I've been lurking here for some time, reading and doing some research. I have thousands of hours of Super 8mm home movie footage taken from 1967 to 1990 that I am looking to get transferred. I'm dealing with amateur footage that is naturally shaky from the handheld camera, has occasional focus problems, lots of panning around etc. LOTS of poorly lit indoor shots. The film itself is *ok* but it has some dirt, scratches, etc., that you would expect from 30-40 year old films that have been handled / stored by Average Joes. It also has lots of splices.
After doing some research here, I came to the conclusion that my choices for the best scan of these old Super 8mm home movies was between the LaserGraphics ScanStation and the DCS Xena Dynamic Perf 4K. I took some sample 50ft reels to Frame Discreet in Toronto and got them to do a flat scan at 5K and 2K resolution, in 16-bit DPX and ProResHQ 4444. I was very impressed with the quality. I did a number of frame-by-frame tests, and I could not justify the additional scanning cost, or the storage/data handling requirements of going with a 5K scan instead of a 2K scan - at least on the Scanstation.
I have a couple of questions:
How does the DCS Xena Dynamic Perf 4K compare with the ScanStation for Super 8mm home movies with lots of poorly lit indoor shots, splices, shaky footage, and the rest of the problems listed above? Are there any other scanners I should be considering?
I really liked the fact that I could scan the entire film area, including the sprocket holes with the ScanStation. I hate cropping and actually kind of enjoy the "raw" look that the entire film with sprocket holes provide. Does the DCS Xena Dynamic Perf 4K scanner allow this?
The Super 8mm film with sound was shot at 18fps and I'd like to get both a DPX + WAV as well as a ProResHQ 4444 outputs. Although I could find workarounds, it would make my life a lot easier if the image dequence/video was set to 18fps and the corresponding audio was synched accordingly. The ScanStation seems to do this fine, but just checking to make sure that the DCS DCS Xena Dynamic Perf 4K can do this as well.
I did not like the sound quality of the samples I got, but I have no idea if it was due to a) the camera's sound recording ability at that time, the film and any possible degradation of the magnetic soundtrack, c) the scan from the ScanStation or some combination thereof. For the record, I did a few different configurations of sound formats, all lossless (i.e. WAV). I tried various combinations of bit depth and sampling rate, ranging from 24 to 32-bits, and 48 to 192 kHz. Does the DCS Xena Dynamic Perf 4K have better sound capture from old magnetic Super 8mm film? I don't hear too much discussion about Super 8mm home movie sound capture quality. Is this as good as it gets?
Below are two sample screenshots from the footage I got back from the ScanStation @ 2K. I took screenshots from an indoor frame and an outdoor frame for comparison. To show off the scan in its best, I tried to pick out frames that were the most steady, for the clearest image.
Edited by Brian Mekdeci, 06 August 2016 - 01:29 AM.
The Xena Dynamic Perf 4k is about to get a 5K sensor upgrade, within about 3-5 weeks.
The Xena can scan from edge to edge including the full perforation just like Scan Station and Kinetta.
DCS is still working on the audio subsystem and hardware, it is coming in a few months. Super-8mm Mag sound is not particularly high quality and if sound was recorded it should have been 24fps but often it was either 24fps or 18fps. The Xena will have a Mag sound head and 24bit digitizing for Mag audio.
So if you want to scan your S8mm with mag sound soon the Xena can't do that yet.
There is no 18fps video format, you have to choose 23.98 24.00 29.97 etc. and frame blend to make 18fps. Furthermore none of the Super-8 cameras I know of were crystal sync so the audio will have pitch issues at 18fps or 24fps in almost all cases.
I can post some Super-8mm 2K scans of mine from the Xena I think the scanners will look similar with this material.
I did some 16mm test scans at 2K and at 4K on the ScanStation Director last year and I could hardly see any difference. So for Super8, I think even 2K would be overkill. Also, I know the Director handles cement splices very well, but I'm not sure how it would react to rough tape splices.
1080p and 2K are almost the same thing, from a resolution perspective, so you're right - it's not going to be a big difference in quality.
1080p is 1920 x 1080 pixels
2K is 2048 x 1152 is pixels.
However, since 2K has a few more pixels than 1080p, scanning at 2K gives you some breathing room to do things like crop the picture a little bit and end up with a really clean, good-looking 1080p output for HDTV, Blu-rays, etc.
Edited by Brian Mekdeci, 06 August 2016 - 03:37 PM.
I find the 5K scan to 2K output on the ScanStation to be worth it even with Super 8 solely for grain rendering. The grain is much more finely resolved this way compared to a regular 2K or 1080p scan. It's true there is not even HD worth of information on a Super 8 frame... and barely on a Super16 frame. However, the grain being more properly rendered results in a sharper and cleaner looking image that is more pleasant to watch and is closer to the real projected image. It's true HD is probably "enough". But, to get all the information, consider grain to be information, the higher the better.
Here's my most recent 5K sourced Super 8 ScanStation footage.
Be sure to view it in 2K... for the extra high bit-rate. Again, not necessary for actual resolution but to get enough bit/s to not block up the grain structure.
2K is 2048 x 1556 for the Super-8 1.33 frame and that is significantly larger than the typical center cut 1440x1080 HD frame.
Of course Robert is right on this and it makes a big difference if your final destination will be cropped to 16:9. You can reframe vertically in your editor without any quality loss. It also gives you a little wiggle room (pun intended) for some light stabilization which can be the difference between watchable and un-watchable Super 8.
The ScanStation can handle mag audio at 18 or 24fps. Sound quality is a function of the camera, the condition of the film and the fact that the mag stripe on these small gauges is about 1/4 the size of the tape used in cassette tapes. That is, there's very little tape there, and the audio quality in this format was always substantially worse than most other magnetic tape formats, including cassettes.
That said, it's possible to get reasonable sound off of them, even on very old film. Here's some Regular 8 film with a post-striped mag track (not Super 8, this is earlier - probably from the 1960s) that we scanned recently:
Obviously the sound track isn't fantastic, but given that it's more than 50 years old and it's less than 1/8" wide, I'd say not bad.
Perry's ScanStation is truly amazing on Super 8. Probably the best raw scan I've gotten on the format. I'm working with a colorist on it next week and can't wait to hear his thoughts.
It can be difficult to compare scans of Super 8, partly because of the nature and size of the film and partly because not every scan is "flat" and just a little color adjustment can make a huge difference.
The good news is there are tons of excellent choices for scanning these days. At this level other factors like cost and convenience are probably more important. If you're scanning 35mm, the subtleties of a scan are more evident and tests can reveal differences. Then you can decide based on aesthetics for each project. I wouldn't agonize that much over the Xena vs. ScanStation for Super 8...either will give you amazing results.