OT: Archiving old 16mm

overyonder wrote on 9/25/2008, 6:23 AM
Hi everybody,
My grandfather made advertising films and family movies on 16mm back in the 30's & 40's. My Uncle now has these reels and I've been charged with reseraching how we should archive this stuff.
The film itself has so far held up OK, at least on the family reels we watched a few years ago.

We don't have a ton to spend and need to choose a good format to transfer to.
Most local places will make standard mini-DV's for a reasonable rate, but I don't like the resolution factor.
Can anyone give me some ideas, websites, people to talk to?



Cheno wrote on 9/25/2008, 7:29 AM
Ralph Morris who frequents this forum, does A LOT of 8mm transfers. Would surprise me if he didn't know where to get 16mm done for a decent price.

I'd steer very clear of any of the local camera / production companies unless they're well known for these transfers.

rs170a wrote on 9/25/2008, 12:03 PM
Try Roger Evans at MovieStuff or Grace McKay at Electric Pictures.
Several folks here have used Roger's services and/or his equipment and speak very highly of him.
Grace is a long-time Vegas user and is a sponsor on the SoCal Vegas users forum.

Robert W wrote on 9/25/2008, 12:21 PM
Does anybody think it may be worth warning John to be careful of the potential for there to be nitrate elements in this collection? I don't know what sort of film was used for home movies in the 1930's and 1940's. but I guess nitrate could have been used for some of his commercial work.

If there are nitrate elements, they would need to be handled extremely carefully as they may be prone to catch fire or explode. The film may also be very shrunken and fragile and liable to crumble into a noxious substance that can oxidize and emit a highly corrosive vapour that can damage the eyes and face upon opening the can.
reberclark wrote on 9/25/2008, 1:17 PM
Try these guys:

farss wrote on 9/25/2008, 2:40 PM
From what I know if it was nitrate stock by now it'd be just dust.
Pretty well any post house with a telecine can transfer 16mm as it's still in common usage. A friend of mine just had a few hours worth done on a high end scanner, for free. Amazing what you can get done if you ask nicely and don't want it on the same day.
The same post houses will / should have the tools to do grain reduction, dust busting and scratch removal. Probably best to get it transferred to Digital Betacam, that format although only SD will be with us for a long time to come. Anything higher resolution might be overkill for old 16mm if you're coming off a print.

You could also get someone to put the content from the DB tapes onto DVDs as avi or QT files if the commercials are only short, they'll fit in all their 10bit 4:2:2 glory. Vegas will open the files OK.

RalphM wrote on 9/25/2008, 2:59 PM

You need to decide your price point, then look around at what's available. If you want to email me I'll be glad to discuss some more.

Bob's message above describes a very desirable route, but it may be more expensive than you want to go.

One caution - film that old has by now lost its original lubrication. Don't try to put it in a projector before it is cleaned and lubricated - you can do some damage (scuffing and breakage).


Ralph Morris
johnmeyer wrote on 9/25/2008, 3:14 PM
The chance of nitrate is zero and none. That stuff was used commercially for a long time (apparently until after WWII), but AFIK (and Wikipedia confirms this) was NEVER sold in 8mm or 16mm stock. Also, unless stored very carefully, the stuff completely degrades, as Bob already stated.

The bigger problem is VS (vinegar syndrome) which results from the decay of the acetate base (which degrades to acetic acid which smells like very strong vinegar). If your film smells like this, toss it. If it smells like mothballs (camphor) that's just fine.

As far as how to do the transfer, I have posted dozens of times in this forum. You can search under my user name, but here are a few threads in which I participated where many members give recommendations (8mm and 16mm transfer options are often found at the same place):

Super 8 Transfer

How can I transfer 8mm Reels to DVD

frame by frame film transfer process

Also, here's my YouTube page, which consists primarily of 16mm film that I have transferred for others. It includes some amazing historical finds, including fabulous amateur footage of the 1929 Cubs-Athletics World Series!

John Meyer's YouTube page

The point in providing this link is to show you a little of what can be done with frame-by-frame transfer (e.g., the Workprinter). Unfortunately, YouTube makes things look fuzzy; the originals are very sharp and detailed.

overyonder wrote on 9/25/2008, 3:26 PM
Thanks, everybody...

I'll check out the other threads and get back to you.
Terry Esslinger wrote on 9/25/2008, 6:47 PM
Where did you come up with those wonderful old Limelighter films? Beesides Ian & Sylvia, they are probably my favorite group. My age is telling!!
I ahve been converting old 8mm film with Rogers Workprinter for a while now and would love to find some old treasures like that.
Serena wrote on 9/25/2008, 7:14 PM
Yes, the sub-standard gauges (8 / 9.5 / 16) were introduced for amateur use and accordingly were produced only on safety base (cellulose acetate).
johnmeyer wrote on 9/25/2008, 9:59 PM
Well, the "video" portion of the Limeliters clip are just stills I animated in Vegas. The audio, however, is my own, and I believe it may be unique. I recorded it (in 1963, I believe) by connecting the leads from my Wollensak T-1500 (which I still have and just upgraded with new caps) directly to the speaker leads on the family's "portable" Zenith 19" B&W TV. Knowing what I know now, I am amazed that I didn't kill myself and everyone around me, given that most TVs didn't isolate the chassis.

Anyway, that audio is of the very first "Hootenanny" TV show. According to TV.com, this is what aired:

The Limeliters: "I Had a Mule," "Wake Up, Dunia," "The Riddle Song."

Bud & Travis: "Raspberries, Strawberries," "Delia's Gone."

Bob Gibson: "Good News," "Yes I See" (with the Limeliters).

Bonnie Dobson: "She's Like a Swallow," "Fare Thee Well" (with Bob Gibson).

FINALE: "Mary Don't You Weep" (Everyone).

In addition to what you hear on that YouTube clip, I also have the Bob Gibson "Good News" and the Bud & Travis "Delia's Gone."

I also have lots of airchecks from WLS and WCFL, the two "Top 40" stations in Chicago, where I grew up. I've traded for lots more, so I have quite a collection. I'm also collecting and trading all sorts of old video performances (like Shindig, Hullabaloo, Shivaree, Where the Action Is, plus similar shows that aired in Europe). I've been trying to find sources for kinescopes of these shows because the stuff that is traded -- much of which is from these kinescopes -- was transferred badly and has been copied, via analog copy, way too many times.

I'm also working on some techniques to restore and recover "real video" from kinescopes. There is a firm here in the states and also one in the UK that does this. Basically what you do is first digitally remove all the film dirt, etc. That's pretty straightforward. Then, you remove the gate weave (or gate judder, depending on whatever you call it) so the picture becomes stable, like the original video. That also is easy (the Deshaker author actually added parameters for specifically this reason, back when he first wrote it). The next step is tricky. All kinescopes (well, almost all) map 30 frames of video onto 24 frames of film (forget the issue of interlaced fields for the moment ... I'll get to that).

So, the next step -- and this is the tricky one -- is to figure out which frame has been dropped and then use motion estimation to synthesize the missing frame. Synthesizing the missing frame is easy (using AVISynth tools), but figuring out which one is missing is a bitch. If you step one frame at a time through most kinescopes, the missing frame is easy to spot, but writing software that detects this extra "jump" is really tough.

Finally, you then use motion estimation to create intermediate fields to get back to interlaced video where there is motion between alternating fields (yes, interlaced video with temporal and spatial displacement between fields is what makes video look smooth and, well, like video). This also is an easy step.

The result, if you have seen what these two companies have done with old kinescopes, is absolutely amazing. The stuff really looks like video again.

Oh yeah, there is also some gamma adjustment to lessen the contrast, but since everyone here does that all the time in Vegas, it hardly seems worth mentioning.

Tollkuhnator wrote on 9/26/2008, 10:04 AM
If you would like to make any movie ephemera public (besides YouTube, etc.), please consider the Prelinger Archive.
johnmeyer wrote on 9/26/2008, 10:18 AM
That Prelinger site is awesome! Thanks.