in Honor of
Lewis Hine & Harold Edgerton
Even though movies are not my specialty area, the Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection has a large number of 8mm and 16mm films in its collection. Dealing with films from the 1940’s to 1970’s can be tough if you are on a budget. Just finding a working editor can be hard nowadays.
Here is a recent crop of editors I bought that didn’t work out…
For one reason or another all these editors ended up not working. They had broken bulbs that are hard to replace. One had stripped film transport gears that would jam the film up ever foot or so. One that did work, had a very dim viewing screen that made the image hard to see. One had a lens that came loose during shipment that broke the mirror inside the unit. Another one was sold as 16mm and ended up being Super 8. And one editor blew the bulb out as soon as I plugged it in.
You would think that buying replacement bulbs for the editors would not be a problem, but it is. Same with projectors. You have to go to specialists and even then it may be a no go.
The people that are selling them are generally not the original owners. Most of the sellers are pickers that buy them at yard sales for a couple bucks then sell them online for $30 to $60 each. Since they don’t know a thing about them they are usually sold as-is.
Managing a film archive may requires film leaders to be installed and splices to be done. Sometimes the films are mis-marked or have debris stuck on it. So having the option to view, repair and clean the film is important.
You can use old projectors to view your films. But buying used projectors always carries the risk of the projector eating up your film. On the flip side, you may have a film loaded with gunk and problems that may ruin a good projector. I’d much rather take a look at the films under controlled conditions of the hand-cranked editor.
A Wolverine scanner is affordable for $300, but the quality of the output is poor when compared to the high end scanners. It may not hold up over the long haul, so think of it as a disposable.
The Wolverine scanner has a warranty of 200 reels of films – a built in counter keeps track of the number of scanned reels. Be advised, every time you start and stop the machine, even for 1 frame, it counts as a 1 reel of film. If you make a mistake opening the film gate and use the nearby 8mm / Super 8mm lever while the machine is in pause, it can also raise the film counter by 1.
I’ve learned not to fool around with the machine while it is on, as I’ve hit the wrong button or switch a number of times and raised the reel count unessearly working to chip away at my warranty. As soon as I finish a scan I turn the machine off. Then I unload the film and rewind on an editor.
The Wolverine produces tiny MP4 video files. It is very slow, taking 2 hours on average to scan a 5 inch reel of film. On the plus side, is it is easy to use. But, to be fair to Wolverine, for what it does, their scanner is a bargain at $300. You could easily pay $300 for 1 or 2 hi-res pro scans of 8mm. Just realize that your scans will not be of the same quality as you get from HD pro scans.
For instance, this film ‘Gone…Up in Smoke’ was scanned with a professional telecine unit that produces individual TIFF files of each frame. (The link is to the low res version.) The TIFF file size for the movie was over 50gb. The Wolverine produced a file of about 325mb for the same film. That is 325mb versus 50gb of information.
A professional telecine scanner does an excellent job. But it is very expensive, costing many thousand dollars.
One thing not to buy is this…
The film has to be advanced by hand, frame by frame and the image quality is very poor. Wolverine’s $300 ‘reel to reel’ model is much better. But if you need individual scans of a few frames of film, this unit may be for you. The Wolverine $300 unit wont give you individual scans of the movie frames.
If you know anything about my archive, you know I collect unusual and strong material.
Selection from Before Photoshop (Unabridged 2 volume edition) artist’s book
by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. / Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection
Many of the films in the archive contain sensitive material and some are very rare and irreplaceable. Since the films are irreplaceable I am always worried about them being lost.
Because of the content, a lot of commercial scanning companies won’t scan my films. And even if they will scan them, by the time the film cleaning, noise reduction, HD scanning and bells and whistles are all added up, each little 8mm film cost $200 to $300 to get it scanned commercially. And if you want the individual TIFF files returned to you, that cost another $150 or so.
If you have deep pockets, this is an example of a top of the line 16mm scanner for $30,000. Archives with lots of $ can afford a dedicated film scanning lab of their own.
Paying $150 to $300 for a hi-res scan of an 8mm film is just the beginning of the process. If you have an important film and a big budget, each of the movies tens of thousands of 8mm or 16mm TIFF files can be post processed individually to remove dust, defects and to improve exposure and IQ.
Here is a professional scan from Gone…Up in Smoke to give you an idea of what you can expect from 8mm. It shows before and after noise reduction.
All things considered, if your content is not too extreme, your best bet may be to have the movie scans done commercially by a top quality lab. If you do send your films out to be scanned, it is a good insurance policy to scan them yourself before you send them out. If something does happen to the film, at least you will have a low quality digital copy for your archives.
Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book
by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
A complete list of artist’s books by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.