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super 8mm telecine labs review

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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.

 

 

Qualitative reasoning. Yes - I totally agree....

 

 

On the technical side - I may be wrong about the FSFT gate - I do know that they are not using a modified 16mm gate. They are using something that was manufactured specifically for Super8mm

 

 

 

 

Steve

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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.

That's why I added that a review should include opinions along with technical aspects. The only issues I had with Spectra were of a technical nature so I skewed my comments towards that. The color wasn't bad. I absolutely agree that the colorist is the most important part of the equation. A good colorist can pull out amazing work on crappy equipment but they are still limited by that equipment.

 

Send the same piece of well shot film with head shots and landscapes to all the labs for subjective opinions and include a few test patterns as well for quantitative comparison.

 

But with all the discussion about Spectra having a special "super gate" I just don't see some sort of incredible quality boost technically even though the color is fine.

 

For 16mm I have one person I use at a local telecine house and always get the results I'm looking for. Unfortunately they don't do Super 8.

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The only issues I had with Spectra were of a technical nature so I skewed my comments towards that.

 

Which is only fair.

 

But with all the discussion about Spectra having a special "super gate" I just don't see some sort of incredible quality boost technically even though the color is fine.

 

Several of the Super 8 labs advertise their gates, it seems to be a thing in the super 8 world. I admit to being a little clueless in that regard. I don't know how big a difference a gate can make in terms of the overall quality of a job. I see the gate as a bit of equipment that is working properly when you don't know its there.

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Several of the Super 8 labs advertise their gates, it seems to be a thing in the super 8 world. I admit to being a little clueless in that regard. I don't know how big a difference a gate can make in terms of the overall quality of a job. I see the gate as a bit of equipment that is working properly when you don't know its there.

 

Without someone personally flying out to each telecine lab, sitting with the colorist and the same piece of film I don't see how the results we seek can be 100% conclusive.

 

That's why I think the next best thing would be for one of the magazine editors to anonymously send in the same piece of film with specific instructions to the labs and request a scene-by-scene transfer. Even that wouldn't be 100% conclusive but the results would be interesting indeed.

Edited by Charles Doran

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Without someone personally flying out to each telecine lab, sitting with the colorist and the same piece of film I don't see how the results we seek can be 100% conclusive.

 

That's why I think the next best thing would be for one of the magazine editors to anonymously send in the same piece of film with specific instructions to the labs and request a scene-by-scene transfer. Even that wouldn't be 100% conclusive but the results would be interesting indeed.

 

What I am getting at is the idea that there is no such thing as 100% conclusive comparison between labs. It is, and should be, a subjective evaluation. Too often people in the super 8 world get caught up in the technical details to the point that they stray from the real world. Rather than trying to come up with a quantitative evaluation of something that can't be quantitatively measured super 8 film makers should go to different labs for supervised session and share their experiences. Telecine is a creative process and you can't quantify that, all we can do is measure the difference between what we hoped to achieve and what we actually achieve.

 

If a magazine editor were to send some film in I hope they would NOT do so anonymously. I would hope they would tell the labs what they were up to in a "show us what you can do" spirit. and let each lab create a variety of looks for the same scene.

 

One of the things that mags such as Small Format and Super 8 Today seem to be into is educating less experienced filmmakers. Showing the variety of looks that can be achieved on a single piece of film and an interview with the colorists on how and why they did what they did would be good for the labs and educational to readers. It could help the readers learn what can be done and the proper language to use to describe different elements of timing.

 

Back to the point about the colorist being the most important element. For those less experienced in telecine here are some important things to consider:

 

1- Communication with colorist- did they listen and understand what you wanted? Also were they pleasant, and if they didn't understand what you wanted did they ask helpful questions? Did the colorist ever try to "sell" you on something that you didn't like?

 

2- Colorist's speed- how quickly did they achieve the right look, could they quickly set up and manipulate power windows when necessary? Was the room set-up and ready to go when you arrived for your session?

 

3- Problem solving- Did the colorist have good solutions for shots you felt needed changing such as areas of the frame being to bright and leading the eye away from the action, or colors in a shot not turning out as you had wanted and needing to be altered?

 

4- Colorists attention to details- did the colorist keep checking back to make sure the shots in a scene will all cut together smoothly. Was the colorist able to spot problems that you didn't see at first?

 

Naturally, all these are predicated you the filmmaker going into a session knowing what they want and being able to communicate that in terms that a colorists will understand.

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What I am getting at is the idea that there is no such thing as 100% conclusive comparison between labs. It is, and should be, a subjective evaluation.

 

Which is what I stated clearly. There is no way you can have a 100% conclusive comparison.

 

If a magazine editor were to send some film in I hope they would NOT do so anonymously. I would hope they would tell the labs what they were up to in a "show us what you can do" spirit. and let each lab create a variety of looks for the same scene.

 

You seem to be mistaking the word "anonymous" for the term "failing to let the lab know what you want."

 

By "anonymous" I simply meant that the magazine editor instruct the lab (using as much instruction as they can) on how to telecine a certain piece of film. And not let the lab know that it is being sent by Super-8 Today or Smallfilm. You cannot tell me that Pro 8mm, upon learning that the editors of a mag are conducting this test would not give a little extra effort to making sure that this piece of film be given the best colorist, the best care? In a perfect world, the best attention would be given to anyone, whether it's Oliver Stone or Joe high school student saving his pennies for a telecine. That's not the case -- hence the need for anonymous testing.

 

One of the things that mags such as Small Format and Super 8 Today seem to be into is educating less experienced filmmakers. Showing the variety of looks that can be achieved on a single piece of film and an interview with the colorists on how and why they did what they did would be good for the labs and educational to readers. It could help the readers learn what can be done and the proper language to use to describe different elements of timing.

 

I don't disagree with you there. As a matter of fact I'm going to be conducting an interview for Super-8 Today with Doug from Spectra within (hopefully) the next few weeks. Since Pro8mm had their say (in an interview/article conducted by the owner's wife!) I thought it would be cool idea to go thru the telecine process with Doug and talk about the various aspects of their lab. I learned quite a bit from the many sessions we did for my film.

 

Regardless, I still think there is validity in doing a "blind taste test" amongst certain labs regarding their telecine.

Edited by Charles Doran

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Which is what I stated clearly. There is no way you can have a 100% conclusive comparison.

 

perhaps I miss-read you but I took you to be lamenting the fact that one can't do a quantitative comparison, whereas I reject the very idea of such a comparison.

 

You seem to be mistaking the word "anonymous" for the term "failing to let the lab know what you want."

 

Not at all, its my opinion that if a Mag is going to do such a thing they should be totally above board with it and tell the labs whats going on.

 

You cannot tell me that Pro 8mm, upon learning that the editors of a mag are conducting this test would not give a little extra effort to making sure that this piece of film be given the best colorist, the best care?

 

As I understand it they only have one colorist, and as you know Spectra only has one colorist, same goes for Yale and just about all the Super 8 labs, so that's a moot point. Again, since it's a subjective test let all the labs treat the film in the way they consider "best", what ever that means for them.

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Not at all, its my opinion that if a Mag is going to do such a thing they should be totally above board with it and tell the labs whats going on.

 

Why? What is wrong with the idea of a "blind taste test comparison? Why do you think products get compared and tested all the time? While I am repeating once again that the results would not be 100% conclusive I can't think of any other way -- other than the editors paying an anonymous writer to fly out personally to get a scene-for-scene supervised transfer -- for a non-biased, impartial test.

 

As I understand it they only have one colorist, and as you know Spectra only has one colorist, same goes for Yale and just about all the Super 8 labs, so that's a moot point. Again, since it's a subjective test let all the labs treat the film in the way they consider "best", what ever that means for them.

 

But at "best" is not what is being performed for the average Joe Blow -- the point of my last post. Oliver Stone may get the "best" treatment but would you or I? That is the point. According to Doug at Spectra, Pro 8mm did have more than one colorist and I believe Yale does or at least did when I went there for my telecine two and a half years ago. But that's not the point.

 

Have you observed a colorist in action, Doug? Do you honestly think that Phil V. upon learning that this is a test being conducted for a Super-8 mag would allow one of his lesser-talented colorists to work on a piece of film knowing that the results would be published for all to see? Of course not.

 

My point is simple -- have a magazine mail out 200 feet of the same film to each lab with specific instructions for a scene-for-scene telecine. Publish the results. Super-8 Today did something like this with the 64T processing. This could be a valuable way to see how labs perform at random.

Edited by Charles Doran

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I think the blind taste test method is better. However the additional issue that this brings up is how does one describe the job they want done? Is it a one-light? A 2-1 or 3-1 time ratio? If the lab knows it's for a test they will just spend more time on it.

 

A transfer house could easily spend 3-5 hours on a one hour transfer if they really wanted to get every knook and cranny optimized. Yet most people don't want to pay more than 2-1, maybe 3-1 of facility time to amount of film footage being transferred.

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Why? What is wrong with the idea of a "blind taste test comparison? Why do you think products get compared and tested all the time? While I am repeating once again that the results would not be 100% conclusive I can't think of any other way -- other than the editors paying an anonymous writer to fly out personally to get a scene-for-scene supervised transfer -- for a non-biased, impartial test.

 

1) Because as I've mentioned previously I don't think you are seeking to achieve the right goal.

2) A lab is not a product like dishwashing soap. Labs are run by people, the results we get are based on individual efforts and relationships. As a Post Super (that's someone who works professionally in post production and works with labs on a daily basis) I think its its wrong to not tell a lab what you and doing and why you are doing it. That is something I would never do. But I'm just a professional what the hell do I know?

 

 

But at "best" is not what is being performed for the average Joe Blow -- the point of my last post. Oliver Stone may get the "best" treatment but would you or I? That is the point.

 

No its not the point, any lab worth its salt will do a great job for all its clients. The fact is that no lab wants to get the reputation of providing better service to some clients than others. To do so is just asking for trouble and unhappy clients taking their money elsewhere. Why on Earth would anyone go back to a lab if they thought they were not getting that lab's best efforts? I sure as hell wouldn't darken the doorway twice of a lab that I thought didn't do a good job.

 

I speak from personal and professional experience that I have seen both small labs and the top labs in Hollywood give great service to tiny projects, to "joe blow." Now, what one could say and it would be correct is that a lab will try to live up to the expectations of the client. If a client does not know much, they will not ask much or communicate their desires very well to the lab. So at that point the lab / colorist will probably not do very much because they don't know what would be best for that client. This is why the educational aspect of an article would be important, if a article was published with many different stills of different looks, then a reader could refer to those stills as a way of expressing what they want to a lab. We could also say that the QC aspects of a lab can be quantified and that is an important aspect to consider.

 

Have you observed a colorist in action, Doug?

 

Who me? Gee, let me think? Huuummmm . . . have I ever seen a colorist in action? Well, does the fact that sitting in on color sessions is part of my job count? Some of the labs I've done color sessions at are: Fotokem, Modern, Spectra, Yale, Pro 8mm, Technicolor, Post Works LA, Laser Pacific, Match Frame, Encore, Cinepost, etc. I've seen color on everything from FCP to the Luster. So yea I guess I have observed a colorist in action, and when I'm not doing it on personal projects I actually get paid to observe colorists in action imagine that. And you?

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1) Because as I've mentioned previously I don't think you are seeking to achieve the right goal.

 

You have a right to think what you like but the only goal I'm "seeking" is what would be the simplest way to achieve a comparison between labs. You don't comment on the Super-8 Today article comparing 64T -- that was a good -- though hardly perfect -- way to let the Super-8 community quickly ascertain which labs would do the best job in processing this specific film stock.

 

2) A lab is not a product like dishwashing soap. Labs are run by people, the results we get are based on individual efforts and relationships. As a Post Super (that's someone who works professionally in post production and works with labs on a daily basis) I think its its wrong to not tell a lab what you and doing and why you are doing it. That is something I would never do. But I'm just a professional what the hell do I know?

 

You seem to be taking knee-jerk offense that a lowly filmmaker like myself would dare to contradict you, Doug. Do you think it was wrong for Super-8 Today to not let the labs know that they were conducting a blind test on the 64T processing?

 

No its not the point, any lab worth its salt will do a great job for all its clients. The fact is that no lab wants to get the reputation of providing better service to some clients than others.

 

Really? then you obviously have been turning a blind eye to the unhappy results people on this forum and filmshooting.com have had with Pro8mm, Yale and other labs.

 

To do so is just asking for trouble and unhappy clients taking their money elsewhere. Why on Earth would anyone go back to a lab if they thought they were not getting that lab's best efforts? I sure as hell wouldn't darken the doorway twice of a lab that I thought didn't do a good job.

 

I think you are unaware of the fact that there are simply not that many Super-8 telecine labs out there. While I don't doubt that on paper many of the professional labs you speak of work this way, I think the reality of the situation is that there are Super-8 labs that would attempt to work harder on a telecine project if they knew the results would be revealed in an internationally-read magazine.

 

I speak from personal and professional experience that I have seen both small labs and the top labs in Hollywood give great service to tiny projects, to "joe blow." Now, what one could say and it would be correct is that a lab will try to live up to the expectations of the client. If a client does not know much, they will not ask much or communicate their desires very well to the lab. So at that point the lab / colorist will probably not do very much because they don't know what would be best for that client. This is why the educational aspect of an article would be important, if a article was published with many different stills of different looks, then a reader could refer to those stills as a way of expressing what they want to a lab. We could also say that the QC aspects of a lab can be quantified and that is an important aspect to consider.

 

Well I'm glad to hear that. But there is nothing in the above paragraph that contradicts what I have stated. Many of the Super-8 shooters out there are not able to be present for a telecine session. Not everyone is lucky enough to live in a metropolitan area like ourselves. The idea behind the article would be to send in 200 feet to different labs with specific instructions for the colorist. I never said it would be perfect. I stated (again and again) that, of course it would be helpful if the writer were to be able to sit in on supervised sessions and communicate their goals directly to the colorist. The fact of the matter is that I seriously doubt that either editor/publisher would want to foot the bill for this.

 

Who me? Gee, let me think? Huuummmm . . . have I ever seen a colorist in action?

 

Obviously I've touched a nerve here..sorry to have offended a pro like you (no sarcasm intended).

 

The bottom line is that I feel you are equating far more professional-type projects (maybe I should state "larger gauge" projects) with Super-8 filmmaking. Not that Super-8 can't look professional or isn't being used professionally but, as stated before, in my observation and from reading and talking with others there are:

 

a.) far fewer telecine options for the S8-specific filmmaker -- hence the article that could be helpful

b.) some labs that do not take smaller clients as seriously as larger ones. That is my opinion and also reflects the observation from many S8-filmmakers I have interacted with. Obviously your Super-8-specific telecine experience differs. I am not contradicting it, only stating what I have experienced both personally (had a terrible experience with both Pro8mm arrogance and Yale incompetence) and from interactions with many other S8-specific shooters.

Edited by Charles Doran

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You seem to be taking knee-jerk offense that a lowly filmmaker like myself would dare to contradict you, Doug. Do you think it was wrong for Super-8 Today to not let the labs know that they were conducting a blind test on the 64T processing?

 

Not knee-jerk offense, I just think your perspective is not well informed, honestly beyond your work on Westsider how many color session have you supervised and at what different labs have you done them? I was forthcoming about my level of experience - I deal with labs almost daily- wasn't I? As for the 64T test, I think the labs should have been informed, its only fair.

 

Then you obviously have been turning a blind eye to the unhappy results people on this forum and filmshooting.com have had with Pro8mm, Yale and other labs.

 

I know very well that these small labs have had many unhappy customers. At times I have been one of them. The mistake you are making is to simply blame the labs. To be sure there are some things that are the lab's fault. Customer service, roller marks on the film, dirty soup, and other problems are 100% the lab's fault, that is a no brainer.

 

On the other hand many of the complaints I hear are often caused by the client's lack of knowledge, lack of experience, or lack of ability to communicate with a lab, or they shot crappy footage and the lab couldn't fix it. Folks end up blaming the lab because they just don't know any better. There are other complaints such as pricing and poor customer service but those are different issues than currently under discussion. I for one have gotten very poor front desk customer service (from a brand new staff person) and very good telecine treatment from the same lab on the same day.

 

I think you are unaware of the fact that there are simply not that many Super-8 telecine labs out there. While I don't doubt that on paper many of the professional labs you speak of work this way, I think the reality of the situation is that there are Super-8 labs that would attempt to work harder on a telecine project if they knew the results would be revealed in an internationally-read magazine.

 

1) I know better than most how many super 8 labs are out there and as I mentioned I have worked repeatedly with several of them.

 

2) The second part of what you write does not make that much sense. A lab can only put in extra effort if they have a well defined instruction from the client, further in many cases extra effort won't make any difference. If I take well exposed footage to a lab for an unsupervised session and the instructions are to time it down the middle for the greatest flexibility in a final color pass what extra effort do you think they are going to put in exactly? The results for the labs will be slightly different but its not the kind of thing that hours of tweeking will have much of an impact on.

 

Again you are going about things the wrong way. Here is why. If all the labs in our fantasy test do their very best, and a mag publishes those results. Then as a reader, If I see what a lab considers their own "best" work I can request that level / type of work from them in the future. If it costs more than I can afford then I can discuss what can be done on my budget. Its a good place to start the discussion with the lab concerning how they are going to work with me and my project. Its a win-win situation. Further, in the long run it will actually mean the labs will have to work more consistently at a high level (if for some reason they weren't already.) IF the labs can show us their "best" work and then we know what to ask for because we seen the "best" work, that's the world we should be living in.

 

What you are proposing is that the labs should not be able to show what they can do, or they should show us their middle of the road work, or we should see what their equipment can do with little human effort. which makes no sense.

 

As a filmmaker I don't care if its a supervised or unsupervised session I want the most definitive way to tell the lab "this is what I want."

 

I think what you have been advocating is primarily a technical test which is unnecessary. We already know that SDI signal routing is better than composite signal routing. We already know that going to Digibeta is better than going to minidv. We already know that the shadow, Spirit and Diamond, are better than a standard rank. We already know that a wet gate diminishes the appearances of scratches, etc etc etc. As I see it the technical side is basically a series of known quantities, until the point where new technology is introduced. In situations where the technical stuff get close, say the difference between DVCAM and BetaSP a technical test will not tell us anything. The difference is marginal and certainly will not show up in stills published in a mag. The printing process having a greater impact on the appearance of the stills than the difference between the video media in question.

 

The difference between us is that you seem to think the labs are basically not to be trusted. I think the lab is potentially my best friend and will do what I can to make that the case.

 

Obviously I've touched a nerve here..sorry to have offended a pro like you (no sarcasm intended).

 

You have not offended me at all. My point is that relative experience levels matter. I have far more experience dealing with all different types of labs than you do and can say with with total confidence that communication skills & style, experience, knowing exactly what you want, and budget are the most important aspects of getting the aesthetic results one wants from a lab. In the end what its about is the aesthetic results. That is why I'm so vocal in saying your idea for a test is a poor one. As proposed it simply does not address the most important factors or help educate filmmakers as to the various potentials that are available.

 

 

The bottom line is that I feel you are equating far more professional-type projects (maybe I should state "larger gauge" projects) with Super-8 filmmaking.

 

You sound like Alex M. now. Look I have about the same level of experience working on low budget non-professional as I do high budget professional project. However, working on such a variety of projects and having spent a good amount of time in different labs I have learned over time how to communicate with labs and I know what to expect from them in different situations based on the budget, and media in question.

 

b.) some labs that do not take smaller clients as seriously as larger ones.

 

How do you know for sure that size is the issue? What is involved in this seriousness?

 

only stating what I have experienced both personally (had a terrible experience with both Pro8mm arrogance and Yale incompetence) and from interactions with many other S8-specific shooters.

 

You tone is so negative, you really act as if labs are out to get small filmmakers. You are willing to bad mouth two labs in one sentence! Are we to be surprised that you have gotten results that you were unhappy with?

 

Regarding telecine, (since that is the topic at hand) I should mention that I have gotten very good work out of both Pro 8 and Yale on small projects.

 

In the end we agree that an article or articles concerning labs and telecine would be a good thing for the mags to do. But I want the labs to show us great work and the readers / filmmakers to learn how to ask for it and get that level of work on their own projects. Where as you think labs are the enemy and need to be tricked, and won't give good work to small filmmakers anyway so what's the point.

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For those in the UK I can recommend The Widescreen Centre telecine in London. Nice bright colours, and at £15 per roll the price isn't bad (for the UK!) for scene by scene colour corrected transfer.

 

There's also Todd-AO in London whom I haven't tried, as they're expensive £40 for neg processing and telecine or £50 for stock, process and telecine.

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Not knee-jerk offense, I just think your perspective is not well informed, honestly beyond your work on Westsider how many color session have you supervised and at what different labs have you done them? I was forthcoming about my level of experience - I deal with labs almost daily- wasn't I? As for the 64T test, I think the labs should have been informed, its only fair.

 

I disagree. If labs are expected to be as professional to all as you claimed in a previous post then why can't viewers/readers judge a company's work in a blind test? As for my experience, I don't claim to be a pro -- I've had 3 short films and a wedding telecined. I guess in your world that makes me a lackey but as far as I know I'm still entitled to an opinion.

 

I know very well that these small labs have had many unhappy customers. At times I have been one of them. The mistake you are making is to simply blame the labs. To be sure there are some things that are the lab's fault. Customer service, roller marks on the film, dirty soup, and other problems are 100% the lab's fault, that is a no brainer.

 

As I stated before there is no way such testing could be 100% conclusive. It would only be a start to allow those without access or money for a supervised transfer to judge the merits of a telecine facility.

 

On the other hand many of the complaints I hear are often caused by the client's lack of knowledge, lack of experience, or lack of ability to communicate with a lab, or they shot crappy footage and the lab couldn't fix it. Folks end up blaming the lab because they just don't know any better. There are other complaints such as pricing and poor customer service but those are different issues than currently under discussion. I for one have gotten very poor front desk customer service (from a brand new staff person) and very good telecine treatment from the same lab on the same day.

 

I have never disputed any of this and I'm not sure how this would end up in any final testing. In my proposed article, I would assume we would get pro footage rather than "crappy" -- so that would not be an issue.

 

2) The second part of what you write does not make that much sense.

 

Really? This is what I wrote:

 

<<I think the reality of the situation is that there are Super-8 labs that would attempt to work harder on a telecine project if they knew the results would be revealed in an internationally-read magazine>>

 

A lab can only put in extra effort if they have a well defined instruction from the client, further in many cases extra effort won't make any difference. If I take well exposed footage to a lab for an unsupervised session and the instructions are to time it down the middle for the greatest flexibility in a final color pass what extra effort do you think they are going to put in exactly? The results for the labs will be slightly different but its not the kind of thing that hours of tweeking will have much of an impact on.

 

Yet there are plenty of people who have written in to give horror stories about how wretched their telecine transfers are. I would like to think that most of these people who have written about their poor telecine jobs are not complete idiots. Scour the archives and you will find them.

 

If all the labs in our fantasy test do their very best, and a mag publishes those results. Then as a reader, If I see what a lab considers their own "best" work I can request that level / type of work from them in the future.

 

Let's try a different analogy here -- if Channel 4 brings in a car to different auto service stations to compare how well the mechanics work on their car do you not think that if the mechanic (or owner) knows in advance that this is going to be written up in the paper they would try their hardest to do the best job? That's why "blind testing" is done -- not just in products but in services all the time. Kaiser Permanente, for instance, actually polices itself by having an "anonymous" employee seek out treatment and testing to see how well the employee is treated, type of service, equipment used, etc. If the supervisor knew exactly which employee was going to be coming in, don't you think that they would be given better treatment?

 

IF the labs can show us their "best" work and then we know what to ask for because we seen the "best" work, that's the world we should be living in.

 

But do you honestly think that all labs would respond this way? Not to sound cynical but does stating "that's the world we should be living in" make it so?

 

next post, please...

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What you are proposing is that the labs should not be able to show what they can do, or they should show us their middle of the road work, or we should see what their equipment can do with little human effort. which makes no sense.

 

That's not what I'm stating at all. You ignored what I wrote previously where I stated that part of the point of this testing would be to allow filmmakers who do not have access or funds to supervise scene-for-scene transfers of their work to see how well different labs would perform given similar footage and instruction. That's it.

 

The difference between us is that you seem to think the labs are basically not to be trusted. I think the lab is potentially my best friend and will do what I can to make that the case.

 

Not necessarily. I simply think that blind testing would be conducive for the filmmaker -- flaws and all.

 

I have far more experience dealing with all different types of labs than you do and can say with with total confidence that communication skills & style, experience, knowing exactly what you want, and budget are the most important aspects of getting the aesthetic results one wants from a lab.

 

<sigh> I understand what you are stating. I'm not an idiot. Go back to the OP and the follow-up posts. Not everyone is a pro like yourself who has the "communications skills &style, experience" etc., in dealing with these labs. There are many people who are willing to mail in their footage to a lab with the hopes that they can get a telecine which would match their needs. The original posters had different opinions on different labs based upon their footage. These are the people who I think would benefit from such testing.

 

In the end what its about is the aesthetic results. That is why I'm so vocal in saying your idea for a test is a poor one. As proposed it simply does not address the most important factors or help educate filmmakers as to the various potentials that are available.

 

But if the original posters are interested in getting information based upon the performance of a lab's services how can a magazine's test results be any worse than another poster's opinion?

 

You sound like Alex M. now.

 

I've been pretty civil and polite - no reason to be so insulting! ;)

 

Look I have about the same level of experience working on low budget non-professional as I do high budget professional project. However, working on such a variety of projects and having spent a good amount of time in different labs I have learned over time how to communicate with labs and I know what to expect from them in different situations based on the budget, and media in question.

 

Good. For. You. Again, not everyone who is seeking this information is a pro like you with time on their hand or the knowledge to know exactly what to say to each lab. Perhaps you should write an article for one of the mags which would help people with this.

 

You tone is so negative, you really act as if labs are out to get small filmmakers. You are willing to bad mouth two labs in one sentence! Are we to be surprised that you have gotten results that you were unhappy with?

 

While I may fail to have the Pollyanna-esque tone of your writing, my intent hardly reflects the Paranoid-brush you paint me with. I have written repeatedly in this forum and elsewhere of the positive experiences I've had with Spectra.

 

In the end we agree that an article or articles concerning labs and telecine would be a good thing for the mags to do.

 

Yes.

 

But I want the labs to show us great work and the readers / filmmakers to learn how to ask for it and get that level of work on their own projects. Where as you think labs are the enemy and need to be tricked, and won't give good work to small filmmakers anyway so what's the point.

 

<sigh> Again, you are missing my intent and appear to be running with the paranoid "if you don't agree with everything I state you are the enemy" attitude which is something more akin to the previously-mentioned Alex M. than the pro you've been in the past. Nothing would make me happier than to see great telecine work done by all labs. My only concern is that if a lab knows that there is a "taste-test" comparision the results may be skewed. This is why blind testing is done not only in products but in services. Nothing can possibly be 100% conclusive. All I'm stating is that it could be a good start.

 

best regards,

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spectra film and video. I have never had a problem with their work, the colorist will sit on the phone chatting for hours if you want, and they will guard your film like it was a live baby.

 

jm-k :ph34r:

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why can't viewers/readers judge a company's work in a blind test?

 

Because nobody's going to pony up the cash for it? :)

 

Too bad, because you're right - blind test is the only way for the average low budget S8 shooter to get a broad idea of service levels lab to lab.

 

If a facility knows it's being tested, of course they're going to be on their best behaviour. Here's the thing - there's no reason to tell them it's a test, because that's irrelevant; all the labs are supposed to be on their best behaviour all the time.

 

Mitch

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Because nobody's going to pony up the cash for it? :)

 

Too bad, because you're right - blind test is the only way for the average low budget S8 shooter to get a broad idea of service levels lab to lab.

 

If a facility knows it's being tested, of course they're going to be on their best behaviour. Here's the thing - there's no reason to tell them it's a test, because that's irrelevant; all the labs are supposed to be on their best behaviour all the time.

 

Mitch

 

It's not that easy because it also depends on how much money the client has to spend. Other issues come into play as well. The super cheap client that uses 6 year old film they saved a few bucks on may cause a transfer facility heartaches trying to get it to look halfway decent. How many people who purchased such old film for an important shoot will then be willing to pay double in transfer costs to make it look as close to normal as possible?

 

What about "rookie" mistakes that result in much more difficult shots to transfer and get a decent image from?

The transfer facility may invest extra time in a new client trying to both help them and educate them, yet that customer may or may not exhibit loyalty to them in the future.

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It's not that easy because it also depends on how much money the client has to spend.

 

The "client" in the blind test would have the money required for processing and a one-light transfer of one roll each of negative and reversal film. That's one way of setting it out...

 

Other issues come into play as well. The super cheap client that uses 6 year old film they saved a few bucks on may cause a transfer facility heartaches trying to get it to look halfway decent.

 

The test would not be conducted using 6 year old film, unless it were a test of the sanity of the testers.

 

How many people who purchased such old film for an important shoot will then be willing to pay double in transfer costs to make it look as close to normal as possible?

 

Seven or eight, nine tops. But that hasn't much at all to do with a blind test of labs...

 

What about "rookie" mistakes that result in much more difficult shots to transfer and get a decent image from?

 

Sure, throw in some rookie mistakes (identical on each roll), and see how the labs handle them. Good idea.

 

The transfer facility may invest extra time in a new client trying to both help them and educate them, yet that customer may or may not exhibit loyalty to them in the future.

 

Now you've made me sad...

 

Mitch

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I am still wading through some past threads I missed-out on while away recently, and this one - started with great intentions - got a bit debate-ish. I think it has reasonably cooled down to contribute now:

 

Schmalfilm, the original German language mag of Smallformat, actually conducted a major test of both transfer houses in Germany in 2005/6 and E6 developement houses in 2007 across Europe & Americas.

 

The set-up for the test films in both tests was as exact as one can think of: filming test charts, and colour charts, plus real-life scenery shot with one camera over a as short a period of time as possible on well-lit hours of one day. Exact info for transfer or development where given as well.

 

Now, for the transfer house test only - a huge undertaking with three-digit-samples published over two issues of Schmalfilm - a specific methodology was set-up and also published: the films where sent with full acknowledgement to the transfer houses that these films were part of a test to be published in Schmalfilm. The evaluation criteria where given and a request was made to provide the transfer for free and/or include an exact invoice stating the overall costs required to cover the real-world expenditure a filmmaker would have had.

 

The methodology was controversial in some points: to ask editorially for a free transfer while acknowledging a semi-voluntary test participation sounds good and straight-forward, but can also lead to some lower-quality labs putting in some extra effort to get free adverts, while others did not want to be tested - after all, if you have a camcorder-projection set-up, how could this compare to a Rank transfer from a co-testee that isn't really a competitor to you, but has the same evaluation criteria in the test? Furthermore, if you don't participate, will readers think you are too coy to take part and hence fear a bad mark? So the original voluntarism could become a forced-to-participate thing after some reflection. Other companies just couldn't be bothered to work for free for a test in a mag they don't register on their radar and their customers (mostly hobbyists) no longer read or don't know at all...

 

In the end, many labs participarted, however, a sizeable number did not react at all or even declined to take part in such a test, as could've been deducted from analysing the methodology! So much for open participation and non-blind tests.

 

If the money would have been there, I am sure Schmalfilm would have prefered to conduct a blind test as this has the advantage of seeing how everyday work without potential extra treatment comes back - but that's alot of bucks.

Nota bene also that none of these transfer tests incorporated an observed colorists session - it was a one-light set-up. So you can't deduct the results one would get if you have an interaction with the colorist (cf. my next post below on UK houses) - which is what most serious S8 filmmakers here would want... I hope this demand for higher quality reporting will eventually register with the published mags - Super 8 Today clearly goes into this direction already due to its mainly US/UK readership base.

 

Of those labs who participated, some delivered very shoddy work (mostly projection-transfers with camcorders and stuff); some leading labs using Rank equipment got - to the surprise of some readers - rather bad marks whereas some companies that use a German-made transfer apparatus that was well-featured in previous issues and was also a sponsor of some events related to Schmalfilm got excellent marks, mainly due to marks in the quality:price ratios.

Some transfer houses objected to their bad marks after publication because they saw their simple DVD transfers compared to miniDV masters, while others where angry that it was not acknowledged that they offered multiple tiers of service, with a basic DVD package up to Beta SP, and that they chose to go for a low-cost transfer as the request by SF was for a free transfer, but then suddenly found themselves compared to companies that only offer higher-tier transfers.

 

So some aspects of this test where a bit controversial for all the wrong reasons because the editors did not tackle the technical issue of machinery used for the transfer as in-depth as necessary in today's world of Super 8 cinematography. But this had more to do with technical ineptitude from the editoral part rather than a flaw with the very-well-intended open test conditions outlined by Schmalfilm. I recall Mr Draser from Andec being particularly keen on corresponding in public to righten some technical aspects not elaborated on in the article as they deemed necessary (there had already been an earlier exchange between Andec and Schmalfilm after an article in Schmalfilm purveyed the impression that Andec's machinery was scrap-metal-ish - this misunderstanding was due to the lax and "could-be-read-as-pejorative" lingo Jürgen often loves to use in his German articles; the English translators do a sterling job at hiding this ;) )

 

For the next big test, the E6 one, no proper methodology was published, so one can only assume that this time the editors send out the films in a blind test paid by the mag itself. There weren't any published follow-up correspondences either, or indeed complaints; to my knowledge at least. Here, results came in pretty much as one would assume based on the size and reputation labs had gained over the past decade plus.

 

The tests can be downloaded for a fee at Schmalfilm's website. The E6 test was also published in Smallformat, I think - but not the transfer one. I doubt they will attempt to do that again after the heated after-effects...

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As already posted in another thread started by Alex about Vision2 processing labs and their reviews a while ago,

here are my points on the two leading London development and transfer houses:

 

 

In London and the United Kingdom:

 

Todd-AO in London's Camden Town.

 

The only lab in the UK that is developing Super 8 Vision2 negative film in-house. They are dedicated to the format, take it serious and have theatre- or broadcast standards. They claim a 24h turnaround, and with Royal Mail posting or delivery and all, it takes 48hours on average.

 

They also offer excellent telecine on Rank gear, and particularly their color-grading is the best available when it comes to a company serving the Super 8 format.

 

 

Widescreen Centre off London's Baker Street

 

The elderly owners of this shop are phantastic people, and it's the easiest way to buy a Super 8 cartridge or Super 8 equipment on the go. All things film are handled by Jake Astbury, a respected filmshooter and consultant.

 

They send the exposed cartridges off to Andec in Berlin, Germany - they are one of the many cooperative partners Andec has across many European countries.

 

Andec (like Todd-AO), is IMHO the only other professional lab in Europe you can trust pretty much blindly when it comes to Super 8 being respectfully treated on well-maintained and professional machinery.

If you are located in Germany or Switzerland, turnaround is pretty fast, within one week (development day is Thursday). They also uniquely offer S8-S8 contact prints and have a most excellent B&W service which stood tall when no lab in Germany other than ARRI and Geyer wanted to touch Black & White, let alone Super 8.

 

From the UK via Widescreen Centre, turnaround will take at least one week, if not 10 days.

 

Telecine is done at the Widescreen Centre, however, using Flashscan 8 machines. Obviously, that can't compete with Todd-AO's Ursa, but then again, they do it for less high prices!

From what I hear and have read in this very forum a year ago, color-grading is not the most inspired and is sometimes not that sophisticated to please demanding customers. Maybe that is because their consumer- & broadcast-clients seem to prefer the "corny nostalgic look" to their footage. I havn't used them, so I don't want to imply anything.

 

 

 

In total:

 

Both Todd-AO and Widescreen Centre offer a service suited to their distinct market segments, with Todd-AO having excellent all-in-house service and gear, and Widescreen Centre having an excellent cooperation with Andec in Berlin for development as well as a reasonably-priced Telecine.

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Charles,

don't get me wrong but I think there was no E6 processing test with different labs inside Super 8 Today. I ve seen nothing about that topic inside the mag of Chris. smallformat magazine did such a test - indeed. It was an expensive operation anyway. We had to tell the companies that we were doing a processing test because we could not afford to pay for all the processing expenses. The costs for the test (buying 20 cartridges E64T, shipping them across the world) were about Euro 1000/US $ 1500. This was the maximum for us.

 

The "Great E6 Test" was published in smallformat 2/2007. You will find it here:

 

http://smallformat.schiele-schoen.de/119/1..._THE_WORLD.html

 

Further articles will not published for free in the internet anymore. The editorial work and the research is expensive and our subscribers subsidized the internet users with their free access to the informations. In the future, we only give short summaries of new articles. The main stories are inside the printed version of smallformat magazine only.

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This is what I was thinking of:

Super-8 Today

ISSUE #4 (MAY/JUNE 2006)

Ektachrome 64T Lab Test - Results of 7 different labs that were each sent a cartridge of E-64T are examined

 

Charles,

don't get me wrong but I think there was no E6 processing test with different labs inside Super 8 Today. I ve seen nothing about that topic inside the mag of Chris. smallformat magazine did such a test - indeed. It was an expensive operation anyway. We had to tell the companies that we were doing a processing test because we could not afford to pay for all the processing expenses. The costs for the test (buying 20 cartridges E64T, shipping them across the world) were about Euro 1000/US $ 1500. This was the maximum for us.

 

The "Great E6 Test" was published in smallformat 2/2007. You will find it here:

 

http://smallformat.schiele-schoen.de/119/1..._THE_WORLD.html

 

Further articles will not published for free in the internet anymore. The editorial work and the research is expensive and our subscribers subsidized the internet users with their free access to the informations. In the future, we only give short summaries of new articles. The main stories are inside the printed version of smallformat magazine only.

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