The professional telecine suite comprises the telecine machine itself (about the size of a big cupboard) and an operators console (think banks of monitors and controls). These equipment set-ups, which come in many guises, all work in bascially the same way providing broadcast quality film to video transfer. Under the control of an experienced operator, every aspect of the conversion of the film image to digital file can be controlled in real time – contrast, brightness, colour saturation and balance – getting the best out of each and every frame. Some companies also offer wet-gate transfers where the film is immersed in fluid whilst being scanned to remove dust and reduce the appearence of any surface stractces.
Professional telecine machines generally work in the same way using high quality optics and electronic circuits to break down the imagery frame by frame, on a line by line, pixel by pixel basis into constituent red, blue and green (RGB) data. Film moves continuously through the machine with the electronics recombining individual pixels, lines and frames into the datafile.
Rank Cinetel (including Ursa) type machines using a ‘flying spot’ of light which horizontally traverses the film to determine the RGB information, whereas the Thomson Shadow uses Charged Coupled Devices (CCDs) to determine RGB data on a full line by line basis. Either way the optical clarity and control of image gives the best possible results from the information contained within the Super 8 frame.
Professional telecine suites can process negative and reversal film stocks with equal ease. Some now provide outputs in High Definition as well as directly to Hard Drive (in a variety of formats) eliminating the need for tape in the workflow.
This quality and flexiblity do come at a price, but there are various options to minimise expense depending on how much trust you place in the telecine operator.
For total control, a grading session allows you to attend the transfer and give instructions to the operator as to how you want each and every scene to look, this clearly takes time and is reflected in the cost. A best light transfer will be undertaken by the operator alone, with decisions taken as to the average settings for contrast, colour balance, saturation and brightness. Major anomalies such as dirt or very dark scenes will be corrected but there isn’t as much attention given as at a grading session. Finally, a one light session will be exactly that, a quick run through (unsupervised) to determine an overall average level, then the machine is run and the film transferred in one go.
Professional telecine certainly gets the best out of Super 8 film, but depending upon your budget, what you intend to do with your finished project and the final look your want, there may be other options that are more suitable. For professional telecine solutions check out our Process! page.
Next up, Scanning and Film Chain solutions…