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 
unholy alliance.

OK, the old note, with links to frames at various resolutions, follows.

Jeff Kreines

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.

Jeff Kreines
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