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Question about different types of scans.

Steve Williams

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Many years ago I sent quite a bit of Super 8 for an SD transfer and they combined all the rolls on to a giant 1600 reel that their old Cintel machines could handle but nothing else (at the time) could handle with Super 8. That was many rolls and many different types of film (negative, reversal, B&W, ect...) that I wouldn't have wanted together necessarily. They did however do a great job of packing that film up for long-term storage so that was nice.


I would just make sure that if prep order is important to you that you clearly mark that for the lab. They're used to that and Cinelab will take good care of you.


I generally just make sure all my negative is on one reel, B&W on another, reversal on another, ect. so if I want to project the reversal I can without running any negative through a projector.

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Thanks for the awesome advice...


Lately I've been shooting a roll and then sending it off for processing and scan. I'm testing my skills and the limitation of the camera before I set forth on filming a project next month. Since so many labs charge a flat rate for prep, I found the cost to time ratio was better to go with Pro8mm on this transfer. That being said, I spoke with Perry from Gamma Ray on the phone and he gave me some great advice on scanning and processing... I plan on making Cinelab to GammaRay scan my "go-to" for all future projects. The only reason I didn't go through Cinelab for this last roll is because I read online that there processing times can be a little long.



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When Ektachrome returns, a great option is to shoot Ektachrome 100D, send it to Dwayne's photo in Kansas for processing and have them transfer it on their Moviestuff system for $10 a roll or just project it at home. Then when you get something worth a high-end transfer, send it off to Gamma Ray or Cinelab or Pro8mm.


That's the least expensive route for Super 8. Get a little viewer and learn to cut film, then you only transfer the best parts and that will save significant amounts of money although it involves a lot of work.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As a west coast guy, the most cost effective lab workflow I have found is Spectra. Plus, they have the only super 8 ultrasonic cleaning I am aware of that is included with basic prep service.


Best of the deals I have found is to simply buy the Spectra film and processing bundle. This is any current Kodak super 8 film with Spectra developing for 39.75 which saves $4.25 over the Kodak/Cinelab route.




Buy film from Kodak: 26.00

Spectra processing: 17.00

Enclose a self addressed envelope with postage to scan house of choice.


Prep with ultrasonic cleaning can be added for only 3.00 per roll, but there is a minimum. You might ask your scan facility to do it if you only have a single roll.


Personally, I prefer the Spectra scans as well. The tri-linear Spirit scanning from them delivers the best images I have seen, exceeding most 2K bayer scans I have had done elsewhere. And, unlike typical flat scans, they will deliver a onelight file that is much closer to edit ready (color and contrast), saving me a ton of time. My issue has been that I am not the best at color grading my own files and do not want to pay extra on having someone else do it for me. Hence, my middle of the road solution.

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If you're talking about brand new film, you're not going to gain much from an ultrasonic cleaning, vs a non-immersion cleaning. Basically, there are two types of machine cleaners: non immersion cleaners use buffer rollers saturated with a solvent of some kind to clean and dry the film as it passes through. This will eliminate virtually all of the dust on the film, which is the main concern with freshly shot/processed film (dust picked up in the lab, when the film is exposed to air). Film is a dust magnet, and no matter how clean the lab is, it's there, flaking off of us all day long. Dust looks way worse on negative than positive film, because it shows up as white spots.


An ultrasonic cleaner adds an additional step: the film is threaded through a pool of solvent liquid, where ultrasonic vibrators agitate the solvent. This "scrubs" the film clean at a molecular level. This is very effective, but it's really most useful for film that has a lot of stuff on it: prints, film that's been through a printer a few dozen times, any situation where caked on debris of some sort needs to be removed.


The major downside of the ultrasonic cleaners (with a few exceptions that use the newer more environmentally friendly, but ridiculously expensive HFE solvent) is that they require pretty nasty chemicals to do their thing. Perc is basically cancer in a barrel and can cause neurological issues if not handled properly (ventilation, respiration, gloves, etc), not to mention environmental concerns with proper disposal. All of the non-immersion cleaners I'm aware of use pure Isopropynol - 99.8% or purer rubbing alcohol, which is significantly more benign.


That being said, they're both pretty effective methods of cleaning film, with ultrasonic being the better choice for film that's really messy. Fresh film doesn't need much to clean it up.

Edited by Perry Paolantonio
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Perry makes some great points on cleaning.


All the bigger labs which include Fotokem (and former labs like Deluxe and Technicolor) always use ultrasonic cleaning as a common practice after film assembly. Although film right off a processing machine is relatively clean, the assembly (or prep) of film usually leaves behind some residue, dust, etc. Ultrasonic cleaning is the best and final step before the film is handed off to be scanned or printed.


As Perry mentions, ultrasonic cleaning is superior in that it can remove embedded particles, and other stubborn residue that alcohol cleaning might miss. This is because the film is fully submerged in more aggressive, warm solvent with ultrasonic agitation. Alcohol cleaning is usually used at scanning facilities for basic light duty cleaning due to lower operating cost, less regulation and health concerns which require special handling.


As far as we are concerned, there is no heath risk to us either way when we get the film back. So, I always ask for prep and ultrasonic cleaning with the labs I deal with. I believe there is an ultrasonic demonstration video at the bottom of Spectra's lab page in case anyone wishes to see how it works.

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Fototkem also uses ultrasonic cleaning as standard practice. Any of the large commercial labs still in operation would be using ultrasonic cleaning. Although, they would probably not have modifications to their cleaners to accommodate 8mm film.

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