Frequently Asked Questions

We'll do our best to address the most common questions. If we don't have what you're looking for, please contact us for personal service.

  • Why should I get my films digitised?

    While in many cases film has stood the test of time better than more recent formats like videotape, it is still continuously deteriorating.

    • Dye Fading

    • Mould

    • Water damage

    • Vinegar syndrome

    • Insect infestation

    • Dust, dirt & grime…

    …all these things can eventually degrade your film, or even ruin it forever.

    We have transferred film that dates back as far as the 30s, which is getting up towards 100 years old!. Once it is digitised all future deterioration is stopped dead in its tracks.

    We will have taken a sharp digital photo of each & every frame of your film, at a minimum of full high definition 1080p resolution - high enough resolution to clearly distinguish the film grain. The resulting future-proof full high definition video clip, while it can be enhanced, can now never deteriorate.

  • Why do you call your film transfer process "gentle"?

    Firstly, after cleaning your film and repairing any breaks, we lightly lubricate the film path, thereby minimising any friction during the transfer.

    Our state-of-the-art RetroScan Universal Mk2 4K film scanner (the same unit used by the Academy of Motion Picture Film Archives, in Hollywood) features a completely clawless film feed system. Because there's no claw to pull the film through the system there is no chance we can tear the film's sprocket holes.

    Finally the cold lamp LED illumination completely eliminates any risk of burning your film.

  • What resolution are your high definition film transfers?

    Our transfers are delivered as Full High Definition (1080p) as a minimum. We also scans and deliver at higher resolutions like 2K or 4K.

    Please note that we do not scan or deliver at standard definition, which we consider too low res considering there have been no standard def TVs available to buy for many years now. So if you're shopping around this is an important consideration, as there are many transfer houses still working at the archaic standard definition.

    By way of example, though most TVs sold today are at least 1080p or even higher resolution, Australian TV is currently broadcast at 720p. So the resolution we supply is significantly higher resolution than broadcast TV.

    Of course, the quality of the original film camera, (and the cameraman!) will affect what we see, along with whatever degradation has occurred throughout the years. But the necessary resolution for properly "future-proofing" your memories is there in our transfers.

  • Will my film be cleaned before it is digitised?

    Yes. Your film is cleaned as part of the process. However, some damage caused by mould and/or debris embedded in the film cannot be removed.

  • Can you improve the quality of my film?

    Yes, in some ways it is possible to improve the look, even if what we can do physically can be limited.

    Firstly we clean your film, so it looks it's best for scanning.

    Then there are a number of ways we could improve the quality once digitised - digital processing to reduce film grain, editing out poor quality segments, and correcting colour & fading (if not too far gone). Then we can add music, titles, sub-titles, and narration.

  • How can I tell how many feet of film I have?

    We have a minimum charge per reel, which covers the little 3 inch reels as received back from the lab, and for larger reels we charge by the actual footage, accurately counted out by our film transfer unit. We offer further discounts for very large reels of over 600ft capacity.

    But for your own rough calculations, film reels have markings on the side of the reel that roughly indicate the length.

    For 8mm or Super 8 the most common size is 3 inch reels. These hold 50 feet of film. The other common sizes are 5 inch reels holding up to 200 feet, and 7 inch reels holding up to 400 feet .

    Capacity and running time for 8mm film and Super 8 are:

    • 3 inch reel (50 feet) 3-4 mins
    • 5 inch reel (200 feet) approx 15 mins
    • 7 inch reel (400 feet) approx 25-35 mins

    Running time for 16mm will be very roughly half that of 8mm film or Super8.

  • If you find my film is broken, are you able to fix it?

    Yes. We quite often find that old movie film is broken when it arrives. RetroMedia will professionally "splice" (or repair) your broken movie film - without any loss of the home movie footage. There's no extra charge for this service.

    If there are any small orphaned pieces of film not on a reel, we'll need to place these onto a reel temporarily for the scanning to occur. Some extra prep charges may apply.

    Additionally, if we see mould on your film we'll need to clean that off (there will be a small extra charge for mouldy films). Sometimes the mould will not have caused any appreciable damage to the picture, but in other cases there may be some damage, especially to the edges of the picture caused by the mould actually eating the film emulsion. This type of damage unfortunately cannot be reversed.

  • Years ago we had our film converted to VHS. Should we give that to you, or the original film?

    If you still have the original movie films (reels) you would want to send us those for the highest quality conversion to digital. The difference in resulting quality will be enormous, because:

    (a) the VHS will normally have deteriorated more than the film over the same time period, and

    (b) the quality of our film transfer (High Def) will be many times higher than even the very best transfers to VHS, which is a low resolution format. In most cases the transfer technology was also very rudimentary & low quality compared to the frame-by-frame film scanning we do today.

    Truthfully, most transfers to VHS that we see these days are pretty bad, usually having been produced by projecting the picture on a wall and shooting that picture with a VHS camcorder.

    They are really low quality/low resolution the whole way. Usually they will have:

    • A dark & soft picture

    • A "hot spot" in the middle caused by the projector lamp

    • A bad flicker due to picture-sync problems

    • then stored on a poor quality, low resolution, non-archival medium (VHS) which often has not weathered the years well.

    It's true that it will cost more to work from the original films, but the difference in quality will reward you many times over for that extra cost in the years to come.

  • Why is your transfer method better than other methods?

    Transferring film to video has traditionally been a difficult and expensive process, especially to do it well. Because of this lots of home made approaches have thrived though the years - some reasonably good in quality, right through to some that are pretty dreadful.

    With the arrival of high definition frame-by-frame film scanners the home made methods are really starting to be recognised for what they are - vastly inferior in quality in a myriad of ways.

    The home made methods are almost invariably based on modified 60s & 70s film projectors. As such they are subject to many of the limitations of that 50 year old technology. They can:

    • burn your film with hot lamps

    • show a noticeable "hot spot" in the middle of your picture where the lamp is hottest

    • tear your film's sprocket holes with their pull down claws, rendering it unplayable

    • chew up your film because of feed problems or operator error, rendering it unplayable

    • crop up to 25% of your film frame either by limited film gate size, or operator error/laziness

    • suffer from flickering &/or pulsing because of the limitations of the technology and/or because of operator error

    • produce only obsolete standard definition transfers (at best).

    These days there are quite a few companies offering frame x frame transfers, but many of these are not high definition, only standard definition, and many transfer directly to DVD, a medium that is quickly being phased out.

    Our system is

    • clawless, so cannot tear your film

    • cold lamp, so cannot burn your film

    • frame size is fully adjustable so that minimal cropping of your picture need occur

    • at least full 1080p high definition, with 2K & 4K available

    • transfers to high definition AVI files as our standard delivery format, with FREE included easy-to-play high definition Mp4 versions as well. We can even deliver numbered image sequences if you prefer. DVD is available as an add-on option. Please note that DVD is only standard definition.

  • Can the original audio from my films be captured?

    Yes, in some cases. For Super 8 movie films with magnetic audio and on 16mm movie films with either optical or magnetic audio, where they are in good, non-shrunken condition (ie projectable*) we can capture the original audio in a second pass through a well maintained projector after we've safely completed your frame-by-frame transfer.

    The sound files we produce will then be married to the frame-by-frame film transfer in perfect sync.

    It's important though to realise that the majority of film is silent.

    *It should be noted that some film has shrunken with age due to vinegar syndrome. While we can successfully capture picture where other systems would fail, the fact that audio must be captured by projectors (which use a pull down claw to advance the film) and that beyond a certain point of shrinkage the film perforations will no longer line up with the pull down claw, this would mean the film cannot be played by a projector & therefore sound cannot be captured.

  • Can running my film through a projector damage it?

    Yes, the risk of damage can be quite high, especially if you are inexperienced, or you're a little rusty! You run a risk of damage for a number or reasons:

    • possibly unknown quality/condition of the projector and it's history re damaging films

    • even of the projector is in tip-top shape, if you're not very experienced at running a projector you could tear your film sprocket holes simply by making a mistake as operator.

    • similarly, inexperience could cause film to be chewed up or "accordioned"

    • likewise, inexperience could cause your film to be burned by hot lamps

    • your film may have shrunk over the years, and the perforations may no longer align properly with the projector's pull down claw, leading to disaster

    So we don't recommend running your film through an old projector unless you're very experienced & you know the projector is in perfect running condition.

  • Do you have sample clips of your film transfers?

    Just the one clip at the moment. More coming very soon!

    (Classic case of the painters house needing painting. We're just so busy all the time. But we'll get to it!)

  • Is it possible to take still frames from my film transfers?

    Yes, this can be done. For the highest quality stills we can actually export the film as an image sequence in addition to providing the video clip. This will consist of a single photo for every frame of film. That will be a lot of photos… around 16-24 photos per second of video!

    Otherwise if quality is not so important, using the VLC Media Player you can click on the ‘video’ tab and then ‘capture freeze frame’.

    If you are using a Mac an easy way is to simply hold the ‘apple key’ (command) hold shift and hold 4 all at the same time & then ‘cross-hairs’ will appear on the screen. Simply drag a selection marquee around the frame paused on your player and then let go. This method saves a freeze-frame to your desktop.

    Upload to Facebook, email and even create a lovely slideshow. The quality of our frame by frame transfers really shines on the stills.

    It is important to realise that any stills taken from motion picture film scans will be of limited resolution. A photo printed from even the best resolution we can offer for video (4k) would not be comparable to the resolution your phone camera takes today. Basically, this is because the resolution of video is nowhere near the resolution possible with a still camera.

  • What formats can you deliver?

    These are the most common formats we are asked for. Others are also available on request.

    High Definition 1080p AVI.

    • This format is our default format. Please note that these are very large files, and the required USB device is not included in the price.

    • This format is a high definition file suitable for editing on modern editing programs.

    Viewable on a Mac or a Windows PC, and via HDMI on your TV.

    • AVIs are the perfect archiving choice, future-proofing your memories at the highest possible quality. You might consider upgrading to our 2K or 4K scanning resolutions for the very best results, especially for 9.5mm & 16mm formats.

    High Definition 1080p Mp4 H264.

    • This format is a popular option, as it allows playback on the widest range of modern devices.

    • On very noisy/grainy films the quality may suffer a little when compared to AVI files.

    Once again you might consider upgrading to our 2K or 4K scanning resolutions for the very best results, especially for 9.5mm & 16mm formats.

    High Definition 1080p Numbered Image Sequence.

    • A legacy format some may prefer for editing, this format is in fact a folder full of individual snapshots of each frame of your film.

    • Available either as your chosen stand-alone delivery format, or as an added option in addition to another file type.

    Once again you might consider upgrading to our 2K or 4K scanning resolutions for the very best results, especially for 9.5mm & 16mm formats.

    Standard Definition 576i Video DVD.

    • Suitable for viewing only, Video DVD is a compromise format for those who simply prefer the convenience of DVDs.

    • Especially on very noisy/grainy films the quality may suffer.

    • Available as an added option, in addition to your Quicktime MOV files.

  • I'm not sure what is on my film. How can you help with this?

    We do often get asked this question. But because we highly recommend that you do not attempt to play your films through an old projector, we have to reiterate that we are a digitising company, not a "go through your media" company.

    You can have us digitise your films, then you can very easily go through the digital copies & see what you have and what you'd like to discard (if anything).

    Film was expensive, and watching a long blank section of film was very boring, so most people over the years edited out or threw away blank film. That leaves only film that they considered it was worth hanging on to. You'll probably need to trust their judgement was sound & that the films contained memories that they considered important enough to keep.

    If you really need to look at the films, we can rent you a film viewer/editor. But be advised they are hand operated & can be very tedious to work with.

    Another option can be to have us digitise the first ten feet of film on a reel. There will be a cost, but if this is enough to tell you what is on the film, this could be a solution for you.

  • How much film will fit onto a DVD?

    We don't like to exceed 90 mins maximum of content on a DVD so we can maintain the best quality. Actually DVD is only standard definition, so already we are throwing away some quality (compared to the original high definition transfers) to make DVDs.

    We would actually recommend a maximum of 60 minutes on a DVD made from film if you want to maintain as much quality as possible.

  • Why is Super 8 film sometimes lower in quality than 8mm or 16mm film?

    Super 8 film is generally the lowest quality film we see. It's not the film itself though… it's the decreased quality of the cameras & lenses of the day.

    In the dying days of film in the late 70s and early 80s, the format was in a fight for life versus the new age of video tape formats. To be able to compete with their market in decline, very cheap products flooded the market, resulting in poor quality imaging.

    Grainy, ‘contrasty’ - there were a range of issues. People who had been unable to afford the home movie boom, were suddenly now able to, and were on the whole poorly educated about videography, film types, lenses, filters, correct use of light, how to shoot etc.

    And so all these years later, we have a challenge trying to deliver a good transfer from Super 8 Sound.

    Compared to colour Standard 8mm film from say the 1950s, we tend to expect without even looking at the film that it is going to be good. Rich colours and great light makes it a pleasure to work with. The explanation for this is that only very high quality, expensive products were on the market, and people paid a lot of money for the equipment and so they really learnt how to use it well. It really wasn’t for the novice user.

  • I remember projector lamps burning our film. Is there any risk of burning my film with your process?

    You're correct in remembering that projector lamps can burn your film. At RetroMedia we don't use projectors, or their hot lamps, for our motion picture film scanning.

    We use cold-lamp LED light source, so it's impossible for us to burn your film.

  • How can I tell if my film has sound?

    Roughly 95% of Super 8 film is silent, and almost all Standard 8 film is silent. If Standard 8 has sound it was usually added at the lab afterwards.

    Super 8 Sound hit the market in 1972. The sound was recorded in sync with the picture on a narrow stripe of magnetic tape, just like an audio cassette tape. It is important to realise though that people sometimes purchased sound film (either by accident, or because that is all the store had), but did not always record any sound, so the mere presence of a sound stipe does not mean there will be sound present.

    The audio quality is usually quite poor, as you get a combination of very thin magnetic tape to record onto combined with cheap plastic microphones and inexperienced operators.

    16mm film comes in:

    • silent (sprocket holes along both edges)

    • optical sound (sprocket holes along one edge, and an optical soundtrack stripe along the opposite side)

    • magnetic sound (sprocket holes along one edge, and a magnetic soundtrack stripe along the opposite side).

  • The box holding my film says 25ft. Why do you call this a 50ft reel?

    Regular-8 (or double-8) reels of film were 25 feet in the double width of 16mm. The film is run through the camera twice, flipping the cartridge over when the first edge was finished to expose both edges. After developing, the lab would slit the film down the middle and splice it back together to give the resulting 8mm film as you see today.

    Forgetting you had already flipped the cartridge over & then shooting again over top of the first footage led to the problem of double exposure we sometimes encounter. Unfortunately nothing can be done to fix double exposure.

  • Why is my film all blue/red/purple/etc?

    Q: Why is my film very dark, red-orange with hardly any other color, and
    A: The film was not threaded correctly in the camera. The dark side, not the
    light side, was towards the lens.

    Q: Why is my film is all tinted orange/red and overly "warm"?

    A: Usually daylight film was used under lights without a filter. Sometimes the correct tungsten balance film was used indoors but with the daylight correction filter incorrectly in place.

    Q: Why is my film is all very purple/blue and overly "cold"?

    A: Usually tungsten balance film was used outdoors without the daylight correction filter. In other cases the correct daylight balance film was used outdoors but the tungsten correction filter was wrongly in place.

    Q: My film is almost all red & white?
    A: Dye fading has occurred with age. Some film stocks, especially cheaper brands, have not lasted as well as others in this regard. Colour correction is often not possible when too much colour has been lost. We would suggest having the film desaturated to become black & white picture, or we could add a sepia tint.

  • My film appears to be double exposed. Can this be fixed?

    Short answer? No.

    Regular-8 (or double-8) reels of film were 25 feet in the double width of 16mm. The film is run through the camera twice, flipping the cartridge over when the first edge was finished to expose both edges. After developing, the lab would slit the film down the middle and splice it back together to give the resulting 8mm film as you see today.

    Forgetting you had already flipped the cartridge over & then shooting again over top of the first footage led to the problem of double exposure we sometimes encounter. Unfortunately nothing can be done to fix double exposure.

  • Do you guys use domestic DVD recorders?

    Professionals don’t use DVD recorders. Back-yarders use DVD recorders.

    The quality just isn’t there. There’s not enough fine control over video encoding - so you get pixelated DVDs.

    Also they aren’t as compatible on the widest range of DVD players in the marketplace, so maybe you get a DVD that just doesn’t work.

    Finally, with no editing possible, this equipment lacks the flexibility to give you a tidy finished product. So you’re stuck with an exact copy of your tape, warts ‘n all.

    So at RetroMedia, we’ve outlawed DVD recorders.

    So how can you tell what the others are using?

    • Some may state that they don’t use DVD recorders.

    • Some may say they use a computer.

    • Some may state nothing, but if you ask they’ll tell you what they think you want to hear.

    But how can you know for sure?

    It’s actually pretty simple when you know what to look for.

    • Competitor A: Does not offer transfers to any medium other than DVD. This scenario can mean only one thing - Competitor A uses only domestic DVD recorders.

    • Competitor B: Does offer transfers to USB, but these cost more than their transfers to DVD. This scenario means that they use DVD recorders for everything by default, unless you specifically ask to go onto USB & then they charge you extra for the privilege of receiving what is less than our standard product.

    So, in conclusion, a simple, indisputable fact...

    Transfers onto USB are less work than a transfer to DVD of corresponding quality. This is why RetroMedia’s lowest priced services are onto USB & Hard Drives. The only way that a transfer to DVD could ever cost less than to USB is if the company records your tapes or films on a DVD recorder. Simple, indisputable fact...

    RetroMedia’s promise to you:

    RetroMedia promise not to use DVD recorders. None... No domestic DVD recorders, no “pro-sumer” DVD recorders.

    Let us be absolutely crystal clear about this. RetroMedia will never use DVD recorders on your transfers to DVD. Your memories deserve better than that.

    So if you’re shopping around just be careful that you’re comparing apples with apples.

  • Can you digitise my films in the order I prefer?

    For film we only follow the customer's item numbering if we are specifically asked to, and providing that the numbering is recent, clear and comprehensive.

    We can't follow old, unclear and incomplete numbering. :)

    Unfortunately back in the day people often began with good intentions, so some items may start off being numbered, but then they later ran out of steam, and failed to write anything on half the items.

    We label every item with our numbering system anyway, so you'll always be able to match the resulting video file to the original film. You can easily rename the files to something descriptive and memorable, and likewise get the files to run in the order you like simply by numbering/naming in a way that makes sense to you.

  • About Estimated Timeframes

    1) The very nature of our business means that we have to rely on some old & obsolete equipment, and sometimes that can slow us up. Also, while we give estimates based on our experience, we cannot predict accurately what problems we might find with your job, or with the jobs ahead of you in the queue. A job full of 10 hr tapes, while not common, can throw estimates out, because all tapes need to be played through in real time, not "high-speed" which doesn't exist for digitizing video.

    So it needs to be understood that any timeframe estimates given on regular queued projects are approximations only. We won't be held to any target as if it was a due date. Your project will go in a queue of work and be processed in turn, which is only fair to others who submitted their jobs earlier. More than happy to deliver a portion of your job by a date you set, with the balance to follow.

    2) The larger the job the less accurate any turnaround estimate might be. More scope for things to go wrong, and for misjudgement of (guess-timated) running times to be amplified.

    3) We can sometimes beat our timeframe estimates if you tell us ahead of time if you have an event/deadline. We will always do our best to meet such deadlines if we commit to them, but once again the nature of our business means that we have to rely on some old & obsolete equipment, and sometimes that can defeat us. No guarantee is given that we will meet your deadline, only that we will exert our very best efforts on your behalf. Once again, more than happy to deliver a portion of your job by a date you set, with the balance to follow.

    Or you might choose to jump the queue, and authorise our team to do some overtime to help meet your deadline. We call this Rush Processing. Extra charges apply. Learn more here.

    4) Time of year & workload at the time you book in can also affect these estimates, as well as our ability to commit to any deadlines (for example pre-Christmas). Sometimes the best we can do is to complete a portion of your job for you before your deadline. So it can help if you go through your media and prioritise the most important items, which we can process first. Please mention at time of booking if turnaround is important to you.

    5) Please don't arrange an event around a target date we've given you, especially if we don't know anything about it. We can't be held responsible for not delivering in time for events that we're unaware of.

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