One of the jobs we enjoy is converting old 8mm (or Super8mm) movies into a digital format that then gives us the ability to edit (NLE) with our PC what is usually a collection of desirable footage mixed with various problem footage into a presentation less likely to put our viewers to sleep.

We've integrated Pinnacle's "Studio Deluxe" package into one of our custom-built PCs that provides us with the ability to capture and edit both Digital Video and Analog Video formats. This package includes a hardware capture board with a breakout box for Analog Video in/out connections, and a pair of IEEE-1394 (Firewire) ports from which to both capture and output Digital Video signals. Also included in this package are several pieces of software, including full versions of Pinnacle's "Studio" version 7, Hollywood FX Plus for Studio, and Pinnacle Express for making DVDs, SVCDs, or VCDs.

Here's a pictorial story of how we go about producing VHS (or SVHS) tapes, DVDs, or VCDs:


1. The first task you want to undertake is to make sure your old 8mm movies are "good to go." In other words, make sure the leader is not broken or damaged, and that all splices are intact and are not ready to break apart when you run the film through the projector. A film editor such as this can be used to preview the movie while simultaneously looking for splices that may need repair or for sections of film that may have broken sprocket holes that may require attention.
2. A film splicer comes in handy if you find problems with your 8mm films. This tool is used to re-join the broken pieces of film into a single contiguous piece. Kodak used to make a product known as 910 Adhesive. This product (or similar products) can be found on the market today under various names, most commonly known as "Super Glue." Using this type of adhesive ensures a rapid, strong bond between the two pieces of film being spliced together. Always clean the emulsion off the film base prior to applying the adhesive and clamping the film.
3. This is the setup I use to copy 8mm movies onto a Digital8 video tape. I use a Canon Cine Projector S-2 dual 8mm/Super8mm projector (virtually any projector meeting your film's requirements will work) to project the image onto a Sima "CopyKit3" converter box's screen. (this particular model is apparently no longer manufactured). Through a mirror and lens assembly inside the CopyKit3 box, the image is routed to a Sony Digital8 Camcorder (virtually any camcorder will do). You'll find the final results of your efforts, i.e. the quality of your captured digital videos, will closely match the quality you'd achieve using alternative techniques and equipment that cost much, much more to assemble. It's just that this process, while a little less expensive, takes a little more effort and care in setting up to achieve those results.
4. Because a normal movie projector runs at 24 fps, and digital video processes prefer 29.97 fps (OK, 28 fps for video editing software), you will find that image brightness can therefore become "modulated," producing periods of lighter and darker images in a "wave" like fashion. By varying the projector motor's speed (this Canon projector does have a speed control), you can "synchronize" the projector with the Digital8 camcorder to reduce or even eliminate this modulation. This requires constant monitoring of the image brightness to detect when the projector and the Digital8 camcorder drift out of synch. A projector with more shutter leaves could eliminate this problem, but at a much higher cost for the projector (if you can even find them today).
5. You've also got to pay attention to the alignment of the projector beam to the conversion box, and the line of sight into the box by the camcorder. Do a practice run to make sure everything is properly lined up. An adjustable platform under the camcorder would be a desirable tool to implement, or, you can stack up boxes or books to get the right height for the camcorder. There is less flexibility lining up the projector with the converter box, so I use the converter box's vertical height adjustment to line up with the projector. Also, make sure to minimize as much as possible or even eliminate any sources of ambient light, such as that light coming through a window, that impinges on the converter box's projector screen. Finally, adjust your camcorder's telephoto/wide angle control to capture just the desired image, i.e., frame the image in the camcorder's viewfinder to include only the projected image, and make sure the image is in focus.
6. Once you've captured the movies to Digital8 (in our case, could also be Mini-DV format, etc.), you then import the video file to your PC's hard drive using the video capture capability of a program such as Studio 7 (Adobe Premiere, ULEAD's MediaStudio Pro, ULEAD's VideoStudio, etc.). Once the video file is copied to your hard drive, you can then use your video editing program to delete unwanted footage, add transitions and titles, music, or still images until you've got your finished production.
7. Once you have your final production ready to go, select the output mode of your editor (Studio 7 shown), and let the production roll.
8. The output from your PC required to produce a VHS tape (analog video) comes from the "big blue" connector box attached to the Pinnacle Capture Board installed in your PC. The connector box provides inputs and outputs for SVHS and VHS video, to which you connect your tape recording equipment. Your tape recording equipment should obviously be running (taping) while the production is being played back on your PC in an "output-to-tape" mode.
9. Here you can see up close the "big blue" breakout box with its connections. This box is used only for analog video inputs and outputs. In this case, we're running only outputs from big blue to the VHS recording tape deck. You could also run inputs to big blue from a VHS tape deck (or any other device producing NTSC video/audio signals) thus providing for the opportunity to capture video from these additional sources as well.
10. IEEE-1394 ports, such as those that are now commonly available on Digital Video Camcorders, are required as digital video input and output ports on your PC to interface with the camcorder. The Pinnacle capture card provides two 1394 in/output ports. However, these ports are provided at the rear of the capture card, and if your PC is set up in such a way as to make the back panel connections inaccessible then you need to add a breakout panel to the front of your PC such as the one shown here for your convenience. Newer PC cases include front panel breakouts for USB connections, but not all cases also include front panel IEEE-1394 connectors. This particular front panel add-on includes USB, Audio, 1394, and MIDI/Joystick connector ports all routed from the back panel connectors to the front where they are easier to access. Newer versions of Pinnacle's capture boards include the 1394 port on big blue itself.


Last Updated: 14 October 2009 14:04