Movie Film to DVD - Services - ScanCafe

Movie film scanning, by hand

We digitize and transfer old 8mm, Super 8, and 16mm movie film.

Movie film is a very close cousin of photographic negatives and slides, and suffers very similar decay over time. ScanCafe can turn your old movie films into treasures you can share:

  • HD scans to capture details
  • Full frame scanning -- nothing cropped out
  • Dust and scratch reduction included
  • Scene-by-scene color correction
  • DVD included. Blu-Ray Disc™ available
  • A custom, Hollywood-like DVD experience
  • Safe, guaranteed handling
  • Amazing value: $0.25 per foot.
Order Movie Film Scanning Now

Our quality

larger view »    Note differences in frame size, color, sharpness, dust, and scratches. Movie: W Lagrone, 1971

Compare these two stills. They are from the same Super 8 footage--one scanned by a competitor, and one scanned by ScanCafe. Can you see the differences? We'll discuss them in some detail below. You can also view more in the Movie Film section on our quality comparison page, or in this large comparison (Quicktime and large monitor required).

Full frame HD scans

Demonstration of Full Frame Scanning

Why Full Frame Matters. In the large picture above of a "raw" HD scan of a single Super 8mm frame, the area marked "A" is what you would get with a typical SD scan, even some with "expanded" gates. But that still leaves a lot of your memories on the film, and not on your DVD. In the two smaller stills, taken directly from finished DVDs, you can see that in the competitor DVD you might not ever know there was a man walking by on the beach. Movie: W Lagrone, 1971

Our HD scans are designed to capture every last detail of what's on a movie frame, even if that movie frame image is larger than the traditional area set forth in the official SMPTE spec for 8mm and 16mm film projection and scanning. We do this because we believe your memories are important, and it's a big project to get your movie film scanned. You only want to do it once. The only part of the frame we crop out are the sprocket holes of the film (some cameras did capture a little information above the sprocket holes). So even if you order a standard DVD from us, you will still get the benefit of our HD scanning--particularly if you view your DVD on a computer.

Groundbreaking digital dust & scratch reduction

The large defect on the frame, plainly visible in the competitor still, was nearly eliminated in the ScanCafe process.

Even physical cleaning cannot remove all the marks and imperfections on your movie film. Hard to see with your naked eye, they will nonetheless show up on your film when it is scanned. In an industry first, ScanCafe is making Hollywood-quality dust & scratch reduction a standard feature of our movie scanning, for no additional charge. As with our approach to scanning photos, we believe that dust & scratch reduction is simply too important to be an afterthought when it comes to your memories. And while we cannot remove all dust, scratches, and imperfections from your film, we can definitely make a dramatic improvement in how much you enjoy it.

Our handcrafted approach

At ScanCafe, we don't scan your movie film by threading your reels onto a machine and coming back when it's finished! Instead, every reel of your order is cleaned, viewed, scanned, and edited by a dedicated technician, who gives your memories the attention they deserve.

A technician will spend approximately up to 2 hours per movie film reel addressing all of the issues below, and then some. Just as with our industry leading photo-scanning service, this handcrafted attention to your memories is the only way to ensure quality. For each movie reel we perform:

  • Physical inspection, cleaning, and simple repairs.
    Old movie film can have many problems, like deteriorated splices, curling, stains, splotches, and dust. Your order begins with a thorough inspection, and your film will be spot cleaned and simple repairs like bad splices will be handled for you at no additional charge. We will also splice 50-foot reels together onto archival 400-foot reels.
     
  • Full Frame (HD) scans.
    Because movie cameras were very different in how much of the film they exposed, we have to manually adjust for each reel in order to give you the maximum amount of image. Automated services simply make all images the exact same size and crop. We will splice together your small reels of film onto a larger 7 inch spool. Your film will be returned to you on the larger spool. Your original empty spools will be returned to you as well.
     
  • Electronic dust & scratch reduction.
    While digital in nature, this has to be a manual approach as well, since we have to take a unique approach to each movie reel.
     
  • Scene-by-scene color correction.
    Other services, if they offer any color correction at all, might correct the entire reel based on the first few minutes of the reel (among Hollywood studio professionals, that's referred to as "one-light" color correction.) But our experience is that color correction needs vary from scene to scene, and so correction needs to be tailored to each scene.
     
  • Manual retiming.
    Old movie film was not mean to run at the same speed as your television, so in the process of digitizing your film, the speed must be adjusted. Automated services have to guess at how to do this speed adjustment based on what type of movie film you have--but even 8mm film had as many as 4 different possible film speeds! The only way to truly figure out how to adjust your old movie film for speed is to adjust it first, then look at it, and adjust again until the motion seems normal to a trained human eye.
     
  • No interlacing.
    Another problem in retiming your old home movie film is what technique you use to make sure the film looks fine when it runs on television. Most services use a process called interlacing to adjust the speed of your film for television; the problem is, interlacing can cause annoying visual problems in some players when you play your DVD on your computer. Because we think you should be able to enjoy your movies on your computer too, we use a technique that will minimize those problems.
     
  • Manual scene selection.
    Other services create scenes at every X minutes, or every time the camera stops. We think a trained human does a better job.
     
  • Custom DVD title generation.
    Titles--that is, how you navigate the contents of the DVD--are not an afterthought best left up to a computer. We allow you to name each reel, and we create a beautiful DVD whose titles will remind you more than a little of the last Hollywood movie you bought. We want watching your movie film memories to be a popcorn-and-soda experience for the whole family.

How it works

How Movie Film Scanning WorksWe will splice together your small reels of film onto a larger 7 inch spool. Your film will be returned to you on the larger spool. Your original empty spools will be returned to you as well.

Why standard definition?

A Classic Regular 8mm Movie Film Box from the 1940s Very old regular 8mm film came from splitting processed 16mm film in half along its length. This 25ft box would actually become 50 feet of 8mm film.

By default, we deliver your movie film on a standard DVD, which will look fantastic on a regular television and quite good on your computer. Plus, a regular DVD is nearly universally playable.

However, if you have a Blu-ray™ player and HDTV, we'd strongly suggest you order a Blu-ray Disc™ from us, at an additional charge. Blu-ray Discs have ten times as much capacity as a DVD, and that means your digital files will be that much less compressed. This will improve colors, sharpness, visible detail particularly in small things like blades of grass or shirt buttons, and even smoother action. These benefits are strongest for 16mm and Super 16 film, strong for Super 8 film, and least strong for regular 8mm film, which is the oldest (and lowest resolution) of the formats we scan.

Frequently asked questions

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» What is movie film?
We have two ways of representing images that move: motion picture film, and video.

Motion picture film, or movie film, consists of running a number of connected images, or frames, through a projection system. The images themselves are produced through techniques that are very similar to how we produce photos. And if you look at movie film, you will clearly see each individual frame, and you'll even be able to make out, roughly, what is pictured in each frame.

Video, by contrast, is captured when light strikes a magnetic medium. It doesn't have the same idea of frames that movie film does, and in fact if you look at video tape closely you won't be able to see much of anything at all.

Movie film, once developed, always comes on reels, metal or plastic discs that the film is wound around, and intended to be played back on a projector.

Almost all historical video, the kind you have in your home, is stored on cassette, and meant to be inserted into some kind of player, like a VCR or camcorder. We refer to these as videocassettes, or video tapes.

» Why is movie film so expensive, relative to photos?
Actually, movie film is less expensive than photos, when you consider how many images there are.

We charge 20+ cents per photo that we scan. But in a single foot--about one 16th of a second--of movie film, there can easily be 50 images that we need to capture. So if we charged for movie film as we do for photos, a foot of movie film would cost $10.00 to scan. Instead, it costs 20 cents!

Additionally, movie film scanning is very technically demanding and takes a lot of our technician and equipment time. And yet we are able to offer it to you for much less, per image, than what we charge today for photos. So we think movie film scanning is a tremendous value at ScanCafe.

» What type of movie film do I have?
The best answer is, it doesn't matter! For nearly any conceivable movie film format that you have, chances are it's either 8mm, Super 8mm, or 16mm. And our price for all of those is exactly the same.

A quick way to check: if your movie film is on a reel, and it has sprocket holes, then chances are excellent we can scan it. The only movie film formats we don't currently scan are professional formats like 35mm and 70mm, and typically only Hollywood studios would have film like that.

» Do you clean my movie film? Why?
We do clean your movie film, both physically and electronically.

This is an important quality step, because old movie film can often be amazingly dirty. Each speck of dirt will show up on your final image, and it can make watching your old home movies less enjoyable.

Removing all the dust and scratches physically is effectively impossible, however. So we incorporate an additional step of digital cleaning that helps reduce dust and scratches even further.

» What if my movie film is damaged?
We will attempt to repair movie film that has minor damage, like deteriorated splices. However, film that is substantially damaged may not be able to be captured.
» Can you scan unprocessed movie film?
No. As with photographs, your movie film must be developed first before we can scan it. Technically speaking, the movie films that we scan are "prints", meaning you can make out the image when you look closely at each frame.
  • See why we are #1

     
  • Less Than Half the Price

    comparisonOur HD movie film scans, with color correction and dust & scratch reduction, cost less than half the competition.
    movie price comparison »

  • Movie Film Can Decay Rapidly

    Your old movie film is most likely acetate based. Unless you keep it cold and at low relative humidity, it (and your memories) will literally turn into vinegar--acetic acid--over time. Source: IPI
    more about movie film decay »

  • Guaranteed. For Real.

    custom productThe only real guarantee in the business. If something happens to your originals while we have them, we’ll pay you up to $1,000.
    read the terms »

  • Experts Agree

    pop photography
    “The attention to detail was impressive. And so were the scans... pro-caliber work…”

    full article »

    Money
    “Best quality and cheapest…The best scanning service.”

    full article »

    cnet
    “Bottom line? Good quality and, at $0.24 per slide and $0.27 per print, the price is hard to beat.”

    full article »

  • Our Customers

    I was amazed. It brought to life memories we didn't even know we had. The quality was excellent...much better than I expected [from VHS]. It looked great. My wife and I were crying as we watched.

    - Gary Johnson, Chicago History Museum (May 2011)

    In general, I have been impressed with the professionalism of everybody at ScanCafe. They deliver what they promise. I am totally satisfied with every facet of the process, which is very clear and straightforward. I know what you guys had to deal with on that VHS tape I sent you, and I liked the crispness, the color. Whatever you guys did, it improved it!

    - Frank V, Mount Laurel, NJ (May 2011)

    Just one more quality product [from ScanCafe] to take advantage of. It completes the picture.

    - Betty B, Wilmington, NC (May 2011)

    all testimonials »

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