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Guest Rod Blackhurst

super 8mm telecine labs review

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Guest Rod Blackhurst

I've used a few labs now over the past few years, in my search for the ultimate lab for super 8mm telecine. As I can never seem to find a comprehensive list of labs I'm going to write up a short bit about the 3 different ones that I've tried thus far in hopes of someone coming forward to recommend a potentially better lab.

 

PacLab in NYC is a joke. They ship their film to Pro 8mm in Burbank and aren't involved with any of the telecine process. Pro 8mm does a 24fps transfer but I'd shot the film in 18fps and I had to have the film transfered three times before I realized that no matter what I was telling PacLab they weren't telling Pro 8mm about my request (obviously 18fps is standard super 8mm frame rate). PacLab kept telling me "We think something is wrong on your end because we did this at 18fps". I only realized this when I started shopping at Pro 8mm.

 

Pro 8mm seems to be good except they don't transfer at 18fps (well they will for extra money). My two Beaulieu cameras both have frame rate indicators that "lock in" at 18. In order to take advantage of their Pro 8mm stock purchase/develop/transfer packages I have to guess where 24fps will actually be. I've been involved with the transfer process there (sitting in on the telecine) and they seem to be great. I just wish that they would transfer at 18fps.

 

Yale Film & Video does a straight transfer, no color correction. They are great in that they are fast and cheap but I'd like some more attention to coloring and exposure.

 

So who else do you use? I have 16 Ektachrome rolls and 4 B&W that I need to have transfered soon. Help.

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I once made the mistake of using Film and Video Services in Minnesota for a cheap (which turned out to be the most expensive one since ALL my footage was ruined) film chain S-8mm transfer to video. Suffice to say that if you want your negative scratched, or gouged I should say, by all means use them.

 

But then, I should have known better.

 

Bono Labs are pricey, but do good work. I really like Colorlab (not cheap either), but if you are not doing a supervised transfer, expect to have to do at least some color correction yourself. Which is why I usually ask for flat transfers, so that I can have at least some control later and I don't get too much contrast or something jarring, which can totally happen.

Edited by Saul Rodgar

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CinePost (www.posthouse.com) in Altanta are good on the cheap, although not that cheap compared to others mentioned here. And I've used fsts.com for super 16 to HD and it was great, but probably the priciest mentioned here.

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Hi all,

 

Take a look at the samples provided by Justin Lovell at Frame Discreet in Toronto, Canada, and you will have to look no further, in my opinion: http://www.framediscreet.com/super8mmabout.htm

 

Their prices for their transfer work seems modest, considering the attention that your material gets in this house.

 

Best regards;

/ Bengt in Stockholm

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Hi all,

 

Take a look at the samples provided by Justin Lovell at Frame Discreet in Toronto, Canada, and you will have to look no further, in my opinion: http://www.framediscreet.com/super8mmabout.htm

 

Their prices for their transfer work seems modest, considering the attention that your material gets in this house.

 

Best regards;

/ Bengt in Stockholm

 

That is interesting, he seems to do a DYI approach to the transfer, no big name (price tag) film scanner and I am sure that is why it is cheaper. BUT the clips look great!

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Hi All,

 

I'm mostly out of the S8 loop, but I thought I should chime in with a new place I found in LA. www.Cinelicious.tv is new. He set up a Rank Cintel in his garage and transfers S8, 16 and 35 (2 perf, 4 perf, 'scope) direct to disc. I have seen some of his work and it looks excellent. I think because the equipment was just installed and calibrated it looks especially good. No extra charges for setting up for different heads or other baloney. $250/hr SD, and he has an interesting HD flavor at $375/hr. I think he is definitely worth a try.

 

I had some work done at Yale, and while they did a nice job, output formats were extremely limited and unsupervised transfers are the order of the day. Paul at Cinelicious is doing professional level work IMHO.

 

Bruce Taylor

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Does Yale no longer offer supervised sessions? I did not know that, too bad.

 

A few years back I used Cinepost in Atlanta, for an unsupervised session. They were great, easy to work with and good communicators. They are unique in that they have a wet gate.

 

Currently I am using Spectra for all my supervised super 8: Less expensive than Pro8mm by a lot, but the telecine equipment is about the same, both offer 10 4:2:2 uncompressed direct to hard drive telecine on USRA Diamonds. I have not used Pro8mm enough to compare their colorist to Doug at Spectra. If you are in LA give Spectra a try.

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Guest Rod Blackhurst

I'm going with CineLab in Fall River, MA on my next telecine order. They reached out to me here on the forum and so I'm going to give them a shot. Will let you all know how it goes!

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Best colorists for Super 8 I've ever worked with bar none are at Flying Spot Film Transfer in Seattle, WA.

 

I've used Pro8mm, Spectra, CinePost, CineLab, Debenham Media & Bonolabs for Super 8 also.

 

CinePost might be the best for the money... they are extremely reasonable and have good service.

 

You never know what you're going to get with Pro8mm. They must have an A & B team because I've had good transfers and really bad transfers from them. Now that they have a Millenium, I might try them again.

 

Spectra are the nicest guys around and try really hard but I'm not completely sold on their equipment.

 

Bonolabs... what can I say... have your crap together because the service there is not always the friendliest. Also, they give very neutral transfers and expect you to color correct.

 

Debenham Media; reasonable pricing decent quality.

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Best colorists for Super 8 I've ever worked with bar none are at Flying Spot Film Transfer in Seattle, WA.

 

I've used Pro8mm, Spectra, CinePost, CineLab, Debenham Media & Bonolabs for Super 8 also.

 

CinePost might be the best for the money... they are extremely reasonable and have good service.

 

You never know what you're going to get with Pro8mm. They must have an A & B team because I've had good transfers and really bad transfers from them. Now that they have a Millenium, I might try them again.

 

Spectra are the nicest guys around and try really hard but I'm not completely sold on their equipment.

 

Bonolabs... what can I say... have your crap together because the service there is not always the friendliest. Also, they give very neutral transfers and expect you to color correct.

 

Debenham Media; reasonable pricing decent quality.

 

I wouldn't overplay your hand, your description of Spectra is nonsensical.

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I wouldn't overplay your hand, your description of Spectra is nonsensical.

 

Nonsensical? Perhaps I should provide more detail.

 

I've had great conversations with them, they really love what they do and it shows. However, I've had transfers come back with over saturated color ghosts that I've never seen from other houses. On another transfer where there were dust balls on their gate, they re-transfered it for free and it was fine, but I wonder how something like that got through in the first place.

 

I would certainly use them for their stocks over Pro8mm any day.

 

Not trying to overplay my hand, just sharing experiences as was asked. Take what you want from it. Every telecine house can have a bad day and good days. FSFT is the only one that I've seen have consistently good days after 4 or 5 transfers with them.

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It's a good idea to give more details. The reason I would not downgrade them so much is they started with a significant investment in processing, camera repair, and transfer services and they continue to reinvest a significant part of any income back into their company. I hope it's not considered a bad thing to reinvest into ones own company. Unfortunately someone could perceive reinvesting as being a bad thing, "Aha, see, they didn't have the right gear so they had to reinvest!" :unsure:

 

Keep in mind that some companies might just squeeze every last dollar and put it in their pocket rather than reinvesting it.

 

My transfers from Spectra have been fine by the way.

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...if color, image stability and reduced grain are important to you I recommend www.fsft.com. They can also xfer super 8 at 1080p if you need that.

 

...for low-budget www.posthouse.com. Fast turn around time and wet-gate for older films that have been projected

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Spectra are the nicest guys around and try really hard but I'm not completely sold on their equipment.

 

Strange you should say this. I've used Flying Spot Film Transfer and had inferior resuts to Spectra. I found images at Spectra to be more crisp with amazing color. So, I guess results can vary. And, prehaps our shooting skills, equipment and exposure come into play as well.

 

I would still use either facility for a job since they both produce the best results around. However, I normally go with Spectra because they have better rates and do a great job.

 

You may also want to know that Alex is correct. Spectra puts back most of what they make into a better facility. They recently just put in an URSA Diamond and 10 bit hard drive system. So, their equipment is quite good.

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Strange you should say this. I've used Flying Spot Film Transfer and had inferior resuts to Spectra. I found images at Spectra to be more crisp with amazing color. So, I guess results can vary. And, prehaps our shooting skills, equipment and exposure come into play as well.

 

I would still use either facility for a job since they both produce the best results around. However, I normally go with Spectra because they have better rates and do a great job.

 

You may also want to know that Alex is correct. Spectra puts back most of what they make into a better facility. They recently just put in an URSA Diamond and 10 bit hard drive system. So, their equipment is quite good.

 

Spectra has a super-8 V3 Gate. These gates are extremely expensive (as much as a digital betacam deck) and extremely rare as they are custom made. Besides offering a steadying effect on super-8 transfers, the V3 gate also allows more of the tube to be used to scan the super-8 image.

 

Interestingly enough back in the late 80's, early 90's there was a huge market for video graphic artists who would design individual video frames. These artists would enlarge individual elements of the frame so they could do more precise shading around letters and so on. In essence they were able to do more precise work by enlarging the image. The V-3 is using a similar method, by using more of the tube to scan the image it allows the colorist to do more color correction and sharpness adjusting.

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flying spot is tops. We recently transfered a batch of ektachrome S8 for the end title sequence of a 35mm feature with them and they did a great job.

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I in no way want to discourage use of Spectra. As I said, they are great people and back their work. I just had a few problems. One that they fixed, one that I had FSFT fix. Their stocks are great and I'd bet their camera service is great too.

 

A URSA Diamond, however good the gate, is not going to give the same results as a Shadow if the other factors are equal in my opinion. The fact that they get as good results as they have for other users is a testiment to their colorists and skill. Not that money is always a good way to judge, but a $120,000 URSA Diamond (+super 8 gate cost) vs. a $400,000+ Shadow (+super 8 gate cost) might say something.

 

A Y-Front modification to a Diamond seems to make a major difference. I use another telecine house for 16mm that has a well maintained Y-Front and I've always mean amazed at the results. Those ad another 50% to the cost of a URSA Diamond.

 

 

So, I guess results can vary. And, prehaps our shooting skills, equipment and exposure come into play as well.

Generally, my shooting equally sucks across most of my work so at least I have a decent baseline for comparision. As far as between shooters, color is a personal preference of course. The only thing that wouldn't be subjective would be noise levels and something like an analog video color flare (which is something I experienced with Spectra).

 

The premise of the entire discussion is flawed in that almost no one can give a truely qualified, formally tested review of these telecine labs. All we can do is share experiences. Sending test patterns and color charts would be a good idea. Perhaps a Super 8 magazine will step up for the challenge and do a really scientific study along with several subject opinions.

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...I second the recommendation of Justin Lovell at Frame Discreet. He puts heart and soul into the work he does and is on the leading edge of workprinter telecine. I've been to Frame Discreet in Toronto - Justin has a pro set up and is fun to work with. His black and white negative transfers have a distinct and beautiful look that I've never seen achieved by any other.

 

 

FSFT in Seattle also has the expensive super8 gate that Alessandro is talking about on their Grass Valley Shadow.

 

Steve

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FSFT in Seattle also has the expensive super8 gate that Alessandro is talking about on their Grass Valley Shadow.

 

Steve

 

Actually, FSFT does not have the more costly V3 gate that Spectra has. Spectra is the only company in the US to own such a gate.

 

Like most houses I would guess FSFT has a 16mm converted gate or a factory built gate (better than a converted gate). Since they produce a decent pictire, I would assume they have a factory version super 8 gate (built as a super 8 gate from the ground up).

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The premise of the entire discussion is flawed in that almost no one can give a truely qualified, formally tested review of these telecine labs. All we can do is share experiences. Sending test patterns and color charts would be a good idea. Perhaps a Super 8 magazine will step up for the challenge and do a really scientific study along with several subject opinions.

 

This is true. With so many pro labs performing telecine I'm surprised one of the S8 mags hasn't looked into this. I know Super-8 Today reviewed processing by several of the labs in a past issue but testing out all of the labs for telecine quality would make sense. Jurgen? Chis? You guys around?

 

On a personal note, I think Spectra did a great job with my film -- but I've blabbed about them already many times.

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The premise of the entire discussion is flawed in that almost no one can give a truely qualified, formally tested review of these telecine labs. All we can do is share experiences. Sending test patterns and color charts would be a good idea.

 

I disagree, its not flawed at all. Honestly in the film and television industry experience, price, quality of the staff are the things that we look at when choosing a lab, its not like someone at the production looks at a chart or technical specs from the telecine! We look at the colorists at each lab and the work they have done before, when we find a colorist we like we stick with 'em. Its a big mistake to think that the choice of lab is or should be based more on technical / engineering aspects. Yes is part of the formula, but its the colorist that has a much greater impact on the look of the show.

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