Build Battery Packs
Record Your Sounds
VNF Film and Filters
Super 8mm Links
Super 8 in PC Mag!
Kodak's S8mm Site
Ode to Regular 8mm
Cyber Film School
Transfers in the Year 2005
The image above is a direct screen capture of one of my super 8 movies shot on Kodachrome 40. The scene is an underwater shot of a sailboat at anchor using my Eumig Nautica. Read more to learn how to get stunning results like this for yourself with today's technology combined with the old-school charm of super 8.
The current state of the art in video transfers for independent folks like myself center upon one of two choices: send it a good lab and have a mini-DV tape returned to you OR do it yourself with an neat invention called the Workprinter-XP.
A fabulous idea, the Workprinter-XP, that allows for frame-by-frame capture of super 8 and regular 8 images directly onto the hard drive of a computer. Roger Evans of www.moviestuff.tv is your go to guy for this undertaking. While it is a little more technical than the old style shoot-it-off-the-wall crowd of transfers, the increase in resolution and quality is second to none considering the price of the unit. For myself, I figured that my personal break even point for purchasing the device was if I had forty 400-foot reels of super 8. I happen to have that amount of family footage so for me to buy the unit was a no brainer. Oh, and before I go I want to mention that Roger's patience with me in setting up the unit and my computer is just a regular day's work in his mind. His after-purchase support of his project is second to none. Take it from me, this is the unit to get if you are at all serious in taking control of your video transfers. Lastly, this is an unpaid endorsement, in case you were wondering. I paid cash just like everyone else.
here's a picture of my Workprinter with the film-gate cover removed:
And below is a picture of the Workprinter in action, hooked up to the darkroom timer for unattended operation. What you cannot see is the mini-DV camera (a Canon GL2) shooting the image off of the convex mirror and the computer capturing every image via a click of the mouse through the firewire cable. Very ingenious.
The unit runs at approximately 8 frames per second. It takes about 75 minutes to transfer a 400-foot reel. The result is an AVI file that must be converted from the camera frame rate of 18fps to NTSC compatible 29.97fps. A simple program called DodCap/Cinecap performs this pulldown. Of course, you can also perform 15/16fps and 24fps pulldowns. Custom ones too if you feel the need.
Dodcap screen shot:
After the pulldown, I use Vegas Video (but any non-linear editing program will do) to create my timelines/scene changes/transitions/titles/effects/etc. I then render the project to MPEG2 NTSC format and then I use DVD Architect to create the final DVD with chapters and titles. As you can see, you are suddenly able to obtain ultimate control of your project with a NLE program like Vegas. With the ability to add as many audio and video tracks as you desire, a full scale Dolby 5.1 surround experience is awaiting your family upon your next super 8 to DVD presentation! Of course, you will be watching it on television since I realize that not everyone has the patience for a true super 8 projection presentation!
Even if you don't use a scene in a movie after all the editing is over, you can still capture still pictures and use them as promotional material, desktop wallpaper, email photos, whatever. Here's another shot using my Eumig Nautica on my OC-1 canoe in San Francisco Bay. It was a particularly smooth day on the bay in my tiny water craft.
And here's one from yet another "production" of mine when I went sailing in rough seas. OK, it was no Perfect Storm but it was still dangerous at the time. Check out those moody clouds. Only Kodachrome 40 could bring out the monochromatic moments of the day. Of course, with the wonder of super 8, you can relive the thrill again and again. Somehow video loses some of the magic that makes every day special. Also note in this example you can even see the blue processing streak on the right-hand side of the frame. This particular film was processed in Switzerland back in 1998.
And more still frames "Prt Scn" from my Vegas timeline:
I encourage you to look into this type of system if you are serious about keeping control of your filmmaking creations (and control of your expenses). It was only a matter of time before someone developed a decent commercial unit to transfer each individual image captured on super 8 film. I think Roger hit the nail on the head on this one. And remember, each 50-foot reel of film has 3600 images. Roger's invention captures each and every one of these images in an uncompressed format on the RAID-0 drive of your dedicated PC. Reminds me of the quote: If you build it, they will come. I am glad I waited until now to invest in this sort of system. You will be too.
What follows is my original webpage from 1999 and 2000. Fun to read, general concepts are the same although the software is now 10 times cheaper and the computers are now 10 times faster!
Video Editing in the Year 1999:
What's the most inexpensive way to transfer movies and get quality results? I use Pinnacle's Studio DC10+ to capture VHS-C camcorder recordings of my Super 8mm films.
Based on an AMD K6-2 3D-Now 350MHz computer, 4.3 + 8.6GB Ultra 33 DMA hard drives, PCI 128 soundcard, and 64MB of RAM, this PCI video capture card ran perfectly on my system with no conflicts.
Be sure you have at least 2GB free on a partitioned, defragmented hard drive for output storage. 10 GB on a SCSI drive is better still! Your results may vary but this was my experience. Use at your own risk!
I won't go into the specifics on the card and all its abilities but will focus more on what the card enabled me to do. To give you a hint, I had a movie (9 minutes raw footage) captured and edited within 2 hours and wrote it out to both my hard disk and VCR in less than three hours from originally unpacking the box. All this on a Friday afternoon. Of course, it was rough but the point is that this system is a low-budget answer that really delivers.
I LOVE 'NLE'
I was so excited with the results that I gave an impromptu "off-site" showing, titled "100 Miles of Water," to my friends immediately after Sunday canoe practice. The movie had three soundtracks. I was able to time scene changes EXACTLY with music changes and wav file cut-ins. Wow! Getting back to the showing, I am sure my friends were convinced that I was about to sell them on some pyramid marketing scheme by how excited I was. I refused to run the video until all fifteen people were jammed into the small training classroom. Fortunately they "LOVED" it! My point here is that while I still love Super 8mm, here I was on a bright sunny day out at the lake showing Super 8mm film to my friends, albeit via VHS tape. Now with a single tape in hand I can show the public anything I want. Watch out "Community Access" and PBS, here I come.
VIDEO TRANSFER BASICS
The most important thing to avoid is a bright middle and dark edges. I found that filming directly off of the mirror in the transfer box was a little too contrasty and required some correction. I learned that by using a neutral density filter on the camera (or projector side) will correct most of the hotspot problem. Another solution would be to diffuse the light by using a white surface and film from that. Try filming with the camera and projector on the same axis (or very close at least) and shoot the white projection screen. Or, place the projector at the lens-end of the transfer box and shoot the translucent square end of the box with the camcorder. The more time you put into your setup of the initial transfer, the better quality you will have to work with. You will also require a television monitor to ensure accurate focus and lack of flicker. Using the camcorder w/o the monitor will lead to eye fatigue - trust me on this one.
Returning to the projector issue for a moment, try to stick with a low wattage mdoel. Then, consider getting a projector that offers both 18 and 24fps. Another very important feature is the pitch control, usually found on sound projectors. Don't overlook the dual 8mm projectors as they often offer a completely variable speed adjustment between 16 and 24fps.
Other things worth mentioning include using a tripod for the camcorder and a low wattage projector to avoid having too "hot" of an image. The Eumig projector shown above has a 12V/100W bulb. Perhaps a 50W projector would be better?
VIDEO CAPTURE ON THE PC
I also set aside a drive with at least 4GB available. This is for project storage only. Do not put other files unrelated to NLE on here. The Studio DC10Plus program files were loaded onto the C drive. To give you an idea of space required, my 7 minute 15 second production required 457MB for the final AVI file. Add to this the original 500MB required for the capture of the video and disk space is definitely a major consideration. Thankfully CD burners are now under $150 with CD's (650MB each) at about a dollar a piece or less. An excellent choice for off-loading your finished projects.
2/5/00 Update: I have found my drives can also handle the third highest (of 4 total settings) with no frames dropped. The quality was much improved. This project required 1.5GB for 15 minutes! Whew. Unfortunately, I can only output to VHS with this size of a project.
6/7/00 Update: Just upgraded to a Pentium III 533 w/128MB of RAM for a total cost of $278! Chip and board cost $219, 64MB of RAM cost $59. Trust me, you need the processing power for making movies at home. I found a program I downloaded from the net that allows you to render your images in various Photoshop-style effects (like making everything look like an oil painting) would not run within a reasonable time on the old AMD chip. So consider upgrading. It's easy and cheap. Be sure to change over to an ATX power supply if you have an AT box.
Be sure to check the Pinnacle website for new downloads on this product. I downloaded an updated software version that corrected a few things I had just begun to notice. The main improvement corrected the problem of titles not being sharp when recorded in the "GOOD" (lowest quality) setting. I noticed that while the image in the preview monitor may jitter while you are editing the scenes or playing them, upon transfer under the "Make Movie" window, everything came through perfectly (absolutely no flicker/jitter). After all this I thought I can't ask for much more - a company that offers free updates to its software! By the way, they are up to Version 1.05 as of June 2000.
Remember, you are basically capturing some in "real-time." I have even removed Windows98 themes from my computer so as to save memory and disk space. Don't forget to defragment your disk every day if you do a lot of NLE. Your hard disk needs to be kept in top form so that the rendered file is one continuous stream of data. If it isn't, you risk getting hesitations or drop-outs in your movie.
Also, I successfully added still scenes to flash at EXACT points in the song by using the above method. The nice thing about WAV files are that the peaks and valleys show up on the track visually. With a background CD soundtrack, the song is just a straight line.
Finally, the time it takes for the CD to start (you know that familiar 747-sound of the disk getting up to speed) changes each time you render the movie so you are never really sure when it will hit! Let's just say I learned the hard way. Oh, those still scenes were small JPG files with a 4:3 aspect ratio.
SUPER 8mm: THE SPLICE
The basic premise being that NLE allows be to arrange my films in many different ways. I can then watch these variations on the PC or VCR to see which I feel is the best cut. Then I can phyically cut my movies. Of course, many of the transitions will not be possible but that's part of the challenge.
Also, you are still not off the hook for creating titles on celluloid for your true Super 8mm presentations. Remember, Super 8mm's single frame feature allows you to create animation that video just can't match. Keep this in mind when it comes to titling "real" film.
WRAP IT UP
Now, if only we could transfer our digitized project back to Super 8mm! Then we will have completed the circle.
For now, I am happy with to live with VHS as my final output for friends and family. Only those that appreciate the visuals of film will be treated to the "live" Super 8mm home presentations. Enjoy!
Copyright 2000 -2005