Transverring super 8 to DVD
Several posts suggested transferring to "VHS" and then to DVD. Bad idea. The resolution of VHS is pretty bad, and that would make one more "analog" step in the process, so the quality would degrade further. If you're going to use the "cardboard" route, use a miniDV digital camcorder, so that when you capture it to tape, that will be the last time the footage ever has to live outside the digital world.
I tried those reflective boxes and found that the light was much brighter in the middle than on the edges. What worked best for me was to use a white piece of card stock about 2-3 feet away from the projector, and slide my camcorder up as close as I could to the projector so that the angle wouldn't make the picture too non-rectangular. Then I zoomed in just so that none of the black edge showed (so then you never notice the very slight non-rectangular shape of the image).
An earlier post described the 30-frame-per-second video vs. 18 frame-per-second (fps) movie film. Running the projector at 20 frames means that you tend to get one full frame of movie on one frame of video, then two half-frames on the next frame of video. If you step one frame at a time through the captured video, you can see this effect. If the projector isn't running at 20 frames per second, then the video gets more light for a while, and then gets to the point where it's capturing more of the in-between stuff on other frames. As this behavior cylces back and forth, you get flicker.
How do you know you have your projector running at 20 fps? You just point your video camera at the cardstock (e.g., on pause), start the movie projector, and adjust the variable-speed knob on the projector until the flicker is at its least.
So here's my process:
1. Buy a miniDV camcorder and some tapes; and buy a variable-speed projector off of eBay.
2. Put a piece of cardstock on the wall in a dark room.
3. Point the projector at the cardstock without angling it up much, so the image is rectangular.
4. Set your miniDV camcorder such that its lens is at the same height as the projector's lens (use a tripod or even just a stack of magazines to get the height right). Move the camcorder as close to the projector as possible.
5. Set up a small TV pointing away from the cardstock, but where you can see it so that you can check focus, etc., without having to use the tiny screen on the camcorder (which might be right up against the projector anyway!)
6. Set your exposure and focus to manual on the camcorder. Temporarily put some printed text up against the wall and adjust the camcorder's focus until it is as sharp as possible. (That way you know you are focused on the wall, and the camcorder won't try desperately to adjust its focus later).
7. Run a movie through (a 400-foot reel is a good idea so you have time to adjust everything). While it is running,
a) Turn on the camcorder and have it set to record, but probably on "pause", so that you can watch what it is "seeing" on your TV.
b) Adjust the variable-speed knob on the projector until the flickering is minimized. (The "flicker" means that the whole picture gets lighter and darker anywhere from a few times a second to every few seconds).
c) Adjust the manual contrast on your camcorder to get the most pleasing amount of detail. Too bright and things will "wash out". Too dark and you'll lose details in the shadows. Note that a camcorder doesn't typically have as much "dynamic range" as film. If you can't get a good balance, you can go back to the top and start over with the project moved further back from the screen. The further back it is, the less light there will be in the brightest parts, so the contrast is less. (Too far back, though, and the contrast will be 'boring').
d) Double-check everything, and you're ready to record.
8. Record a whole reel at once, and worry about any editing you're going to do later.
9. Once you've captured your movies onto miniDV tape, transfer them to your Mac, import into iMovie, edit out the terrible parts, then export back to miniDV tape for an archival quality backup. (DVD looks fine, but uses compression, so you can't re-edit the footage later without losing quality if all you have is the DVD).
10. Use iDVD to burn to DVD.
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