DIY Super 8 Telecine

Written by ian o'briant
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DIY Super 8 Telecine
If you have old home movies on Super 8mm film, it is possible to transfer them to video if you have the right tools available. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Telecine is the process of converting images from processed film stock to video for use in nondestructive editing or archiving. The word is a combination of the root words "tele," as in television, and "cine," as in cinema. Large post production houses in the film industry handle the 35mm and larger prints that are used in feature films and television commercials, but smaller gauge film stocks like 16mm, Super16mm, 8mm and Super 8mm can be transferred to video at home with some patience, video editing software and your DSLR camera or camcorder.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • DSLR camera or camcorder
  • Tripod
  • Super 8mm projector
  • Projection screen
  • Dark area

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    Setting Up

  1. 1

    Set up the projection screen in an out-of-the-way area that you can control light levels in easily. Full darkness is not necessary, but the darker you can make your projection area, the more detail and better colour reproduction you are going to be able to get.

    DIY Super 8 Telecine
    A conference room at work, or a spot out in a home garage can suffice as your telecine bay. (Jupiterimages/ Images)
  2. 2

    Set up your Super 8 projector on a flat, sturdy surface such as a dinner table or desk. You may have to play with the projector's distance from the screen to get the optimal image size for your particular camera and lens combination, but generally about 8 to 10 feet away is just fine.

    DIY Super 8 Telecine
    Getting the distance just right may take some experimentation. (Jupiterimages/ Images)
  3. 3

    Set up your camera and tripod directly beneath the emitter lens of the projector, making sure that the two lenses are lined up as closely horizontally and vertically as possible, without the camera obstructing the projector beam.

    DIY Super 8 Telecine
    Now is when using a DSLR comes in handy; it is much more compact than your average camcorder, but either will suffice. (Jupiterimages/ Images)
  4. 4

    Thread your film footage into the projector, taking care to maintain the loop that keeps the film from binding. There should be an indicator in the take-up area of the projector that shows the proper film routing.

  5. 5

    Check the projector image's focus before moving on to shooting the projected images.

    Option 1: DSLR Shooting

  1. 1

    Using the projector's trim knob, advance the film footage one frame at a time to display each frame of the footage on your reel.

  2. 2

    Snap a shot of each frame, making sure that your camera tripod is locked down and the same focal length, focus and other adjustments are used for each shot.

  3. 3

    Keep a written log or use a computer to generate and fill in a spreadsheet of problem frames or frames that could use a little colour correction. Use your camera's frame counter to keep track of where you are.

    DIY Super 8 Telecine
    Using a laptop to keep notes can help to keep track of the process. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

    Option 2: Camcorder Shooting

  1. 1

    Frame up the projected image in the camcorder's viewfinder. Use manual focus and exposure settings, if available, to ensure that all frames are exposed consistently.

    DIY Super 8 Telecine
    Lock down your tripod and make a note of all settings in your log. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    Start the camcorder recording. If possible, shoot at a frame rate like 24p or 30p, to match the frame rate of the projector.

  3. 3

    Start the projector rolling. You should run at 24fps or 18fps, depending on the speed at which your original footage was shot.

    Putting It All Together

  1. 1

    Import your video footage or stills into a non-linear editing system like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere.

  2. 2

    Drag all of your files into the timeline and set them to render. Depending on which method you have chosen to capture your images, as well as your computer's memory and CPU speeds, this may take a long time to a really long time.

  3. 3

    Check your footage for odd or partial frames. When recording video from a projector, flicker will be very evident. There is also the chance of getting several half frames in a row or completely black frames. If you find these, simply edit them out.

    DIY Super 8 Telecine
    Edit out any half frames or black frames. (Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)
  4. 4

    Export the final product as any of several popular file formats, such as .mov, .dv, .avi, .mpeg4 or .wmv .

Tips and warnings

  • Be aware that the DSLR frame-by-frame method is meticulous and time consuming. A 50-foot Super 8 cartridge has roughly 80 frames per foot. That is up to 4,000 frames per reel. This does ensure, however, that you have ultimate control over the image quality, and the best possible resolution for your finished product.
  • When importing stills into your editor, they should be batched so that all of them are shortened to one frame in length. Do this before pulling them in to the timeline, as it will save many headaches down the road.
  • Keep your camera and projector lenses as close together on the same vertical plane as possible; this helps to reduce distortion from the parallax that results from the two lenses not being perfectly in alignment.
  • - Rendering still frames into video can take quite a while. Start this process when you have something else to do, like visit relatives, or sleep all night. "The watched timeline never renders."
  • - The use of a cable release can help to eliminate movement of your camera between shots.
  • When using the single frame DSLR method, be sure your projector's fan is in good working order. Otherwise, the film stock may become overheated and warp or even melt.
  • When working in the dark, be sure that all obstructions like cords and cables are out of your walking path.

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