Motion Picture Film Scanning

and Restoration

At Phonotone, we have created our own system for scanning film and audio; once digitized, we can restore both image and sound to excellent quality.


For image restoration with outstanding results we utilize Algosoft Viva, the same software used for the restoration of the acclaimed film "Metropolis". Click here for an example of a restored  black and white 16mm film from the 1930s on our YouTube channel.


For audio restoration that can also effectively reduce non-linear distortions on optical soundtracks,  we apply our own restoration tools.

In the film clip above you can see a pre - and post restoration example of a scanned 8mm film. Please note that the raw image coming from the scanner is already of very good quality,  subsequent restoration steps therefore do not have to deal with excessive digital noise or image sharpness issues.

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, even on smartphones, and at the same time, allows many more people access to these film treasures.

It is a well known fact that most Eastman color prints from the 1950s to the 1980s have color faded in the yellow and cyan dye layers, with only the magenta layer retaining 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 often quite good, with greens and blues recovered. Click here for an additional restoration example on our YouTube channel of a completely faded to pink Eastman print.

Vintage sound tracks also pose unique restoration challenges. Although a bit of background noise can give a vintage audio recording its authentic character, too much noise makes such a recording unpleasant to listen to. In its simplest state, noise coming from analog audio recordings is composed of impulse noise (clicks) and continuous noise (hiss). While clicks can often be removed without altering the original sound characteristic and fidelity of the soundtrack by applying digital click detection followed by wave form interpolation, hiss poses a much larger problem. The current best practice of digital audio de-hissing is spectral subtraction, but this technique needs to be applied with great care, so digital artifacts and high frequency loss will be kept at a minimum.
Phonotone has decades of experience restoring vintage audio recordings. You can hear the product of our sound restoration efforts on the internet radio station "PhonotoneClassic" - providing dance music from the 1920s, 1930s and early 1940s to listeners world wide.