Many documentary producers come to us with very large amounts of film. They want our scene-by-scene transfer quality but they may only need a limited number of shots for their production. They are always interested in saving money. Here are ways to work to accomplish high quality and economy in use of 8mm materials in your production.
The more work you do to organize your rolls and mark your scenes for transfer, the more likely you will get what you need and get it more economically. If the film rolls are labeled and you plan to transfer everything (or almost everything), you only need to arrange the reels in order -by year, by location, by subject- and number them. But if you want only selections from the rolls, read on, please.
Make sure you have all the rolls you need of each event; stragglers increase the cost disproportionately.
Place a separate number on each roll. If appropriate, use capital letters as well as Arabic numerals: the letters for the topics, the numbers for rolls.
Find a dual 8mm film viewer and clean it with Lemon Pledge Furniture Polish (not the oil) on a Q-tip, keeping the polish away from any optical parts. Wipe off any excess white liquid with a paper towel. Wipe the reel holders, too. Then test the viewer for scratching by running a short length of film (like 4 inches at the head of a reel) back and forth under tension through the viewer aperture. If you see scratches, use an orange stick or an emery board to remove the burr, then clean with Lemon Pledge again.
Find a splicer for the film gauge(s) you are handling. Clean off any residual glue (with an orange stick, Q-tips and alcohol) and try making a splice in the middle of the head leader of a film. If it holds when lightly tugged on, you are proficient; if not, try again.
Preview the rolls. Keep the films of each event separate from other events; i.e. do not intermix rolls of a sporting event with rolls of beach scenes. This will require previewing each reel in the viewer before mounting on large reels as sometimes the box notes about content and the images do not match.
Mount the films on large reels (400 foot is fine) by splicing them together with their leaders left on. Write the alpha/numeric designation of each roll on each leader with a fine point Sharpie pen.
Review the big reels. After reviewing the reels and making notes, you are ready to mark the sections or shots you want on video. If you need almost all of a roll, or a great number of shots on one roll, do not mark the shots as it will be more efficient to transfer the whole reel.
When you reach an individual shot or series of shots you need, mark its head by placing 6 inches of Post-it #651 Correction and Cover-up Tape (available in stationery stores) down the length of the film, covering the images. Put it about 6 inches to the right of the first frame in the viewer, making sure that the tape does not cover up any of the sprocket holes. When you pass the end of the selected cut or sections, place a 3 inch piece of #651 about 6 inches to the left of the last selected frame. Apply the tape to either side of the film; make it easy on yourself.
We prefer this tape because it is easy to see to flag the shots. It is easy to remove cleanly and completely after the transfer. All other tapes we have tried leave sticky residue that is hard to clean off.
Make a log of each cut or scene you want transferred, describing the shot or the first images and the final images if it is a scene. A copy of this log should accompany the reels to be transferred. Plan to have a person (editor or producer) who is familiar with the log to supervise the transfer session, as this always results in timed saved.
If in doubt about the length of a scene (to cover a particular narrative), make a note of that, time the narrative and include the needed length in your log. If you have the option of transferring several scenes to cover a given bit of narrative, mark them because it will take less time to transfer two scenes and for you to cut them down in your edit than to adjust the frame rate of one scene to fit a narrative. Slowing the frame rate of scenes is smoother in our transfer than when done in a computer (the computer repeats some frames and not others according to a computation while we simply fill video fields as the film passes smoothly at various frame rates). If such things are not a concern to you, we prefer to transfer the scenes at the frame rates they were shot at, to the best of our determination, for we believe that an accurate representation of motion honors the people filmed by accurately informing viewers of the culture of the subjects.
© Brodsky & Treadway rev. Nov. 2002
Revised by Bob Brodsky Nov. 2002, copyright 2002- 2003. All rights reserved.
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