I really do hope you will give me the opportunity to digitize your film, video or photographic archive. The following section should hopefully answer any questions you might have, point you in the right direction to the kind of questions you should be asking of any company you would trust with your irreplaceable memories and some of the things to watch out for when reading transfer websites. If you do have any questions at all please do give me a call.
Key Cinefilm Questions:
I don't profess to have the slickest website, that isn't my specialty. Any company can pay someone to put up a really fantastic website, but this says nothing about their ability to transfer video and cinefilm. I have many customers who come to me after visiting other companies and having had a terrible experience want to get their cinefilm re-done, sadly without a refund from the original company. Being a one-man band with superlative equipment means that I might not get through as much film as I could but what I do get through is of the absolute highest standard. If you go through my website I always name the equipment I use. Most companies just put "state of the art" or "second to none" that means absolutely nothing if they do not tell you what they actually use. Emails are answered, phone calls are taken and this all takes time. Typical turnaround is between 3 to 4 weeks, yes it could be quicker but something would have to suffer, either the quality of my work or my customer service and I don't wish to compromise either of those things.
Cinefilm is one of the most stable media formats there is. It will long outlast Videotape. If your film has been stored reasonably well and was well shot in the first place there is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON why you shouldn't expect to get really excellent results from your film. It is a tried and trusted excuse for a bad transfer to say "well the film wasn't up to much". You should expect as close to perfection as the film will allow, if you are not happy, complain! Cinefilm is brilliant stuff, and with half decent storage should be close to how it was 50 years ago, particularly if you have Kodak film.
My system is called the "Memory HD" it is made by a wonderful French company called CTM Debrie who have been making cinefilm equipment for about a century and are at the forefront of modern film digitization technology. I will happily supply any customer with the data sheet and company details to show it is currently the best capture system available for small format film. I have spent well over £150,000 on my current Cinefilm set-up and I have devoted my life savings to it. That is how sure I am that it will give the absolute best images possible. Google it, read about it and hopefully you will realise it is the best system out there.
Always ask a transfer company what equipment they are using and who makes it. I know that some companies use a) home made equipment b) projector and screen c) projector and 90 degree mirror. This type of equipment should be avoided at all costs. If they won't tell you who makes it or won't show a picture of it on their website then ask yourself a few serious questions.
If they won't tell you i) what system they use ii) who makes it iii) how it works.... you have some decisions to make.
If they use a camera of any kind....avoid them at all costs.
All small format film can look utterly fantastic in High Definition. HOWEVER in some circumstances it can be a waste of money.
It can be great when i) the film has decent exposure ii) the film has excellent focus iii) the film has been in good storage.
If it is poorly shot, out of focus and has been stored in the garage for 40 years you might be better off with Standard Definition. I will ALWAYS put customers off having a High Definition transfer if the original film is not up to it. If, in this instance you still insist, I will of course do a High Definition transfer but at least you will know what to expect.
Cinefilm is an analogue medium. It is a series of small photographs. So it is entirely down to the quality of the equipment as to how well this will turn out. I have seen some websites say that HD quality is impossible or not worth it. That is just nonsense, it's like saying you can't scan in a photograph above a standard definition setting. An HD system will cut this analogue "photograph" into 1080 lines. A good system will do it better than a poor one but to say it can't be done is just not true.
The "Memory HD" outputs it's images as true HD. This means it works at a resolution 1920 x 1080i this is known as "True HD". Some machines use 1280 x 720i which is not True HD. If it isn't 1920 x 1080i then it is not "True HD". Also some companies will claim "True HD" and in theory they are right because they are using an HD camera which outputs at 1920 x 1080i. However if they are using a camera AT ALL they will be losing most of the quality that the cinefilm has by using an inferior transfer process. Always avoid camera transfers.
Even if your film has been stored in the same packet or tin since 1963 it will still be filthy. Dust, oil, lint, fingerprints, grease, ink and so on will contaminate just about any film. And all of this can (and will) end up on screen unless it is dealt with.
There are not many comprehensive methods of cleaning film that still exist today and those that there are can be very time consuming to use properly. This is why so many companies do not bother to clean and prepare the film first. If the website you are looking at states that the film is cleaned then press the company as to how it is cleaned. What does their cleaning entail. I read my competitors sites on a regular basis and quite a few now state they clean the film first, but when pressed are quite fuzzy as to what they do to clean it up. For example if they state "Air Cleaning" you will have to bear in mind that air is only good for dust... and even then only if every piece of film is constantly blasted with a strong steady stream of air. I don't class it as "Cleaning the film" if all they have is a can of "Air" by the projector and when a great big blob of hair turns up on screen they blast the projector gate until it disappears. You will see the results of this on screen.
I transfer all of my film on 1,200ft reels. During the process of putting your cinefilm archive onto these large 1,200ft reels I test the robustness of your film and it's splices. If you have a weak splice it can affect the transfer. I will repair any weak or broken splices that exist within your archive. This will mean the travel through the "Memory HD" will be smooth leading to a better image. When the repair process is complete I then use "FilmGuard", a tried and tested cinefilm dedicated liquid antistatic cleaner and lubricator to remove any foreign dirt and grime from your film using the ECCO cleaning system. This means that the final image you get from the transfer is as good as it can be. Remember a 1mm speck on an 8mm film can be an 6 inch blob on a modern TV.
Even the smallest 50ft reel of 8mm cinefilm at 4 minutes will consist of several scenes. Maybe a child opening christmas presents in a 1970s living room under yellow light then throwing snowballs outside in the (blue) daylight then back indoors for Christmas dinner under those yellow lights again, then you are on the Beach in June..... Each of these scenes will need specific settings for any one (or all) of the following: Exposure, colour temperature, gamma (shadows and highlights), hue, luminescence, saturation and so on. It is no good to just set all of these parameters for the first indoor scene and leave the film running until the end. Every other scene will be completely wrong, too dark, too light or just the wrong colour. The colour needs to be corrected for the outdoor scene because if it isn't everything will look terribly blue. So I watch every frame before capture on my Memory HD monitor system and program the necessary changes in. I set all the parameters so that the new scene looks as good as it can. The image is always perfectly framed and focussed.
As a pleasant by-product of this pains-taking process I also cut out all of the black / blank and unexposed areas of your film so you do not have to sit through even 1 second of black waiting for the film to restart.
The processes I undertake to get your archive on screen are extremely time consuming. The cinefilm has to be repaired whilst being run onto large reels then it is comprehensively cleaned before it is digitized in the manner described above and then carefully edited together. All of this takes an incredible amount of time to do properly. Every minute spent on these processes is worth it as it gives your archive the best chance to shine on screen. If any one of these four processes is skimped on or missed completely then this minimizes the chance of a favourable outcome. I do not skimp and I will not skimp on the time given to your, or anybody else's, films.
Having said that I will always try to hit a deadline if there is a special event that you need a partcular piece of work for. I get a lot of archives that are needed for a very special anniversary or birthday or sadly in some cases where family illness is involved. I will always strive to meet deadlines. In certain circumstances I reserve the right to have up to a 25% surcharge if the deadline is very short to cover nightwork but this would only be in exceptional circumstances. What I won't do is rush film through. Even if the deadline is short I will still give every frame my undivided attention.
Indeed, my accountant has said that I could employ several people to double turnover. I believe this would only lead to a drop in quality. I am passionate about cinefilm. It really matters to me that you get the best possible outcome to your precious archive. I have NO experience of human resources, health & safety, accountancy and all of the things that go with employment particularly when I work from my home studio. All of these things mean I would have to take my eye off the ball regarding the transfer of archives. Until I can guarantee that anybody I might employ would have exactly the same passion as I do for the perfect transfer then I will stay doing what I do on my own.
Every cinefilm, video or photograph I digitize is irreplaceable, invaluable and private to it's owner. So every archive, whether small or large, is treated with the same respect and discretion. Only I do the work here so nobody else will ever see any part of your archive. I would usually keep copies of a customer's archive on my system for 12 months for cinefilm or 6 months for video and photographs. However, if you wish, I will erase any copies on my system as soon as you confirm safe arrival with you. Whatever your film is, if the film is meant for broadcast, publication or long term (museum) storage or family based footage or of a private and personal nature I will never use, publish or show anyone any of your footage. Total discretion and privacy is absolutely assured.
My logistical system has been built up over 16 years so there is absolutely no chance of cross contamination of archives. Your archive is perfectly safe here at savethosememories.co.uk.