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Why is my scan so grainy?

16mm to 1080p Apple Pro Res 4

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#1 James Honeycutt

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 05:49 PM

Hi...

I shot some 16mm Tri-X and had it processed and then transferred to digital. The format I selected is the same I have used in the past for HD transfers. It is called 1080p Apple Pro Res 422 HQ.

When I project my film, the parts that were exposed correctly look about as good as anyone would want. Sharp, clear, nice balcks, whites, and grays. I am very happy with it. However, my digital transfer is very grainy. It is grainy enough to be annoying. The transfer does not appear to be overly cropped.

About the same time this happened, I sent another lab some B&W shot in 1955 and had it transferred in SD. I could not see any grain at all and it looked really sharp to my eyes.

Am I being to picky, or should I have it transferred again and pay for a colorist? Or is something else going on here?

Any advice appreciated.

Thanks

jack

Portland Oregon
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#2 David Cunningham

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 08:48 PM

There are a lot of factors that could make your scan appear "grainy".

Where did you have your transfer done? Do you have it posted somewhere in low compression HD so we can all review it?

When you transfer film to digital you are going to have two types of "noise", film grain and video noise. If your reversal projected looks "clean" then what you are seeing in your transfer is likely video noise. To me, this has always been more prevalent on older CRT-based telecine machines such as the y-front or millenium. For some reason (maybe someone else on here knows why) I have seen more extreme video noise on B&W reversal than color (negative or reversal).

In the past you may not have noticed the grain or video noise as much on SD transfers because the resolution and dynamic range of those machines was not sufficient to fully "resolve the grain". Also, file formats that are less compressed will tend to show more film grain. Compression naturally reduces grain and highlight detail in exchange for it's smaller disk space. If you compress it high enough, eventually you'll suffer severely with sharpness and "compression artifacts".

So, the short of it, to me, if your projected image looks sharp and low grain, then your transfer was probably either poorly done by the colorist or scanned on a low end or poorly calibrated machine.

If you are transferring 16mm on a budget I would go with either the Spirit at Spectra Film and Video, the Arriscan at NoLo Digital or the Scanity at Cinelicious (in order of increasing cost). If you want a really inexpensive but "good" HD upres transfer I like my local company, Cinelab, who uses an up-converting Y-Front setup.

If your scan was done by one of these houses, I'd be very surprised if you had a bad result and would talk to them directly about your issue.

Dave
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#3 Dirk DeJonghe

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Posted 22 November 2012 - 12:11 AM

If you only watched your images on a computer monitor, look at them again on a proper HD video monitor. The gamma curve between a computer monitor and a video monitor is different. Put the two next to each other and you will notice a dramatic difference in apparent grain because the computer monitor stretches the blacks and dark grays.
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#4 James Honeycutt

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 01:14 PM

Gentleman...

Thank you both for all the good information. I have found that the color I shot does not show what I am calling grain. I do have a high end HD color TV. I could transfer the film to Blu-ray and view it on the TV to see if it still looks grainy. Good idea.

Dave, I did not have my film transferred at any of the transfer houses on your list. I just received a quote from Scanity for $600 for 400 feet. A bit on the high side for me. I am sending email to Spirit and see what they may charge me.

I wish my HD TV wold let me stream from my USB 3.0 hard drive directly to the screen.

I will update my progress here. Thank you Dirk and Dave for the many tips. I will start looking into it.

many thanks,

jack
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