Telecine Specialists

Otis Orchards, Washington

Film to DVD

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 FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions


When watching the DVD, why does the picture sometimes “freeze”?

 This is commonly seen when playing a recorded disc on an older or bargain-priced DVD player. These are optimized for mass-produced stamped-out discs. Individually recorded DVD+R and DVD-R discs don’t reflect as much light and are just barely playing. Ideally upgrade to a newer multiformat DVD player that is specifically claimed to be able to play DVD±R and DVD±RW discs, or else buy a DVD recording deck.

 What is that stuff that looks like giant grey snowflakes in the lighter areas of the film?

 Fungus. This arises if the film has been stored in a warm and damp location. The fungus grows in the gelatin emulsion layer of the film, where the image is. Since the gelatin has been eaten by the fungus, and replaced by fungal waste products, it is not possible to remove this.

 Why does my film smell like vinegar?

 The cellulose acetate film base is starting to decompose, known as “vinegar syndrome,” releasing acetic acid. This can fade the image and get the rest of the roll started going bad also. Store the film in a can that has holes drilled for air circulation and get it transferred to video soon.

 The rolls of 8mm said on the box they were 25 feet, but I was charged for 60. What gives?

 Regular-8, or double-8, spools of film were 25 feet in the double width as used in the camera, plus 4 feet on each end for subdued light loading, mid-roll turnover, and unloading. This is a total of 33 feet of film. The film is run through the camera twice to expose both edges. After developing, the lab slits it down the middle and splices it together to yield actual 8mm film for projection. Commonly the length might be 55 or 60 feet plus some in the beginning, middle and end that is fogged. 8mm metal-magazine cameras, and all super-8 cameras, can only yield an actual 50 feet or so.

 I sent in a 200 / 400 foot roll of film on a 5" / 7" reel but was charged for 300 / 600 feet. Why?

 A given size reel holds a known footage of normal acetate base film such as made by Kodak. If your film is thin-base Fuji or Focal polyester type, it is 1/3 thinner so 50% more will fit on the same size reel. We charge by actual measured length, not by reel diameter or theoretical length.

 The first half of the 8mm roll is black. What happened?

 Someone didn’t read the instructions and ran the regular-8 film through the camera once instead of twice. Since the roll was sent to the lab the wrong way out, this results in the first half of the finished spliced film (instead of the second half) being black. Since the special spool that came with the camera is now lost (that has “Film when on this spool is only half exposed” marked on it) probably everything shot after this will have either black halves or double-exposed halves. (See next section)

 The film is double exposed (triple exposed) (quadruple exposed). What happened?

 Someone didn’t read the instructions (see previous section) and lost the special 8mm camera spool. So they no longer can keep track of whether the film is exposed once, twice, thrice or more. This results in inadvertent comical double-exposure effects.

 Many of the images are sideways, with heads on the left and feet on the right, or vice versa. How come?

 The film was shot by a still photographer who hadn’t used a movie or video camera before. He is used to turning the camera on its side to shoot portraits of people. It doesn’t occur to him that you can’t easily also turn the projector or TV on its side to view it correctly. This could be maybe fixed by someone with access to digital video effects manipulation equipment, rotating it 90°. Film to DVD is not equipped for this.

 The film image is very dark, red-orange with hardly any other color, and streaky. Wha hoppen?

 The camera was threaded incorrectly, with the dark side and not the light side towards the lens.

 The film is all biased orange/red and excessively warm. Why?

 Either daylight balance film was used under movie lights without a filter, or else the correct tungsten balance film was used indoors but with the daylight correction (#85, or type A) filter wrongly in place.*

 The film is all biased blue and excessively cold. Why?

 Either tungsten balance film was used outdoors without the daylight correction (No. 85 or type A) filter, or else the correct daylight balance film was used outdoors but with the tungsten correction (type 80B) filter wrongly in place.*

 The film goes out of focus when the cameraman zooms in. What’s up?

 The distance was set incorrectly when filming. When you zoom in, you have less depth of field so the focus gets much worse. This commonly results when someone is trying to focus by judging eyestrain, on a camera that is not designed for this use.

 Everyone is walking backwards. What causes this?

 The camera was held upside down when filming. When the film orientation is corrected top for bottom, screen action is backwards. This could maybe be fixed by going ahead and running the film upside down to get normal action, and then having it rotated 180° by someone with access to digital video effects manipulation equipment. Film to DVD is not equipped to do digital video effects.

 The film is supposed to be 8mm, but it is twice as wide with two sets of images, one set upside down?????????

 This was regular-8 film developed perhaps in someone’s bathtub, by someone without access to a film slitter. Never fear, Film to DVD can slit and splice the film for you at nominal cost. However, since we have no knowledge of how many times the film has been rewound, we can’t tell any more which side is the first half and which is the second. So it is 50-50 that it will be out of order.

 The drugstore will transfer the film for a lower price. Why does your service cost slightly more?

 We inspect the film, replace bad splices and remove damaged portions, and clean and lubricate it, before it goes to the transfer machines. Then, we actually monitor the film while it is running instead of going off to do something else. This way we can check and correct for focus, going out of frame, hairs in the gate, lost film loops and the like immediately. The minimum-wage drugstore people (who may actually be non-English speaking illegal aliens off in who-knows-where someplace for all you know) may be off having coffee while your film is being ruined while running unattended. Video tapes can be copied this “hands off” way but we feel that film must not be, as there are lots of things that can go wrong requiring immediate operator attention.

 I can save money by splicing the film together myself, right?

 No! Please don’t! Our splices are precisely scraped and aligned using professional grade equipment, with a permanent solvent weld using fresh film cement. (Except polyester base Fuji and Focal which must be tape spliced.) Among the public on the other hand, film splicing is a lost art. By the time you locate and buy larger reels, and then pay us anyway to re-make all the probable bad splices that would break or jam in the equipment, it will cost you more than if we do the splicing in the first place, which by the way includes the cost of the reels.

 How many splice repairs will be needed?

 Likely one per 50' of a large reel, and also at the 25' mid-roll splice of 8mm. (The consumer-film processing labs generally do not make good splices.) If your film has been extensively edited for a film class, or shown on malfunctioning equipment, there are likely additional repairs needed. There may be few or no repairs required if the film was spliced by a skilled person who has already added proper leader and trailer for cleaning and threading.

 What about off-brand and damaged film?

 Folks who tried to save money by purchasing little-known “bargain” film instead of Kodachrome will likely regret it, even if the color is good. 3M made Dynachrome movie film with excessive contrast and truly horrible color. Agfa made film under their name and under private labels. Much of it was never properly lubricated in processing, giving a jittery picture and damaged perforations. Some newly processed Ektachrome film was not lubricated owing to environmental concern. A defective or misthreaded projector will also cause perforation damage to good film. Often only the leading edge of each hole is torn, so the film projects okay backwards but not forward. In this case, the reel can be run backwards and upside down and the transfer corrected with digital video effects equipment elsewhere, not by us. Film to DVD is not able to do video effects.


 *Color movie film used to be made in two flavors: Daylight and Type A. Daylight gave fine color when exposed with sunlight outdoors. Type A gave fine color when exposed with short-lived (3 hour) photoflood lights indoors. Type A also gave fine color when exposed with sunlight outdoors through a Type A (No. 85) daylight conversion filter. Any other combination gave bad color. Additionally the film would come out greenish under fluorescent lights or mercury streetlights, pure yellow under sodium streetlights, bluish on a cloudy day or in the shade, and yellowish if filming with ordinary household light bulbs.


 Projecting off-color film directly might not look so bad, compared to a video transfer. This is because: 1. Movies are projected in the dark so your eyes will adapt to it somewhat, while video is viewed with the room lights on so your eyes will not adapt.  2. Movie screens are generally not as bright as a TV set and your eyes are then not as sensitive to color problems. 3. Video does not have the latitude that your eye and color film have, so if the color is too far off it will saturate the color signal and gradations in color will disappear. You can best judge a film’s color over a white light box to give you a reference white, not using a projector.


Film to DVD

© 2008-2013 C. H. Tobin and reproduced by permission.

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