QUESTIONS
on transfer to film


Top ten most commonly asked questions:

1. How much does it cost to transfer to film?

    For short films, about $350/minute for 35mm; sound, negatives, and print all included. $250/minute for 16mm. A feature-length transfer to 35mm can be as low as $20,000 (75 min) or $13,000 for 16mm (75 min). Also see our prices page, and try our JavaScript rate calculator.

2. How long does it take to do the transfer?

    Two to four weeks, depending on our current workload.

3. What is the quality like?

    Excellent. If the source material is high-quality HD, such as DVCPROHD, it looks as good or better than 16mm enlarged to 35mm, except that there is no 16mm graininess. The average viewer cannot tell that the transfer originated on digital. We were rated one of the top three transfers companies in the world, for shots containing live action or animation, by the September 2000 issue of The Independent.

4. Do you have student discounts, or will you transfer a film for free?

    No, but we do offer special rates on occasion to members of our mailing list (sign up here). We also take four major credit cards, and we are the lowest-cost facility in the world offering digital film-recorder transfers.

5. What camera should I buy?

    Right now the Panasonic HPX300 is the best choice for under $10,000, or the Panasonic HPX170 for under $5000. DVFilm can provide special software for editing on Windows or Mac. However any three-chip "prosumer" digital video camera, costing 3,500 dollars or more, can be used to make an excellent digital film.

6. What editing hardware/software should I use?

    Some recommended editing programs are Sony Vegas 9.0, Premiere Pro CS5, Final Cut Pro 7, or Avid Media Composer.

7. What settings should I use on my camera?

    For 24P cameras like the HPX300, shoot 24P with 1/50 or 1/60 sec shutter speed. Other settings may be determined by eye and with the use of a high-quality studio monitor. Don't shoot too dark or too light, try to get a solid exposure, and watch focus very carefully.

8. Can you transfer from HD, Quicktime, or computer image files?

9. Where can I see your work?

    At film festivals all around the country (see upcoming projects). You can also request a copy of our 35mm demo reel, screen it at our film laboratory (please email us to arrange that) or have a test made from your own footage. Sign up for our mailing list to get announcements of festival screenings.

10. How do you do the transfer?

    You export your movie to an uncompressed file in quicktime or AVI file format and put it on a small hard drive and send it to us. The resulting image frames are then converted by us to 24p (if they were not already shot 24P) and recorded onto 35mm or 16mm negative at 2K resolution with a proprietary film recorder. The audio from your master tape is transferred to timecode DAT, and then transferred to optical sound negative in Dolby SR (for 35mm) or mono (for 16mm). 25P audio is time-expanded 4% to play back at 24 fps without altering the pitch of voices. The picture and soundtrack negatives are then printed to positive film on a contact printer. The resulting print is compatible with any movie theater system, worldwide.

If you need more information, read our more detailed FAQ which follows here, or buy Marcus van Bavel's SHOOTING DIGITAL now available for purchase by credit card though this site.

Also see our Links Page.

MORE QUESTIONS

    11. How can I make DV or HDV look more like film?

    If your camera can do 16:9 aspect ratio format, use it. Theaters usually project 35mm at 1.85:1 and that means that with the 4:3 TV aspect ratio, only 345 out of 480 horizontal lines are on the screen. With 16:9 format, we can squeeze them all in. If you can afford to buy a 16:9 anamorphic lens (see the Optex US Dealer website, or the Century website), that is preferable to the 16:9 mode on a 4:3 camera.

    For NTSC or PAL cameras which are not 24P-capable, use interlaced scan. If the camera has a setting for shutter speed, set it to 1/50th of a second, or the nearest value (e.g. 1/60th). If you want a film-look version or something that looks like 24P on tape we suggest you buy DVFilm Maker, a low-cost application that makes video look like it was shot on film by converting it to 24 frames/sec progressive scan. We also provide DVFilm Atlantis, which converts PAL to NTSC in a way almost identical to film.

    If you're shooting color, try for a 3:1 lighting ratio. (Lighting ratio refers to the difference between the key light and the fill light). With this ratio, the CCD's response curve is very similar to film. We usually raise the contrast during the transfer process, but it's important not to exceed the range of brightness the CCD can handle. If you want low-key lighting, or harsh lighting, you might consider B&W and then pretty much anything goes.

    If possible assume manual control of focus, and absolutely, positively do not use aperature-priority automatic exposure (which will give you very short shutter speeds in bright lighting). Use manual exposure control or shutter-priority auto.

    A few words about focus: Accurate focusing is crucial for movie-style close-ups. The viewfinders of most DV cameras are inadequate for focusing by eye, especially on close-ups at wide apertures. The autofocusing cannot be depended on, either, to focus on the actor's eyes. So we suggest using a large, studio-quality monitor on the set or location, if you are going to be shooting indoor, extreme close-ups at f/4 or wider.

    12. Why is 16:9 mode better? Isn't that just letterboxed 4:3?

    No, true 16:9 is either created with a 16:9 chipset or with an anamorphic lens, like Cinemascope. With an anamorphic lens, a wide, rectangular image is squeezed horizontally by a factor of 1.33, so that it fits within the 4:3 chip. The image is then stretched out again on a 16:9 monitor or when it's transferred to film. This means that, with anamorphic 16:9, in the compression, recording, editing, and film transfer stages, ALL of the information in the frame will be used, and none of it will be thrown away when projected in a theater, unlike a letterboxed widescreen. With a 16:9 chipset or an anamorphic lens, 16:9 is absolutely the best. Cameras that can be used with anamorphic lenses are the Sony VX-2100, PD-150 and the Panasonic DVX100. Cameras that are native 16:9 are the Sony HDR-FX1/Z1, Canon XL-2, Sony DSR-570 and the JVS DV-700.

    12B. But why does 16:9 mode look blurry on my viewfinder?

    You need to view it on a 16:9 monitor side-by-side with a letterboxed 4:3 monitor to make a fair comparison. The 16:9 image is superior after decompression.

    13. In the past, you recommended progressive scan, or frame-movie mode for Canon PAL cameras. Is that still the case?

    No. Now that inexpensive software is available to convert interlaced video to progressive scan (click here for more information) we do not recommend "frame movie" mode for PAL or NTSC. PAL frame-movie mode is acceptable for transfer to film, but you can get slightly better results by shooting interlaced mode because the resolution is better than frame mode for static shots (shots where the camera is not moving). NTSC frame mode is a definite no-no, 30P cannot be converted to 24P without a tremendous effort and significant extra cost.

    14. What about "film look" plug-ins that add grain or diffusion to the picture?

    We don't like these because they subtract from the clarity of the image. Your film print will have a natural amount of graininess and diffusion so there is no need to add any electronically. If you really like the "film look" on videotape, then make a separate version with no added effects for film transfer purposes.

    15. What about Digital Betacam or HDTV to film?

    Yes, we can transfer from DigiBeta NTSC or PAL. We can also do HDCAM or HD-D5 at a slightly higher cost.

    Another option for HD projects is to provide us with high-res computer image files on computer hard drive. We can accept any image file size, in .bmp, .pict, or .jpg format. We can also accept a Quicktime file encoded with any of the codecs supported by Quicktime 5 or 6.

    16. Can you transfer to film from the NTSC Panasonic DVX100/100A or the NTSC Canon XL-2 24P cameras? What mode should I shoot in?

      Yes we can. The recommended way is to shoot Advanced 24P Mode (called 2:3:3:2 mode on the XL-2) with the Vertical Detail setting at "Thin" (called "Normal" on the XL-2) for best resolution. Process your captured clips with with DVFilm Maker before editing. This converts the raw footage to a true 24 frames/sec Quicktime. The resulting 24P Quicktimes are edited in a 24P timeline, and sent to us for transfer to film on a Firewire hard drive instead of tape. Click here for more information. and here for recommended settings on the DVX100. and here for recommended settings on the XL-2

      What about the PAL DVX100 or PAL Canon XL-2?

      Yes we can transfer from the PAL DVX100 or PAL XL-2 as well. Shoot in Progressive (25P) Mode with the Vertical Detail setting at "Thin" (XL-2 = "Normal") for best resolution. Edit your movie as you would a normal PAL project. Use DVFilm Atlantis to convert to NTSC if required for US Broadcast or presentation on NTSC. Send us your final cut in PAL format on tape or on a Firewire hard drive.

    17. What exactly do I have to provide to you for the transfer?

    Your film on a hard drive, or any video format, analog or digital, preferrably 16:9 anamorphic for 35mm. It must be edited into 18-20 minute segments, or "reels", as follows:

    NTSC/60i-HDV projects (en Espanol)

     

    Each reel must be preceded by a head leader:

     

    Following the reel, which must be no longer than 21 minutes 0 seconds in duration, (including the leaders) there must be an audio "pull-up":

      • 50 video frames of black with a copy of the audio from the first 50 frames of the next reel
      • Followed by a tail leader as follows:
      • 58 video frames of black
      • a .05 sec, 1KHz tail beep, (right-click here to download), accompanied by two consecutive video frames of the word "FINISH"
      • 10 seconds of black (for tape only)

    PAL or 24P projects*:

    If you want to transfer your PAL project to film, it is best for the time-expansion process from 25 to 24 fps if you provide us separate, pre-mixed, music, dialog, and sound effects tracks on CDROM or hard drive. The tracks are time-expanded to 24 fps by us, separately, and then mixed together 1:1 (in other words, at the same level) for the final track. 

    Each reel must be preceded by a head leader:

    Following the reel, which must be no longer than 20 minutes 0 seconds in duration, (including the leaders) there must be an audio "pull-up":

      • 40 video frames of black with a copy of the audio from the first 40 frames of the next reel, or with silence if it is the last reel or a one-reel picture.
      • Followed by a tail leader as follows:
      • 47 video frames of black
      • a .05 sec, 1KHz tail beep, (right-click here to download), accompanied by one video frame of the word "FINISH"
      • 10 seconds of black (for tape only)

    *24P projects defined as movies delivered as 24P or 23.976P Quicktimes, or 24 fps frame sequence on hard drive.

    All projects

    The reels with their leaders can be recorded onto a single tape, or several tapes if necessary. Please use this format, which keeps our cost to you the lowest. We can re-edit your film to put it in this format if necessary, but we charge $75/hr for editing time. We don't like to do this editing for you because the reel change points are critical. It's better for you to plan ahead for them (see 18. below).

    Please do not give us short reels (<18 min) unless it's a short film or the last reel of a feature. This can raise the cost of the optical sound track.

      We can also shoot high-resolution scrolling titles for your film, usually at no extra cost. You must supply us with a single image file containing the entire scroll, on a Mac or Windows-formatted CDROM or Zip-100 disk. Typically this is a very long and tall image file which contains all of your closing credits. The file is animated by us and transferred to film along with the rest of your video, at a duration and scrolling speed which matches your video closing titles or your title music. The scroll can either stop on the last title or it can scroll off the screen, the choice is yours. We prefer an image size that is 1280 pixels horizontal but any dimension vertical.

     

    18. Why do I have to split my film up into 20-minute reels?

    35mm prints are manufactured and shipped on 20 minute reels. The reels are spliced together for projection at multiplex cinemas, or shown one after the other with a 2-projector system for small theaters and art houses.

    Choose the reel change points carefully! Splices that are made by the projectionist are often crude and cut out frames. Projectionists are confused when there is not a clear ending point (hard cut to/from black) to the reel that can be detected by looking at the print. Many film editors deliberately place a scene with no dialog or music at the end of each reel and at the beginning of the next, so up to a second of sound or picture may be cut off by the splice without losing important content. Do not use a fade to/from black to begin or end a reel, because part or all of the fade may be cut off. DO NOT begin or end a reel with a black scene unless it's the very beginning or end of the movie. DO NOT split a single shot across two reels, the splice will not match action.

    19. Why do I have to put the extra audio at the end?

    35mm optical sound precedes the picture by 20 film frames, because of the design of film projectors. So when the 20 minute reels are spliced together for projection on a platter system, the splice will cut off the first .8 seconds of audio for the new reel, unless you provide the extra .8 second of audio at the end. 50 frames is 1.7 seconds which provides a little extra.

    Many film editors plan the 20-minute reel changes carefully so the reel transition does not occur in the middle of music or dialog.

    20. Can I come visit your facility? Will you screen my film for me?

    Our film lab in Los Angeles is open to visitors and you can screen our demo reel, or your completed film there for free.

    21. If I have an all-CGI film, can I provide you with a Quicktime or frames in image file format?

    Yes, you can give us image files or Quicktime 5 files recorded on computer media (see here for accepted formats). Please render at 24 frames per second for the best results and use frames of the following dimensions:

    For 16mm: 640H x 480V, square pixels, or 1280H x 960V, square pixels, 24 fps

    For 35mm: 1280H x 720V, square pixels, 24 fps. 1920H x 1080V is also acceptable. Note that these are 16:9 ratios so there is a slight amount of cutoff when projected at 1:1.85.

    For 35mm, Scope: 1204H x 1024V, 2:1 horizontal squeeze, 24 fps. 2408H x 1024V square pixels is also acceptable.

    We also require a WAV or AIFF file, stereo, 16 bits, 48KHz sample rate, edited into <20 minute reels with beeps as described above, to prepare the film's audio track.

    22. Are any of your DV to film transfers showing in movie theaters?

    Our transfer of SPLIT DECISION was released theatrically all over the country. Some scenes in KUNG POW: ENTER THE FIST were transferred by us, and played in over 5000 movie theaters in the US. ROADHEAD (the precursor film to Rick Linklater's WAKING LIFE) played with the RADIOHEAD documentary in select theaters nationwide. The feature film REDBOY 13, which is a mix of DV to 35mm and regular 35mm, played theatrically in various cities across the country from 1998-2000. This same film also played at the 1997 SXSW Film Festival and at the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center, New York. The film received many excellent reviews, and the "look" of the film was often cited as exceptional (see REDBOY 13 reviews and articles). KUNG POW and REDBOY are available on DVD at Amazon.com.

    23. Why don't you use higher resolution, like 4K x 3K like they use for high-end CGI transfers?

    We usually run the film recorder at 2K resolution. At 2K it's impossible to see any lines unless you put the negative under a microscope. There are many reasons why a film projector cannot resolve any better: the lens, the registration, the contact printing method, etc. So to use a higher resolution, with low-resolution source material, doesn't gain you very much.

    For 35mm source material scanned at 4K x 3K it would make sense to record at the same resolution. Though most of the resolution will be lost when it is projected.

    We use 1280 x 720 or 1920 x 1080 (both 16:9) for CGI films because theaters cut off the top and bottom of a 35mm frame at 1:1.85 aspect ratio. So if you're doing CGI work there's no point in rendering what is going to be off screen anyway.

     

    24. I want to buy/rent a video camera. Which has the best quality for video-to-film transfers?

    Whether the camera is digital or analog, the most important specs are "lines of resolution" and the features we talked about in #11. above. Analog video captured with a broadcast-quality capture card can be just as good as DV, all other things being equal.

    Three-chip cameras are generally better than single-chip cameras.

    Here are some websites for various manufacturers:

    Great info about the XL2 from the Canon MiniDV site - Canon

    See specs of the latest Sony cameras including the HDR-FX1 - Sony

    JVC's professional DV site JVCPRO

     Panasonic's DVX-100 page: DVX100

    25. We've been shooting with the Canon XL-1. It can do a 30fps "frame-movie" mode, but it has a strobing effect. What does this look like on film?

    The reason for the strobing effect is that the camera is sampling the image at half of the normal rate, which tends to break up motion on screen into larger steps. Some people use this mode as a built-in film look. However DO NOT use this mode if you want to transfer to film. We advise XL-1 users to use interlaced mode if they are shooting NTSC and want to make it look like film. After editing and film transfer you will have to convert your tape using film motion software, or simply transfer your film print back to video tape.

    26. Can I just test out a couple frames?

    Sure, send us some frames on CDROM in the .jpg (JPEG) file format. We will transfer them to 35mm slides so you can project them. The charge is $20/frame, $80 minimum. Mail the disk and payment to the address on our contact page.

    27. Can I get a silent test of a few minutes of my footage?

    Yes. If you would like to transfer some silent footage to 35mm, we can do that for $275/minute for 35mm with a 2 minute minimum. We also have a special 1-min only test for $250. For this rate the test cannot be longer than 1 minute.

    We recommend you shoot it in the 16:9 mode if you want 35mm.

    Please mail the tape with payment to the address on our contact page. Check our test prices page for details.

    28. What if I shot my film at 24 fps, in other words, in 16mm? Or I shot with the DVX100 24P or Canon XL-2 24P but edited in an NTSC timeline? Can you drop out the "pull-down" frames that were added by the film-to-video transfer machine or the video camera?

    For film-originated projects: Yes, but if you can, telecine the film to 16:9 PAL (fullscreen anamorphic) DVCAM, running the film at 25 fps, even if it was shot at 24. Then edit, master, and deliver the tape to us in that same format. If you shot at 24, the sound track must be sped up by a factor of 25/24, but it will be slowed back down again upon transfer to film. This procedure is the best short of using HD or negative scanning to make a 35mm print from a 16mm negative. Contact Video Post and Transfer for more info on 16mm to PAL conversion.

    If you have already done your telecine to NTSC and you cannot re-do it, then deliver to us the NTSC final cut and we will use software here to remove the pulldown and convert it to 24. This is only an issue for programs that originated on 24 fps film, and were transferred to NTSC for editing.

    For other 24P projects edited on NTSC: If possible, try to avoid superimpositions, dissolves, or cuts that disturb the 5-frame cadence of the telecine conversion. We have software which will removie the 3:2 pulldown on transfer to film. For more information on 3:2 pulldown, click here. These recomendations also apply to DVX100 24P material or Canon XL-2 24P material which was edited in an NTSC timeline.

    29. I need to print out or fax the information on your web site. How do I do it?

    We recommend you buy the book SHOOTING DIGITAL which contains all the information on this website plus a lot more. Click here to purchase by credit card.

    30. Do you do PAL transfers? Is PAL better than NTSC?

    Yes, we do PAL transfers from any video format. PAL is slightly better than NTSC because the overall resolution is 20% better. The only bad part is your film is slowed down by 4% when transferred to film (however we harmonize the soundtrack so the pitch remains the same). Some video to film transfer companies swear by PAL and will tell you that PAL is the only way to go. However these are often companies that have not yet developed the software for properly converting NTSC to 24 frames/sec. At DVFilm our NTSC and PAL transfers have approximately the same, excellent quality, with slightly better sharpness on PAL transfers when all other things are equal. In a nutshell, this means that if you already have NTSC equipment, go ahead and use it, there is no need to change over to PAL.

    If you do decide to shoot PAL, we strongly recommend that you buy DVFilm Atlantis, which converts PAL to progressive-scan and then converts it to NTSC in a manner almost identical to film. It allows you to shoot and edit on PAL but show your work on standard NTSC television.

    Also if you want to transfer your PAL project to film, it is best for the time-expansion process from 25 to 24 fps if you provide us separate, pre-mixed, music, dialog, and sound effects tracks on CDROM. The tracks are time-expanded to 24 fps separately and then mixed together for the final track.

    31. How does the quality of your transfer compare to an EBR process? What about compared to kinescope transfers that cost only $10-15,000 for a feature-length film?

    Our process is equal to or better than EBR. The reasons are: 1) we transfer directly to 35mm using a film recorder; 2) EBR is a two-step process which does not record directly to color film, but records to B&W first and is then optically printed to color film; 3) Some EBR systems transfer to 16mm first and then optically print to 35mm, degrading the image with the graininess of 16mm. 4) Some EBR systems do not convert interlaced NTSC to 24 fps in a smooth fashion, resulting in jerky pans and stuttered movement-- they use a simple reverse 3:2 conversion which does not blend adjacent fields together when the optimum sample time is halfway between two fields; 5) Some EBR systems cannot properly handle a mix of interlaced video with progressive scan video, or video originated from a film-to-video transfer, which requires special image processing.

    But both of these transfer methods, EBR or DVFilm, are vastly superior to a ten-thousand-dollar kinescope transfer. With kinescope, no image processing is performed to selectively blend fields together for the best vertical resolution, so the results have only half the resolution of the EBR or DVFilm methods. Kinescope transfers show visible scan lines. Motion artifacts in kinescope transfers are very distracting. The sound quality of a kinescope recording can also be very poor, since the sound is recorded at the same time that the print is exposed. There is no provision on a kinescope machine for Ultra-Stereo or Dolby Stereo sound, which is the norm for theatrical presentation. Kinescope was invented in the 1950's to record television programs before the invention of videotape. So as you can imagine the results are very poor.

    32. How does the quality of your film recorder compare to Laser film recorders, such as the Cineon or the ArriLaser?

    Just as good, if not better. Our film recorder is a CRT film recorder that has been modified and calibrated through software methods to generate precise and consistent colors on every part of the screen. Though it operates slower than a laser film recorder, it exceeds the contrast, resolution, and color saturation requirements for projected 35mm film. Laser recorders are very expensive to operate, and were designed for high-resolution CGI to film applications where the rates run up to $1500 per minute of completed film. We use a lower-cost method to keep our rates affordable to independent filmmakers.

    Also our method exposes regular camera negative film, and the entire image is focused through a lens and exposes the film across the entire frame simultaneously. Our method gives the image a natural amount of diffusion and film grain, the same amount that you would get by shooting on film. Our transfers look less "electronic" and more natural and film-like than a laser transfer.

    33. How do I achieve great-looking slow-motion in DV?

      Here are some methods that are compatible with a transfer to film. However be aware that for NTSC projects, an additional 20% slow-motion effect may have to be applied later (by DVFilm) to get a smooth conversion to 24.


      NTSC


        1. Shoot 60i and bring into your NTSC timeline, set the rate of the clip to 50% normal speed. Vertical resolution will be reduced 50%.

        2. Shoot 30P and use 50% normal speed. Each frame will be repeated 2 times. Not as smooth but the resolution is better.

        3. Shoot 30P and use the Twixtor plug-in from Revision Effects. See Note 1.

        4. Shoot 30P and use frame-blending methods for slow-motion. See Note 2.


      PAL


        1. Shoot 50i and bring into your PAL timeline, set the rate of the clip to 50% normal speed. Vertical
        resolution will be reduced 50%.

        2. Shoot 25P and use 50% normal speed. Each frame will be repeated 2 times. Not as smooth but the
        resolution is better.

        3. Shoot 25P and use the Twixtor plug-in from Revision Effects. See Note 1.

        4. Shoot 25P and use frame-blending methods for slow-motion. See Note 2.

      24P


        1. Shoot 30P and use 80% normal speed.

        2. Shoot 60i and use 40% normal speed. Vertical resolution will be reduced 50%.

        3. Shoot 30P and use 40% normal speed. Each frame will be repeated 2 times. Not as smooth but the
        resolution is better.

        3. Shoot 24PA, remove the pulldown, and use the Twixtor plug-in from Revision Effects. See Note 1.

        4. Shoot 24PA, remove the pulldown, and then use frame-blending methods for slow-motion. See Note 2.


      Note 1: Unfortunately you must be a wiz at After Effects to use the Twixtor plugin. Since it uses morphing which distorts the background of an image, an animated matte must be drawn around each moving object and processed separately for best results. Sometimes this distortion is not noticable, it depends on the nature of the shot.

      Note 2: Frame blending is built-in to After Effects and some editing programs like Premiere, Vegas, and Final Cut. It works by dissolving on frame into another to create the slow-motion. Sometimes you have to tell the program to use blending instead of repeating frames when the speed is below 100%, in order to get this effect. Frame blending looks strange if the speed of the shot is greatly reduced. If the speed is reduced far enough it starts to look like a slide show with cross-dissolves.



    34. Can I use the JVC HD-1 to shoot hi-def and transfer to film?

      No. The JVC's 16:9 HDTV (720p30) format is 30 frames/sec progressive-scan and cannot be converted to 24 frames/sec. (Normal interlaced NTSC is 60 fields/sec and is easily converted to 24, but 30P formats have only 30 motion samples per second and no smooth conversion to 24 is possible).

      The other modes of the JVC are standard definition and offer no real advantages.

    35. What about the Sony FX1 or Z1 HDV camera?

      Yes we can transfer from the FX1 or Z1 to 35mm. You will likely need an HDV plug in to capture and edit the HDV format on a Windows workstation.For Mac you will need FCP 5 to edit. You should use DVFilm Maker to convert 60i or 50i captured footage to true 24P or 25P for editing. Here is a page of suggested setting and workflow. Here is a public forum with the latest news on the FX1/Z1.

    Have an important question that is not on this FAQ? Contact us!

     Belorussian Translation of FAQ page