PHONOTONE

TECHNOLOGY BEHIND OUR SCANNING
AND RESTORATION OF MOTION PICTURES

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A 1939 film on a 16mm print, scanned with the sprocketless scanner. Sound pickup through an optical sound head. Uncompressed scan restored using AlgoSoft Viva.

FILM SCANNING

 

At Phonotone, we have created our own systems for scanning film.

 

We use two systems: Sprocketless scanners with open scan path and pin registered scanners with traditional film gates.

 

As much as possible, we use sprocketless scanning, as not to inflict any undue stress on old film. Due to the open film path, the film will only be handled on its sides. However, warped film may need to be scanned using the scanners with pin registration and a film gate with pressure plate.

The current scanning resolution available for all film formats is true 2K after rendering. This resolution is achieved uncompressed. We do not perform scans with compression. Only uncompressed scans are reasonably suited for image restoration. Any digital compression, such as MP4 (H.264) or MPEG2 to decrease the file size can be applied in the rendering process.

FILM RESTORATION

For film restoration, we apply the industy leading film restoration suite AlgoSoft Viva.

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A 1932 film on a 1930s16mm print, film deteriorated. Scanned with the pin registered scanner due to warping. Sound pickup through an optical sound head. Uncompressed scan restored using AlgoSoft Viva.

AlgoSoft Viva, in expert hands, produces outstanding professional quality results, bringing the film image back to the quality it was when the film was new. See examples of restorations in the left column on this page.

A restoration example. A 1955 television print scanned on a sprocketless scanner by SPEAK EASY ARCHIVES and restored by Phonotone. Sound pickup through AEO Light. Uncompressed scan restored using AlgoSoft Viva.

Motion picture film is made of a plastic film base (early films were made of nitrocellullose, later films of cellulose acetate and recent films of polyester) coated with a gelatin emulsion containing silver grains or color dyes. This composition makes film inherently fragile and prone to damage. However, properly cared for, motion picture film has a surprisingly long shelf life. But over time, as inevitable with all plastics and organic materials, film will degrade and decay, rendering the photographed content useless.  Digital film scanning and image restoration preserves our motion pictures and makes them available for viewing on modern devices, including smartphones, and at the same time, allows many more people access to these film treasures.

A completey faded to pink 35mm Eastman color print, most likely from the late 60s- early 70s. Scanned on the sprocketless scanner. Sound pickup through AEO Light. Uncompressed scan restored using AlgoSoft Viva.

It is a well known fact that most Eastman color prints from the 1950s to the 1980s have faded in the yellow and cyan dye layers, with only the magenta layer retaining color. This means that there are hardly any blue and green colors left, a "pink" cast is all that remains of the once vibrant Eastman color. We offer specialty color restoration services for such prints, even if they are faded to red or pink. After a good amount of research and testing, we developed a digital restoration method that allows to recover much of the color information still retained in a faded color print. As seen in this clip, the resulting restoration is very good, with greens and blues recovered.

Remark: This is the same print I am holding in my picture featured on the Welcome page. It is only a 2 minute fragment, nevertheless, it is quite entertaining.

SOUND REPRODUCTION AND RESTORATION

A little treasure, a 35mm nitrate print from 1947 with variable density sound track. Sound pickup through a 35mm sound head. Uncompressed scan restored using AlgoSoft Viva.

Remark: The last few feet of the film were torn in half. This part of the film print was repaired and could still be scanned in the sprocketless scanner.

Vintage sound tracks also pose unique playback and restoration challenges. Two types of optical sound tracks can be found on vintage film: Variable Area and Variable Density.

Variable Area sound tracks can be reproduced extremely well from a scanned film image using AEO Light (examples can be heard in our clips above). Variable Density tracks, however, may need to be reproduced using a high quality optical sound head. The image scan gray scale linearity is not sufficient for premiere quality sound reproduction of such tracks.

As a side note, Variable Density tracks from the mid 1930s on were often high fidelity.

 

 Standard 8mm film scanned with the pin registered scanner. Uncompressed scan restored using AlgoSoft Viva.

NARROW GAUGE FILM

Amateur film is near and dear to our heart. It is this kind of film that often allows us insight into the daily life of regular people, something we have to preserve by all means.

We have developed outstanding scanning and restoration setups for Standard 8mm, Super 8mm and 9.5mm films. Often, the quality of such scans is nothing short of larger gauge film scans. Please see our example to the left, a highly acclaimed documentary feature, publicly screened in movie theaters in Europe. We produced this film from standard 8mm film scans.

We can also extract sound from narrow gauge film, may it be optical or magnetic sound.