Family 8mm Film Digital Transfer Test

I am currently attempting to record Super-8 film into a digital format. Here’s my first shot. I am using an Eumig Mark 500E running at 18 fps. I am using my Sony a6000 recording at 1080p, 60 fps, and ISO 600.

I have researched several methods for transferring old film to digital media. The cheapest are services that project the video onto a wall and then record the video with a video camera. A better option is recording the video straight onto a camera, skipping the wall. The best option in terms of quality is frame-by-frame scanning, but is also the most costly. Given I have around 1.5k feet of 8mm to be digitized, the frame-by-frame method, will optional color correction and burning to bluray, would run over $1,000 after shipping and handling etc were counted for.

I decided (like always) to give this a cheaper DIY approach. Frame-by-frame scanning was out of the question since I only have a mechanical shutter DSLR, and running through a reel of film would lower the life expectancy of the shutter. I didn’t like the quality loss of recording off of a wall either! I decided for the real-time projecting onto sensor approach.

Instead of projecting onto a wall and then recording with a camera, which results in a large loss of quality, the Eumig projects directly onto the sensor of the camera. I placed the camera a few inches in front of the projector lens and focused the image onto the sensor. I found that Super 8 film fits the APS-C sensor of the a6000 without any cropping! I then turned off the lights and placed a small cloth over the air between the lens and the camera to block out external light during recording. I used some extension tubes on the front of the camera for the cloth to sit on and hopefully stop dust from collecting on the sensor too quickly.

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The frame rate mismatch between the projector and camera causes the rolling bars across the video. Changing ISO values on the camera appears to change the severity of this effect, I believe the camera is changing the shutter speed to compensate for the change in ISO. During the sample video I discovered Sony has the ability to set the shutter speed to be slower than the frame rate. The camera performs some “blurring” and can hide the lines caused by the mismatched shutters. I am reading up on how frame rate and shutter speed work together when recording film. I will be moving to a Chinon 4000GL variable speed projector to alleviate this issue once the lens comes in.

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The projector is modified to use LEDs for illumination instead of the standard bulb since it will be projecting to a surface a few inches instead of feet away. This change will also allow me to focus on one still in the film, otherwise the bright bulb would melt the film after a few seconds. I am using scotch tape to diffuse the light from the LED onto the film.

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During recording I found the projector to “shake” the image causing the frames to jump up and down. Manually advancing the film reel so there was no pressure on it alleviated the problem, but I’m not going to stand over a 400 foot reel of film for half and hour doing this. Hopefully the Chinon won’t have this problem, but I think it could be a mechanical issue with the Eumig.

Here is a quick proof of concept to see if this approach is feasible. I processed the video through Vegas Pro to flip the image (the camera is expecting the image to be upside down) and added some stabilization.

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