me:-

1.Presumably the final image will come out as 4:3. Am I right and what settings should I use in Project Properties? I live in PAL land and wonder if PAL DV (720x576, 25.000fps) will be OK.

2.This may seem a silly question but will there be any problems because of the difference between the fps rates of cine film and video (i.e. will the final result be slowed down/quicker than the original)?

3.I expect to have to adjust for White Balance and use Levels and/or Colour Curves as well. Are there any other filters (other than Saturation) you would normally expect to bring into use?

4.As a general rule, are there any advantages in using Sharpen, Unsharp Mask or the sharpen pre-set in Convolution Kernel? (I guess this is likely to be a matter of suck it and see on each event).

5.Presumably I should render the final project as DVDA PAL Video Stream. Is this right?

6.Finally, if youy can offer any other tips or advice these will be most welcome.

Sorry to ask so many questions but the skill base in this forum is so outstanding that I do not know where else I could go.



JJKizak wrote on 1/5/2012, 6:44 AM
One of the things to watch out for is if you have any slow motion or fast motion on your films the converter people will "sometimes maybe" try to correct those events to standard motion.
farss wrote on 1/5/2012, 7:17 AM
My best advice is to look for someone who will do a frame by frame transfer. The word "telecine" is used with considerable abandon these days. My understanding is that a telecine scans film in real time, oftenly used to go from film to broadcast.
As such in PAL land 16mm and 35mm is run at 25fps, S8 and 16mm was used for news for years but the cameras ran at 25fps. Consummer 8mm ran at a number of different frame rates.

A film scanner typically is not real time, can be as slow as 1 fps or slower. Each scanned frame is generally written to a single file. Vegas can read such image sequences. Once you have that image sequence from the film you can then very easily do what you like with it to confrom it to however it is to be delivered.

John Meyer has done more work on this than me, look for his posts on using a variety of tools to retime film.

johnmeyer wrote on 1/5/2012, 9:17 AM
First, Bob (farss) is absolutely correct: get a frame-by-frame transfer. If you ask them and they don't know what that means, then they aren't doing it. With a frame-by-frame transfer, you end up with exactly one frame of film on each frame of video.

Next, you need to re-time the video files so they play back at the correct frame rate. There are other ways to handle the workflow without doing this, but it sure make it easier to deal with if you can patch the header of the AVI file to give you the correct playback speed. The transfer house usually gives you DV AVI files, and if they do, you can use an old hack utility called AVIFrate. Set "scale" to "1" and "rate" to "18" for your Super 8 film.

For 8mm and really old 16mm the playback should be set to 16 fps; for Super 8 and post-war 16mm silent film it should be set to 18 fps, and for 16mm sound, it should be set to 24 fps.

Next, set the Vegas project properties to 18 fps (or whatever) and make sure it is set to progressive.

Then, put the film on the timeline. Make sure each file is set to progressive, even if Vegas sets it to interlaced (right-click on the file, and change its properties, something you normally never want to do, but you definitely DO want to do in this case). Also (and this is important), set each event to "disable resample."

There are scripts that can automate both tasks in the previous paragraph.

Now on to your questions.

1.Presumably the final image will come out as 4:3.That will depend on the source. 8mm is almost perfectly square, but your Super 8 should be very close to 4:3.

what settings should I use in Project Properties? See my comment above. While the project properties should be set to match the source, when you render to DVD, you can use the PAL DVD Architect template. If you have disabled resample (see above), Vegas will "pad" the output with repeated fields and frames in order to go from 18 (or 16 or 24) to 25 fps. This is the traditional way to encode the slower film rates to video. If you don't disable resample, Vegas will blend fields to get to the higher frame rate. This will eliminate some of the "judder" when the camera pans (which is good), but it will also make your film look very soft and fuzzy (which is very, very bad). Avoiding this blending is the reason for disabling resample.

If you want to create editable files that you can later use, you do NOT want to use the PAL DV codec because Vegas will add those extra fields, and when you try to edit with all those pulldown fields added, you will have a terrible time editing. Instead, try to find a good codec that permits arbitrary frame rates, and when you edit, use the Custom button in the Render As dialog to set the render frame rate to match exactly your film frame rate. I found out, by accident, that the purchased MainConcept DV codec lets you encode at any frame rate, and so that's what I use.

If you use a codec other than those built into Vegas, make sure to test-render a few seconds of footage and bring it back on the timeline to check that the levels aren't changed. The whole 0-255/15-235 transformation (and other related colorspace issues) gets to be a real issue when dealing with various codecs.

2.Will there be any problems because of the difference between the fps rates of cine film and video (i.e. will the final result be slowed down/quicker than the original)?Not if you follow my suggestions above.

3.I expect to have to adjust for White Balance and use Levels and/or Colour Curves as well. Are there any other filters (other than Saturation) you would normally expect to bring into use?I am in the middle of editing a mile and a half of 8mm film, and this is what takes ALL the time (at least 1-2 hours for each hour of film). It is a very tedious process to do correctly. I first apply a filter "package" consisting of color curves, levels, and the color corrector. The color curves are set for my "universal" film transfer curve, and the other two fX are set to the default (i.e., nothing). I then apply this package to every event on the timeline (copy --> paste attributes). Any universal cropping that is needed should be applied to the first event before doing the paste attributes to all the other events.

Next, I cut the film into "scenes" where the color and density are similar.

I then look at each scene and adjust the color curve, so the shadows are gained, but the highlights are left alone. If your film was captured "correctly," the transfer house should expose for the highlights, meaning that they should never let them get blown out. This will result in a transfer that looks quite dark. The color curves take care of some of that.

Next, use the "levels" fX on really dark scenes, using the gamma to increase the midtones, and the input to bring the dark back into range after applying gamma. You must use the videoscopes and external monitor when doing this. Finally, use the Color Corrector to remove any color cast and correct colors.

You can sometimes work real miracles on film that has faded to red, blue, or yellow (I have all three in my current project). Here is a "before/after" color grading example of some film that had horribly faded to red:

4.As a general rule, are there any advantages in using Sharpen, Unsharp Mask or the sharpen pre-set in Convolution Kernel? (I guess this is likely to be a matter of suck it and see on each event).Generally, this is a very bad idea. However, if you want to perform real miracle work (and to do this, you MUST have a frame-by-frame transfer), go to the forums and look at posts by "Videofred"

The power of Avisynth: restoring old 8mm films

He has developed a great set of techniques for restoring 8mm film. Take a look at this amazing example of what can be done when you start with good film, transferred correctly:

Before/After Restoration

5.Presumably I should render the final project as DVDA PAL Video Stream. Is this right?No. See my answer above.

If you do a lot of this, there are all sorts of things that make the job easier. For instance, you will find that almost all amateur cameras (and probably most pro models) don't get the shutter spinning at full speed for at least one frame of film. As a result, the first frame almost always gets overexposed, resulting in a "flash frame." I have developed AVISynth scripts that find these flash frames and output a set of frame numbers. I paste these into the Edit Details dialog and create markers at each flash frame. I have another script that cuts the events at these marker locations. This makes it very fast to find each flash and remove it. I could even do that as a script, but unfortunately there are other reasons for flashes, such as the flashes you get at the end of a reel from exposure to sunlight during the film change, which fogs the edges of the outside of the film.

I have a dozen other AVISynth and Vegas scripts that solve other small, but repetitive work issues. Also, you will want to create correction templates (e.g., the Color Curves correction), so you don't have to re-do that work for each event.

RalphM wrote on 1/5/2012, 9:41 AM
The only thing I can add to the very valuable information shared above is that film speeds in the original cameras could vary significantly from the nominal frame rates. The cameras were spring wound - some were very accurate and consistent, others - not so much. You can correct for this in your editing.

Exposure is likely to be all over the place, so be prepared to deal with minute-by-minute changes. The suggested use of templates can help save you a lot of time.

I also remind my customers (who have probably not seen their films in decades) that we are all spoiled from watching high quality video, both professional and amateur. Do as much editing as you like, but accept the film for what it is - family history shot by amateurs.

Richard Jones wrote on 1/5/2012, 10:02 AM
Very many thanks to the three of you and in particular to John for his detailed advice. All of this is really most helpful.

Fortunately the film transfer is being made on a frame by frame basis and I am hopeful about the outcome as the company does a lot of work for the BBC when it wishes to feature old cine film in its programmes. When it makes a transfer to a DVD the company says that its frame rate synchronisation is done digitally with the output to its computer being made through a Canopus TBC via Firewire. All in all, it looks as though it is using good equipment.

I am expecting my first batch of film to be returned in a week or so and shall let you know how I get on. It looks like I'm in for a lot of work but it'll be fun - to start with anyway- and I shall certainly take on board evrything you have said.

Again, my warmest thanks.

bsuratt wrote on 1/5/2012, 12:08 PM
Good source for frame by frame scanning:

farss wrote on 1/5/2012, 3:24 PM
"When it makes a transfer to a DVD the company says that its frame rate synchronisation is done digitally with the output to its computer being made through a Canopus TBC via Firewire. All in all, it looks as though it is using good equipment"

That statement is just garbage, no they are not using "good" equipment.
We were doing exactly that for a couple of years. We used somewhat clapped out Elmo telecines, took the composite video output from them into a Canopus ADVC-300 and from that firewire into a PC where VidCap captured the video as DV25.
We also did a coupld of jobs for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation because they didn't have a Regular 8 gate for thei telecine, I guess we could have made the same claim as these shysters but I do have some ethics.

So called "scanned" film is recorded as one file per frame as DPX or DNG files, it has to be done this way to preserve as much as possible of the dynamic range of film as possible. Eight bit video is simply incapable of holding the dynamic range of film. Years ago before scanning heads were capable of capturing the dynamic range of film the problem was worked around by manually controlling the amount of light going through the film. For editing purposes or dailies, a quick scan may have been done, this was / is known as a "one-light" or "best light" transfer. It might be good enough when the film was exposed by a competant DP, almost certainly not good enough for home movies if you intend to get as much out of the original film as possible.

The Rank-Cintel MKII telecine is ancient technology, I've been offered one at scrap metal prices. These ancient machines use dead technology.

RalphM wrote on 1/5/2012, 4:12 PM
I would share your opinion that scanned film should yield a superior product.

What has been your experience with pricing? (Is it practical for Aunt Myrtle's eight hours of R8 film?)

farss wrote on 1/5/2012, 4:31 PM
"What has been your experience with pricing?"

For top shelf work you're looking at around $1 / frame. By comparison we used to get $5 / reel.

"Is it practical for Aunt Myrtle's eight hours of R8 film"

That's a very difficult question that I cannot answer for you.
My last film scanning job was 35mm Kodachrome slides. With a lot of input from JM I was able to extract way more of the image than I'd have thought possible from underexposed shots. That was tedious work and in no way would I even expect the client to have paid for the time involved. I felt it worth the extra work because the images were of some historical significance.

Aunt Myrtyle's home movies may or may not be worth the cost and time of going to the technical limits. Based on my previous experience doing 8mm transfers 99.99% of clients don't care, they probably never knew what was on the film and were happy enough to see something.

RalphM wrote on 1/5/2012, 4:46 PM
Aunt Myrtle probably can't afford scanning...

I agree that most people will not perceive the difference between "OK" and "well done" transfers. I occasionally get VHS tapes containing old transfers from 8mm to be put on DVD. I would say 2/3 of them show a total lack of pride in the work by the original transfer house. I've seen 10 minutes of transferred footage where emulsion flaking had built up in the gate to obscure 1/3 of the frame.

Unfortunately, they usually have thrown the original film away because the VHS "was so much better".
Richard Jones wrote on 1/6/2012, 4:29 AM

I hope you are proved wrong and will report back when I’ve seen some of their work at first hand.


I visited the site you recommended ( only to find that they are using the Rank Cintel Turbo II Telecine machines that Bob describes as old technology. This apart, they aren’t in the UK and I’m not keen on the idea of sending my old films overseas. Many thanks for the comment, though.

The company I am using is Timeless Moments at They use TVT Telecine machines (heaven knows if this is old technology or not) to transfer. I have seen some of their stuff on BBC and was impressed with the quality of the conversion (always allowing that the cine quality can never match what we are used to seeing on TV today). They are expensive compared with just about every other company I’ve found in the UK but their DVD transfers seem to offer a lot including digitally re-mastering the film to deal with colour or exposure issues etc., adding music (optional thank goodness) and providing scene selection menus as well as DVD covers featuring shots taken from the film itself. They also offer a service to remove those flash frames that John referred to so, all in all, they promise a great deal: let’s hope they can deliver.

I’m keeping fingers and all else crossed.

johnmeyer wrote on 1/6/2012, 9:15 AM
You should be very happy if they are using a Rank Cintel Turbo II Telecine. I suppose that it may be old technology, but it can produce (assuming a competent operator) film transfers that are pretty much as good as you are going to get. Any differences between this machine and something more modern are going to be very, very subtle compared to the differences between it and the truly horrible methods used by many small transfer facilities to transfer home movie film.

Things to check when you get your film:

1. Is there one frame of film per frame of video. This may be difficult to check if they add pulldown (repeated frames and/or fields) to the video they give you. Hopefully they will provide a video file that is timed for 18 fps and has no pulldown.

2. Blown out highlights. This is the biggest sin committed by most transfer businesses. They capture with a video camera and put the exposure on auto, and make no attempt to expose for the highlights. By contrast (pun intended), a Cintel transfer should expose each frame individually, and should be able to get the correct exposure every time.

3. Clean film. The truly bad transfer places don't even clean the film before transferring.

4. Hot spot. If you go on YouTube, you'll find that many people have posted their transferred movies. You'll get to see some really horrible transfers, like this one:

Notice the dirt, hot spot, flicker, jumpiness, no color correction, blown out highlights etc. This is a great example of a really bad transfer. (Thank you, YouTube!) It's too bad about the transfer because compositionally it is actually a pretty good music video, and I rather like the cutting and the underlying material.

So, let us know what you get. It sounds like you'll be getting good stuff, and the only issue will be whether they add pulldown or not. If they did, and you can't get the result without pulldown, I can give you a method which can remove the odd pulldown used for 16 or 18 fps film.
RalphM wrote on 1/6/2012, 10:13 AM
I attribute much of the "hot spot" effect to the appearance, in the middle 1960's, of the "Sun Gun" type light (a single bulb resembling an automobile headlight). The older two and four lamp bars were much better at getting an evenly illuminated frame.

Even worse than the Sun Gun was a Sun Gun pointed off-axis so that the subject was unevenly illuminated....

johnmeyer wrote on 1/6/2012, 5:55 PM
I attribute much of the "hot spot" effect to the appearance, in the middle 1960's, of the "Sun Gun" type light (a single bulb resembling an automobile headlight).Something like this?

Yes, I still have the original box!!

With this thing, if you don't t happen to need the light, you can cook dinner on the thing.

bsuratt wrote on 1/6/2012, 7:21 PM

As johnmeyer noted the Rank Cintel does about as good a job as you can get. The company I noted has very reasonable prices for a Rank transfer.

I have used them numerous times as have others I know and everyone has been very pleased with the result.
RalphM wrote on 1/6/2012, 7:52 PM

Yes, although yours is probably a newer model than the one I had (have somewhere?). Yours seems to have a shaped reflector and uses a quartz bulb. Mine looked like a miniature sealed beam auto headlight and threw a circular light pattern.

Sure made the kids squint!
Richard Jones wrote on 1/8/2012, 5:04 AM
Thank you to everyone for your help. I've just heard that the company will not be transferring the cine film until 6th Feb and am hoping that this suggests that, if they have a lot of work in hand, it's because of the quality of their product. Anyhow, I'll let you know what I think of their results at that time (probably in a new thread).

You have been so helpful and I've ben looking at a thread you posted on 7 December 2010 about using Avisynth for slow motion. The video tutorial there was splendid. Thank you. Just one question though: Do you work in 64bit yet and do you know if these scripts and AVIFRAte will work with 64bit?

By the way, I make a great deal of use of Frederic Baumann's Plug Ins for White Balance and Colour Matching and wonder if these might help to speed the process a little as you run through your one and a half miles of film.( They are really very good and very quick. He has free trials on offer.

John and Ralph
Yes I remember those lights so well and the burnt out centre points that could result. The only way I could get a half-way decent result from them was to bounce the light off the ceiling.As you say, they were hot enough to cook an egg on (or singe your hair!).

Thank you all once again.

johnmeyer wrote on 1/8/2012, 10:26 AM
Do you work in 64bit yet and do you know if these scripts and AVIFRAte will work with 64bit?I do have Win7-64 installed on a separate drive, but have only used it for one or two things that absolutely required it. So far, I see absolutely no advantages to Vegas 64-bit, or any other 64-bit application for that matter. I simply don't hit the 3 GB memory boundary of Win-32 bit apps, and that is about the only advantage to Win-64.

So, I have no idea whether AVIFrate will work under 64-bit. It is a very simple-minded program, written by an amateur programmer, so I'd be surprised if it ran under the newer O/S, much less under the 64-bit version.
JJKizak wrote on 1/8/2012, 2:43 PM
When I had my 16mm films converted to Beta SP tape by the super pro guys they said the machine cost 1.5 million and they had 7 of them. They said they would clean the film, restore the colors, fix the bad sprocket holes, and convert the anamorphic. They did. I had about half of them in squeezed 2.66 x 1 but they used 2.35 x 1 and it was ok for poor people. The old films were almost colorless (Kodachrome and Ecktachrome MS.) but the color restoration was fantastic for the 35 year old stuff. Total cost was $4300.00 plus shipping for 11,000 ft of film.
farss wrote on 1/8/2012, 3:25 PM
"I've just heard that the company will not be transferring the cine film until 6th Feb"

In that case I'd suggest asking them if they can capture the film to a hard disk rather than put it onto a DVD.

I say this because if you're planning on editing it or color correcting it then avoiding the lossy mpeg-2 compression required to put it onto a regular DVD would seem a good move, especially with old 8mm film.

ChristoC wrote on 1/8/2012, 3:55 PM

.....or ask them to use DVD Data?
johnmeyer wrote on 1/8/2012, 7:32 PM
Definitely get it put on a hard drive in some sort of "editable" format (i.e., not MPEG-2, or AVCHD).

I usually deliver on a hard drive in DV format (which, for 8mm and Super8, captured from a Workprinter, is a pretty decent format). I also deliver DVDs and, if the client wants, MP4 files suitable for playback on an iThingy.
Richard Jones wrote on 1/9/2012, 5:15 AM
Thank you. The already edited cine film will be going on to DVDs but the stuff I want to edit will be going on a hard disk in an AVI format.

The figures you quote JJK are very impressive but I'm sure you'll understand my reluctance to send these, to me, very precious family films overseas. Shame as your company seemes to offer a very good service.

RalphM wrote on 1/9/2012, 9:55 AM
It would seem that putting it all to hard disc in AVI would give the most flexibility. You can make the DVDs for the already edited film as is, but you would retain the ability to use the files in AVI format in the future.