Transfer cine film to DVD

A. Equipment requirements:

1. Cine film footage (8mm, 9.5mm, 16mm or?) for transfer. Referred to below as 8mm.

2. 8mm Viewer Editor.

3. 8mm film splicer, cement and gloves for handling film.

4. 8mm film projector and strobe lamp.

5. Projector stand.

6. Ice white card plus blue-tack to make wall mounted screen.

7. Camcorder and power supply. Preferably a separate means of recording the video output from camcorder but if not then a remote control for the camcorder.

8. Tripod for camera.

9. TV monitor and connecting leads.

10. Multi-way power sockets and extension leads to accommodate the above.

11. Tape measure.

B. Sequence of operation:

1. Prepare film

a. Set up the viewer and pre-clean the rollers and film gate.

b. Ensure a good length of blank leader precedes the start of the film.

c. Pass the film through the viewer (hand operated) to check its condition.

d. Repair any bad splices that do not pass easily through the viewer gate.

e. Clean the entire length of the film during the rewind to remove any hairs.

2. Set up equipment for video transfer

Transferring film to video. The physical arrangement.

a. Assemble projector stand and mount projector.

b. Attach a white card (being used as the projection screen) to a convenient wall, away from direct light, with its centre at the same height as the projector lens to minimise parallax errors.

c. Position the projector away from the wall to give a projected image of 30 - 40 cm, measured across the diagonal (the size of the image is that selected to give an acceptable bright image).

d. Make sure that the projector film gate is clean and devoid of any hairs.

e. Arrange the projector to be pointing slightly to the left - introducing a slight keystone expansion on the left side of the frame, and mount the camera at the same height as the projector, but as close as possible to the left of the projector, and pointing slightly to the right - thus cancelling out the keystone distortion by reversing it. Note this also leaves the right side of the projector free for loading/unloading operations.

f. It is important to switch off any image stabilising device on the camera "Steadyshot" or else it will hunt to try to follow something or someone in the movie moving across the screen, with the result that the outside of the frame moves into view!

h. Insert a tape in the camcorder and using the remote control to record 20 seconds of blank at the start.

i. Mount the TV monitor, connected to the VCR, immediately below the wall mounted screen so that the projected and captured images can be easily compared on essentially the same line of sight.

3. Capture film images on camcorder

a. Initially run the projector, without film, to warm it up to avoid its speed increasing with time during the transfer process.

b. Switch on the camera, auxiliary recorder, if available, and TV monitor and set the monitor input so that the camera image is displayed.

c. During the projector warm-up, attach a printed sheet to the screen (for video camera focusing purposes).

d. Switch the camcorder to record mode, set focus to manual, go to full zoom to give a large image of the printed sheet. Adjust the camera focus to give a sharp image as viewed on the TV monitor.

e. Remove the printed sheet from the screen.

f. Thread the film in the projector and pre-run it to set the projector focus.

g. Now frame the video camera image by zooming out so that the blurred edges of the projected film seen on the screen are just out of shot when viewed on the TV monitor.

h. Whilst projecting the film during set up, decide on the best settings for camera operation in respect of manual or automatic exposure and white balance. We have found that manual exposure seems best as it stops the camera from cancelling out fades to black and other intended lighting variations. White balance is recommended set to artificial light.

i. An added operating complication, in my case, concerns my Bolex M8 projector as it is a variable speed operating unit. My film material is exclusively Standard 8 and mostly shot at 18 fps. I therefore use a strobe disc illuminated by a neon light to maintain the desired speed.

j. Taking care not to upset the projector focus, re-set the film in the projector to a few seconds before the start point.

k. You are now READY to CAPTURE.

l. Set the camcorder to record, start the projector and you are away.

m. Watch the results on the TV monitor and STOP, REWIND and CONTINUE again, if a hair gets in the projector gate that you cannot blow away.

NOTE: In my experience a degree of experimentation is required with camera settings to avoid film flicker when copying to video hence this is one of the most important reasons for monitoring the desired captured image, and will depend on both the type of film projector and capabilities of the camcorder being used.

Kodachrome cine film can handle a far wider range of contrast than video. This results sometimes in having to compromise on the optimum aperture setting of the camera, to avoid either burning out the highlights, or losing some or all detail in the shadow areas, or even both!

The important thing is to avoid burning out the highlights, and then sometimes I find that a 40 watt table lamp, shone at the screen from a distance of about 3 - 5 feet (a matter for observation and experimentation) lightens up the shadow areas and reduces the contrast sufficiently to allow the camcorder to capture the shadow detail also. (Professional video transfer equipment achieves this effect electronically, under the control of a skilled operator.)


It is important to have the camera exposure under manual control, or the automatic control will try to cancel out fades to black, etc. and over-expose fades in from black. As amateur cine film is frequently under- or over-exposed as it changes from shot to shot, it will sometimes be necessary to stop the projector after an over- or under-exposed scene, reset the manual aperture adjustment, and re-start the projector and shoot that scene again. (These re-shoots will have to be edited into the finished recording afterwards, but that is better than trying to correct over-exposure in the editing suite. Minor UNDER-exposure CAN be successfully corrected in post-production.)

Transferring film to video plus sound

When transferring sound film, the optimum sound quality would be obtained by capturing the sound from the 'line out' socket of the projector. There can be a problem in getting this sound signal into a camcorder as they normally don't have a line in socket. In the club we run the camcorder set to record but without tape and connect the camcorder video output to a Sony mini dv recorder. We use an S-video lead to transfer the video while the sound output from the projector supplies the sound signal to the mini dv recorder. We find the loss of video signal quality by using s-video rather than firewire to transfer the video signal is not noticeable as digital video quality is better than cine film anyway.

Please contact webmaster with comments and suggestions so as to help others by getting this right