Forgive me for reposting something from 3 months ago, but I think it is
important to think about scanning resolution vs. output resolution. Small
formats actually benefit more than formats like 35mm from high resolution
scanning, because they have a much higher amount of grain in a frame, and if
that grain isn't resolved, it looks quite mushy. Remember, grain is the soul
of the emulsion.
A couple of recent films with a large amount of Super-8 footage that are headed
for (probably digital) theatrical releases had their S8 footage scanned on a
Kinetta Archival Scanner. "Ricky on Leacock" was scanned at As'Image in Paris,
and "Our Nixon" will be scanned this month at the Nixon Library in glorious
Yorba Linda, California. These are all being scanned at 12-bit, 3296 x 2472
resolution (or overscanned inside of that res).
The scanner has the ability to capture the full dynamic range of reversal
original or prints, as well as negative stock. It can handle extremely damaged
film without having to repair perfs before scanning. No sprockets, and the
ability to frame the image as desired, like an optical printer. It also has an
extremely bright but cool light source that is great for dealing with
underexposed footage without adding any electronic noise.
While many of these scanners are in archives and not available for public use,
there are a few that are available to anyone. One is at As'Image in Paris
(thanks, Pip, for that!), Shai Drori in Israel is getting his shipped this
week, and VTC in San Francisco is getting their machine this month. There will
also be a machine available for rent in Boston in a few weeks.
There is a big difference between scanners, telecines, and projector-based
"film chains." Scanners capture data at high bit-depth and resolution, and the
files are usable for anything from 4K digital cinema masters to web videos (and
everything else in between. Telecines are video-centric, and the files are
captured to tape or disk in SD or HD video formats. This means silent footage
has either repeated or blended frames when converted to 23.976 or 25 or 29.97
fps. Film chains are typically a video camera and projector wedded in an
OK, the old note, with links to frames at various resolutions, follows.
Disclaimer: I designed and build Kinetta scanners.
There is a common belief -- which, like a lot of common wisdom should be looked
at skeptically -- that small format film lacks enough useful "information" to
require scanning at resolutions greater than pillarboxed HD (1080 x 1440) or
cropped HD (1080 x 1920). Some feel that for Super-8 and 8mm, NTSC, PAL, and
720P are, in the words of an engineer I know, "good enough."
But I don't think anyone really tested this properly -- they just said what
seemed logical enough to them. It's fine to say "that looks pretty good at
1080 x 1440" but those who say this probably did not try scanning the same film
at higher resolutions to see if there was an appreciable difference.
I did some simple tests, and honestly was quite surprised at the results. Even
when the final release format is HD or less, the advantages of high resolution
scans are obvious.
I put together a little PDF you can download, with both Super-8 and grainy 16mm
samples scanned at different resolutions. It was written in response to a
report by the Swiss group Memoriav, which was doing tests of small format (for
them this includes 16mm) scanning.
Here's a link:
Here are links to full-res TIFFs of the files used -- zoom in on them and see
what you are losing with lower resolution scans. Note that the files are
mostly over 20MB each, so don't try this on your cell phone.
Let me know what you think.
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