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Behind the Scenes – An Insight into the Process of Film Transfer

Since a lot of people have been considering transferring their film to more reliable mediums such as DVD, it is important to understand just what process your film goes through as it is being converted from film to digital

A very common and often deceptive method is setting up a home made telecine machine which is nothing more than a projector and domestic camcorder. The camera sits beside the projector and captures the footage being reflected onto the screen. This method is unreliable and brings in elements which will cause a loss of quality such as reflections, jitter and uneven exposure. A more reliable method is that of frame transfer where the imager scans the film directly, it is an intricate process and much less expensive than it used to be but offers far greater image quality.

The very first thing that is done is the cleansing of the film before film transfer. A microfiber cleaning material is applied to the tape. This solution protects the film and increases its life by about 20 years.

A professional Telecine machine or a Digital Data Scanner is then used to do the film transfer from tape to DVD.

The DDS makes sure that there is no flicker in the footage and that it s free of dust particles or hair. This process, also known as attended capture makes sure that the footage remains in position and that the film quality in terms of saturation, contrast and brightness is consistent and the same as the original. The footage is then remastered to generate the highest possible film quality. Each frame is captured as it is illuminated onto the screen using a diffused LED light. A special macro lens system, a CCD (charged couple device) video pick up makes sure that the transfer occurs as flawlessly as possible.

In order to sync the frame rate, the film is then sent to the onboard digital data store. This technology also allows the sound to be scanned at the same time as the footage. Another way of adding sound to the footage during film transfer is using a high performance audio scanner which is also mounted onto the Telecine or DDS machine.
The next step is to take these digital files and re-animate them to typical video frame rates such as 25 frames per second, edit them. All parts which cannot be fixed are edited and removed whereas a process called authoring consists of adding chapters and titles to the DVD. In case the video does not have its audio or the customer wishes to change it, a background audio track is also inserted into the final output of the film transfer.

Once a digitally mastered copy of the tape has been created, this file is then burned onto the DVD or as a coomon file format for editing such as ProRes. DVD quality depends entirely upon you or the service provider. In these finishing stages of the film to digital conversion process, the various protections o the DVD are considered. Most services do not put any protection on the discs making them easy to copy, edit and share whereas some may restrict users from copying the disc. A final package with a cover is then dispatched to the customer and the process of film transfer is complete.