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Bad experiences with Pro8mm


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#1 Naren Wilks

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 03:44 PM

Hello,

I am a filmmaker of Super-8mm short films, from the UK, and I'd like to share a few experiences that I've had with Pro8mm.

My first encounter with Pro8mm was in 2010 after winning a jury prize at a festival here in England in 2009. The prize was 4 films from Pro8mm, with developing and HD scanning included. These films, once shot and sent to them, were destroyed by their developing tanks, during a power cut. I had paid $50 in push process fees, as well as almost $150 in postage costs (due to their insistence on using Fedex, despite there being a USPS post office 100 metres from their office). The shooting of these rolls however, cost me an awful lot more.

But never mind, power cuts happen. They sent me two replacement rolls, with developing and scanning included, as a way of saying sorry. This didn't come close to making up for what I'd lost, but it serves me right for failing to shoot some backup footage.

My second encounter with Pro8mm was earlier this year, after winning another Jury prize with the same festival in 2011. On this occasion, I was awarded HD scanning time on their Millenium II scanner. I had to pay $50 in prep and cleaning fees, but that seems reasonable when one considers that the scanning time would have cost over $500. Anyway, in order to avoid the expensive Fedex service, I planned to email Pro8mm a pre-paid USPS label. Apparently the 3 minute walk to the post office was still too much to ask.

However, once the work was completed, I was told I needed to provide them with packaging materials. I didn't think to include an empty jiffy bag with the reels, naturally thinking that they (as you'd expect of any reputable business) wouldn't struggle in providing me with one. Not the case. They flatly refused, and insisted that I send them an empty jiffy bag, all the way from England. Apparently California is currently in the depths of jiffy bag drought.

When I finally got the footage back, I discovered very quickly that it had been scanned out of focus. To be certain that it was the scan and not the footage that was out, I had it re-scanned by a lab here in Bristol that has an MWA Flashscan HD. As I'm sure you know, these are not the best telecine machines by a long way, but the footage is markedly sharper than the Pro8mm scan, and immediately confirmed to me that Pro8mm had made a serious error.

Naturally I informed them. I sent them stills from the footage, along with stills from the MWA scan that clearly illustrated their mistake. This was their response:

'If you are unhappy with the transfer we are happy to re-do it.'

They informed me that I would have to pay for the postage to have the reels sent back to them, the postage to have the reels and scan sent back to me, and the prep and cleaning, all over again. Another $150. And despite their clear and obvious error, they refused to apologise or even acknowledge that any error had been made. Below is a link to an account on Flickr, onto which I have uploaded the exact same comparison stills that I sent them. They are taken directly from the 10-bit uncompressed files and are not manipulated in any way.

http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/

http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/

http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/

http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/

As you can see, the scan is badly out of focus from the far left of the image to the near right. The far right of the image is perfect. I don't know enough about Super-8mm scan gates but is it possible that the left hand side of the film was not seated in the gate properly? Pro8mm certainly aren't willing to entertain discussion on this, but perhaps someone reading this knows something.

Pro8mm tried to tell me that because I had chosen a one-light transfer, focus throughout the footage cannot be guaranteed. I tried explaining to them that the footage is out of focus from the beginning to the end, and all the way in between, but they've stopped responding to my emails (which have always been courteous).

This job, had I paid for it in full, would have cost over $600. Am I really supposed to believe that they are willing to offer a service that costs so much but can guarantee absolutely nothing? Why on earth would they even offer a one-light scan if they can't guarantee that it will be in focus? What use to anyone is an out of focus scan? One-light transfers are not adjusted for changes in exposure and colour temperature, and are thusly a risk if one's footage is badly exposed and / or poorly colour balanced. Scan focus has got nothing to do with it.

In 2010 Pro8mm destroyed my film in their developing tanks. This year, they've given me a scan that is completely unusable, and have offered me nothing for my wasted time and money, other than the opportunity to waste even more. Thankfully, I only invested $150 in this entirely fruitless exercise; the MWA scan, by the way, cost me $20.

I'm not a bitter person (really!), but this company have annoyed me so much that I feel compelled to write this post. It will be entered onto various forums, not just this one, so apologies if you see it twice.
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#2 Freya Black

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 05:40 PM

I have to say that Pro8 have always had a terrible reputation for their service, so this stuff is nothing new really. I've also never been impressed with the quality of their telecine either. I've always thought it was one of the poorer options.

If you are going to continue with shooting S8 you should check out LightPress in Seattle who have a shadow with a S8 gate and a great colourist there. They were always the best option for S8 transfers.

As to the flashscan, I've always heard very nice things about it actually. It's just not that great for transferring colour negative, but the tests I've seen run on reversal, often rivalled much higher end transfer machines.

My advice with the film world, and maybe with everything in life actually, is if you find people that are friendly and really helpful, then go with them! Don't worry about the other considerations because the way they treat you will always end up being the most important side of things.

love

Freya
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#3 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 06:02 PM

I'm guessing, (and it's just a guess) that since it was a "freebie" their top transfer person did not do the job.

When you fed-ex'd, did you do it the slowest way possible to save the most money? I'm just curious what the price differences are between overnight, standard, 2 day, 3 day, and so on for an international shipment.

Next time you might want to consider taking the actual super-8 film contest notification that you won lab services and show them to places in England and see if you can get a local discount. Maybe consider getting on your hands and knees and begging them, "Please, Please, don't make me use this prize, I'll pay any amount to not use this prize".

Then when you factor in all the shipping costs you save, maybe you end up even while patronizing a local vendor who is happy for your business.

I'm assuming you placed in the New Jersey Super-8 film festival? Congratulations!
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#4 Christopher Sheneman

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Posted 25 July 2012 - 02:10 AM

Pro8 had a bad reputation back in the 90's. It's unfortunate what happened to you, I hope you learned a valuable lesson today which is never, ever send film to be processed, telecine etc.. to the Los Angeles area if you live in the United Kingdom, because they will screw you. They know you're not going to spend $1000 on a jet plane to come and raise hell about some out-of-focus Super 8 film transfer. Check and mate, sir.

Try to find a local lab, or at least send it to London. Then if get bad service you can get on one those red double-decker buses and go chew some ass!
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#5 Geoff Howell

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Posted 25 July 2012 - 05:58 AM

never, ever send film to be processed, telecine etc.. to the Los Angeles area if you live in the United Kingdom, because they will screw you.



I can't speak for their telecine but I used them frequently for processing between 2002/2004 and thought they were great. At the time they had an office just off Charing Cross Road behind where the Astoria used to be.

you could drop the film to them; they would send it to LA and it would be back in under 4/5 days which is pretty amazing considering it takes Andec over two weeks to get stuff back to the London.

On top of this their prices were super cheap and they were always a pleasure to deal with.
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#6 Andries Molenaar

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Posted 25 July 2012 - 07:05 AM

I can't speak for their telecine but I used them frequently for processing between 2002/2004 and thought they were great. At the time they had an office just off Charing Cross Road behind where the Astoria used to be.

you could drop the film to them; they would send it to LA and it would be back in under 4/5 days which is pretty amazing considering it takes Andec over two weeks to get stuff back to the London.

On top of this their prices were super cheap and they were always a pleasure to deal with.



That is a first to hear somebody claiming they were super cheap. They never were.

Now see how they want some $400 for a $1 camera which had its leatherettes replaced by a tiger-print.

Don't expect the camera to have received any maintenance. They laugh their balls off.



Comparing overpriced courier-serviced processing with modestly Andec using regular postal service is a very lame.



Why would anybody in UK or anywhere in EU ever send films across half the globe when there perfect options local and in UK en EU?

Edited by Andries Molenaar, 25 July 2012 - 07:05 AM.

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#7 Freya Black

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Posted 25 July 2012 - 07:05 AM

Pro8 had a bad reputation back in the 90's. It's unfortunate what happened to you, I hope you learned a


Pro8 had a bad reputation in the noughties too. I havn't heard of anyone using them more recently until now.

valuable lesson today which is never, ever send film to be processed, telecine etc.. to the Los Angeles area if you live in the United Kingdom, because they will screw you. They know you're not going to spend $1000 on a jet plane to come and raise hell about some out-of-focus Super 8 film transfer. Check and mate, sir.


The UK people aren't neccesarily going to be much better from some of the things I've seen on a visit to wardour street (was amazed!)

I think the trick is to get talking to people and see how they react and try and get an idea of how they are going to treat you before you give them the money.

Theres good and bad companies even in L.A.

Try to find a local lab, or at least send it to London. Then if get bad service you can get on one those red double-decker buses and go chew some ass!


There aren't any S8 labs in the UK anyway AFAIK (It's not even great for 16 & 35mm these days!)
Might have more luck with a telecine only place, but they are few and far between as well.
I'd just go reversal, process myself and use that Flashscan! Sounds like a good deal.

Keep it simple.

love

Freya
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#8 Geoff Howell

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Posted 25 July 2012 - 08:26 AM

That is a first to hear somebody claiming they were super cheap. They never were.


back in 2002/2003 the UK Pound was king of the hill and beating the living crap out of the US Dollar, so yes, Pro8's prices were very very cheap. I can't remember exactly what I was paying for 50ft (I'll try to dig out some receipts) but it was significantly less than the Widescreen centers Andec service.

Also trying to get color reversal film processed in the UK (even as long as ten years ago) is/was very very difficult.

I'm in no way saying Pro8 doesn't have it's problems, but, in the summer of 2003 I was able to shoot thousands of feet with very little worry as to how much it was going to cost to process largely due the service they were offering.


P.S the 4/5 day 'London to LA and back' turnaround didn't cost anything extra, you would literally only pay for processing.
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#9 Chris Burke

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Posted 25 July 2012 - 04:27 PM

I want to add that since you are willing to ship your film and hard drives to the US, there are other alternatives. On both coasts.
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#10 Christopher Sheneman

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Posted 25 July 2012 - 05:33 PM

back in 2002/2003 the UK Pound was king of the hill and beating the living crap out of the US Dollar, so yes, Pro8's prices were very very cheap. I can't remember exactly what I was paying for 50ft (I'll try to dig out some receipts) but it was significantly less than the Widescreen centers Andec service.

Also trying to get color reversal film processed in the UK (even as long as ten years ago) is/was very very difficult.

I'm in no way saying Pro8 doesn't have it's problems, but, in the summer of 2003 I was able to shoot thousands of feet with very little worry as to how much it was going to cost to process largely due the service they were offering.


P.S the 4/5 day 'London to LA and back' turnaround didn't cost anything extra, you would literally only pay for processing.


Well, it seems like it was working out for you a decade ago. I did a quick google search and found a few labs in the United Kingdom that process S-8. Not sure if it' current- may need to call them before sending your film to them!

http://flamin.filmlo...film_processing

But even if they don't have labs in the UK- what about France? Netherlands? There's some labs there too..

http://www.super8porter.ca/Links.htm (scroll down to UK, France and others)
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#11 Christopher Sheneman

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Posted 25 July 2012 - 05:58 PM

I will say not being able to physically visit your lab on a daily/weekly/monthly basis (if need be) is putting yourself at a real disadvantage. Any error will be magnified to super size proportions because of the hundreds if not thousands of miles, time zones, currencies, tribal customs..etc. Seems like needless frustration to me.

I enjoy meeting the lab technicians to look into their eyes. To see if they're full of life or if they're dead. Dead eyes means they don't care if they make a mistake or two or three and certainly not your project. They're fighting a lot with the misses and they just missed a car payment.

I like to chat with the receptionist and then have them call the lab techs down so I can ask "How are the chemicals today? Fresh, I presume!". Then I show them my Karate black belt certificate I print out off the internet..along with my psychology degree from Princeton that I also printed off the internet. A lethal mindf--ker!
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#12 David J Paradise

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 02:56 PM

Is Phil Vigeant aware of this?
Personally, I wouldn't write-off Pro8mm even though these are terribly unfortunate and avoidable circumstances.

Best thing is to realise the importance of attending the actual scanning session.
In the case of Pro8mm it's unfortunate you didn't have a representative, somebody like Phil Vigeant himself to ensure absolute satisfaction, especially considering the first encounter.

I remember back in the 90's attending a Super 8 telecine session at Filmatic in London.
They were a small, personable lab who sadly sold out to ToddAO. Anyhow, the telecine operator had a heavy work load and wanted to run off my transfer without specific adjustments. If I hadn't been there it would have been far from satisfactory.

In my experience, you're taking a risk if you can't attend the scan. If sending material from the UK to Pro8mm, contact the owner/president Phil Vigeant first.
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#13 Naren Wilks

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 06:21 PM

Is Phil Vigeant aware of this?
Personally, I wouldn't write-off Pro8mm even though these are terribly unfortunate and avoidable circumstances.

Best thing is to realise the importance of attending the actual scanning session.
In the case of Pro8mm it's unfortunate you didn't have a representative, somebody like Phil Vigeant himself to ensure absolute satisfaction, especially considering the first encounter.

I remember back in the 90's attending a Super 8 telecine session at Filmatic in London.
They were a small, personable lab who sadly sold out to ToddAO. Anyhow, the telecine operator had a heavy work load and wanted to run off my transfer without specific adjustments. If I hadn't been there it would have been far from satisfactory.

In my experience, you're taking a risk if you can't attend the scan. If sending material from the UK to Pro8mm, contact the owner/president Phil Vigeant first.


I'd like to think so. I was emailing someone called Jacyln Vigeant, who told me she'd passed on my emails to the 'owner'. I heard nothing back, emailed them again a few times, and still nothing.

I was only willing to send my films and hard drive(s) to the US because I'd won two valuable prizes. Seemed a shame not to use them.
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#14 Freya Black

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 03:55 AM

Well, it seems like it was working out for you a decade ago. I did a quick google search and found a few labs in the United Kingdom that process S-8. Not sure if it' current- may need to call them before sending your film to them!

http://flamin.filmlo...film_processing

But even if they don't have labs in the UK- what about France? Netherlands? There's some labs there too..

http://www.super8porter.ca/Links.htm (scroll down to UK, France and others)


Those links are both massively out of date and not that accurate either. John Porters is the best of the two which is ironic as he is just a guy in Canada doing it for the love of film, but he is actually in contact a lot with real film-makers etc. The Film London list was probably not that helpful when it was made but is now crazy out of date. Most of those labs are long gone.

I think Bucks lab, might still do S8 but not sure if they outsource it, however it's by special arrangement and you have to be processing thousands of feet of film. Soho Images were a leading lab in London but have been gone for some time. Their S8 processing wasn't exactly cheap but they were a high quality lab and they did actually process in the uk.

The widescreen centre and Blue cinetech both do all processing through Andec. Good services but you pay a premium for them over sending to Andec yourself. OTOH it's sismpler than the more direct route.

Todd A-O is also gone as far as I know although again they were more geared to the super high end of the market.

I know that Nowhere have lomo tanks and can probably help you process your own reversal OTOH.

To the best of my knowledge Andec is now the main place in Europe for processing S8.
Here in the uk it's acutally quite limited even for 16mm at this point!

love

Freya
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#15 Miguel Loredo

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 04:14 AM

Why send accross the ocean when you got good options in Europe as well? For example Uppsala in Sweden and this guy in Madrid whose quality is great:

http://ochoypico.com...lish/?page_id=6
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#16 Freya Black

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 04:18 AM

I will say not being able to physically visit your lab on a daily/weekly/monthly basis (if need be) is putting yourself at a real disadvantage. Any error will be magnified to super size proportions because of the hundreds if not thousands of miles, time zones, currencies, tribal customs..etc. Seems like needless frustration to me.


Except here in the UK there isn't much in the way of labs anymore. So it's not needless frustration, just frustration. Of course if you are shooting reversal, you can process your own which has become the main option with any of the people I know here shooting S8 at the moment.

Since Film Lab North got shut down, there aren't any labs North of the Watford gap.
If you are more London based and shooting 16/35 there are a couple of options where you can actually speak to someone I think. Theres a new lab called iRushes too that arose out of the death of ilab. They are geared towards processing your film and giving you digital one light rushes on hard disk. They get super bonus points from me tho, because they are familiar with this email thing that is all the rage these days and can not only receive emails but reply to them and everything.

I think looking at labs overseas can be an option. In paticular "Colour by DeJonghe" seems like a lab that actually are interested in the smaller film-maker and is definitely somewhere I would consider. Stateside I would be considering cinelab but then you obviously have to worry about customs and all the rest of it. Telecine I like lightpress in seattle for S8 because they have a fantastic colourist.

Face to face is definitely helpful tho. I had a really useful time wondering around the wardour street area, you got an almost instant idea for the scene there and what things were like. Very eye opening. Be prepared for a lot of shocks tho!

love

Freya
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#17 Freya Black

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 04:30 AM

Why send accross the ocean when you got good options in Europe as well? For example Uppsala in Sweden and this guy in Madrid whose quality is great:

http://ochoypico.com...lish/?page_id=6


Well if you are just talking telecine, those are options. However both bildteknik is uppsala (I asssume whom you mean) and the guy in Madrid both have lower end telecine options. At bildteknik they used to have an old Bosh Pro style scanner, but it was so old I suspect the flashscan they are now using turned out to be a better option. The original poster even found a place with a flashscan right there in Bristol! I think that scanning on a flashscan is a very viable option personally. It's as good as the old ranks were at least. Not the same thing as a high end scan on a Spirit or Shadow tho.

I actually suspect there might be telecine machines still kicking around in London with S8 gates if you look around, so there might be some higher end options around here too, but I'm not sure what the situation is with that now, too much musical chairs lately! :)

love

Freya
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#18 Geoff Howell

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 07:44 AM

Bloody hell! I had no idea Deluxe Soho (or whatever they were calling themselves) had gone!

Stanly Productions has some kind of mail away service, they'll do 100ft of 16mm for £30 with no minimum orders, I can't remember where they were sending it to; the guy in the shop said something about a lab Surbiton if that rings any bells.


Also, for super8 There's that guy developing color reversal film in Birmingham who sporadically posts on here.


where's iRushes based? I can't find anything about them on Google
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#19 Freya Black

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 09:44 AM

Bloody hell! I had no idea Deluxe Soho (or whatever they were calling themselves) had gone!


The Deluxe bit is still there but even they outsource all the processing to essex or somewhere apparently. No London processing from them. I think soho images is still around too but now they just do telecine and will send you to deluxe for processing.

Stanly Productions has some kind of mail away service, they'll do 100ft of 16mm for £30 with no minimum orders, I can't remember where they were sending it to; the guy in the shop said something about a lab Surbiton if that rings any bells.



Yes but Stanleys are dodgy as hell as you must have worked out if you actually went into the "shop". Kinda time machine thing. Outside looks like a big shop, inside there is a small area for the customer to walk in and all these people and 70's looking furniture. Brown is the theme. Completely bizzare place. Kind of a cross between the movie Brazil, a warehouse, and something else I can't put my finger on right now.

I stood there while a guy was supposed to give me a quote. Giving me a quote involved ringing someone else up who wasn't really interested in giving a quote. I'm stood there while he is on hold for ages. A guy comes in and explains that he just bought a 100ft roll of Kodak film there but the seal is already broken on it. The guy I'm dealing with explains that it's probably just fine anyway. The customer then explains that it makes him feel uncomfortable as he can't be sure what has happened to it, eventually he has to point out that he would really like a replacement. This involves calling up someone else to go fetch a replacement. A replacement eventually comes with this guy from where-ever all the stuff is stored. Quite rightly the customer looks slightly narked that he has had to push so hard for a replacement but he has one and is happy and goes away. The guy I'm supposed to be dealing with then has a conversation with the guy from the other department as the other guy is a bit like "well what am I supposed to do with this" "just sell it to someone else" "but no-one is going to want this are they" my guy makes it clear it's not his problem.

Eventually my man at stanleys admits he isn't going to be able to give me a quote but he can phone me up with one. I suggest he can email me. I seems very reluctant at this idea. I give him my phone number and email and he seems happy. I leave after a very interesting experience.

I'd be careful about using Stanleys for the processing but on the upside they don't actually do it themselves! ;)

where's iRushes based? I can't find anything about them on Google


That might be because I made the name up! lol!
They are actually called i-dallies:

http://www.i-dailies.co.uk/

iRushes would probably cause too much confusion and might even get them sued! ;)

From what I can tell, it's an all in one service with processing and a one light direct to hard disk on their spirit. That's not clear from their website but that seems to be how it works. I think that's why they are called i-dailies because that is the concept.

love

Freya
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#20 Freya Black

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Posted 27 July 2012 - 09:53 AM

Stanly Productions has some kind of mail away service, they'll do 100ft of 16mm for £30 with no minimum orders, I can't remember where they were sending it to; the guy in the shop said something about a lab Surbiton if that rings any bells.


Sounds like the same place Deluxe are using I think. I thought the guy in deluxe said something about derann but whatever it is they courier all the film to a lab somewhere outside of London.

love

Freya
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