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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.

The Gift of Memories

The gift of memories. There's really not much in the world that is more precious. The one possession you'd probably brave a burning building for.

Retromedia can save those memories… Bring them back to life from the obsolete media where they are trapped. We can make it so easy for these memories to be enjoyed & shared with family & friends.

  • 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. Once it is digitised all future deterioration is stopped dead in it's tracks.

    We will have taken a sharp digital photo of each & every frame of your film, at a 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 lubricate your film, thereby minimising any friction during the transfer.

    Our state-of-the-art RetroScan Universal unit 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 almost always delivered as Full High Definition (1080p).

    By way of example, though most TVs sold today are 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 resolution is there in our transfers.

  • Will my film be cleaned before it is digitised?

    Yes. Your film is inspected and thoroughly hand-cleaned by our film techs. However, some damage caused by mould and/or debris embedded in the film cannot be removed.

  • Can you improve the quality of my film?

    Firstly we clean your film, so it look it's best. Then there are a number of ways we can improve the quality of the digitised results - 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, and for larger reels we charge by the actual footage, accurately counted out by our film transfer unit.

    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.

    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 you that 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.

    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 very poor in quality.

    With the arrival of high definition frame-by-frame scanners the home made methods are really starting to be recognised for what they are - poor quality processes.

    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

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

    • produce only standard definition results 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 defintion, 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

    • full 1080p high definition

    • transfers to high definition Quicktime MOV as our standard delivery format, but you can optionally choose easy-to-play high definition Mp4 files, or even numbered image sequences if you prefer. DVD is available as an add-on option. Please note that DVD is standard definition.

  • Can the original audio from my films be captured?

    Yes, in most cases. For Super 8 movie films with magnetic audio and on 16mm movie films with optical audio, we can capture the original audio. Additionally we can arrange for 16mm magnetic audio to be separately digitised, and we can then mix them back together.

    It's important though to realise that the majority of film is silent. We can offer a service to add background music, or even voice over narration to silent film.

  • Can running my film through a projector damage it?

    Yes the risk of damage is high! 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

    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!

  • 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 15-18 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.

  • What formats can you deliver?

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

    High Definition 1080p Quicktime MOV.

    • 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 or Apple TV/Airplay on your TV.

    • 1080p Quicktime MOVs are the perfect archiving choice, future-proofing your memories at the highest possible quality.

    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 Quicktime MOV files.

    • Available either as your chosen stand-alone delivery format, or as an added option in addition to Quicktime MOV files.

    • Conversion costs include us supplying the USB device.

    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.

    Standard Definition 576i DV AVI.

    • Suitable for a lot of older pro editing programs.

    • Available either as your chosen stand-alone delivery format, or as an added option in addition to your Quicktime MOV files.

    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.

    You should get us to 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 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 need to trust their judgement that the films contained memories that they considered important enough to keep.

    If you really want to look at the films, occasionally on eBay you can still find film viewers. If you can find one that works at least you're at little risk of burning your films or tearing them. But be advised they are extremely tedious to work with.

  • How much film will fit onto a DVD?

    We can fit a maximum of 2 hours of content on a DVD if we wish to maintain good 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 Sound film is generally the lowest quality film we see. It's not the film though… it's the cameras 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 1940s, 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.

    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 purchase sound film, 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 little 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).

    It is important to realise though that people sometimes purchased sound film, but did not always record any sound, so the mere presence of a sound stipe does not mean there will be sound present.

  • 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?

    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.

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