Enhancing Old Film Transfers

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the August, 2007, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

Malcolm McClure writes:

I find your FCP newsletter very informative and helpful, even though I am a relatively inexperienced user of FCP.


I have just received old 8mm and Super 8 films transcribed to Quicktime. Although motion is smooth, colour and contrast obviously require adjustment to measure up to today’s standards.


I have two questions that other readers of your newsletter might find useful:


1. What combination of effects and filters should I concentrate on to achieve the desired improvement to old ‘Kodak stock”?


2. I have been reading about Intel’s Super-Resolution work that blends information from several frames. Here’s more information:




I have read about software called Image Enhancer that does something similar. I have read about FCP frame-blending, but this seems to be a motion speed blender rather than a resolution enhancer.


Is there something available or in the pipeline that can do this in FCP?

Larry replies: First, I’m not an expert here, so I encourage other readers to provide suggestions.

You did not mention how your film was transfered to QuickTime, nor the codec (video format) they used. Hopefully, it was transfered via a telecine, rather than projecting it on a wall and shooting it with a camera. As well, it would be great if it was transfered into an HD format, as that gives you more resolution of the image to work with.

In either case, while Final Cut’s Color Corrector 3-way filter can significantly improve color and contrast, it can’t fix scratches or other blemishes in the frame. Nor, for that matter can any of the other software in Final Cut Studio.

I’d be interested in other reader’s ideas on what would be the best approach.

UPDATE – Aug. 22, 2007

Eric Hvisc adds:

I have doing 8 and supper 8 mm transfers for almost 20 years now and here are some of my observations.


Aiming a camera at movie screen can give a better image that a cheap telecine. (white walls are not white and don’t work). A variable speed projector is important some reg 8 was shot at 18 frames a second some at 24 and some at who knows.. 99% are home movies shot by armatures and some time there is nothing you can do. don’t trust old edits always run the film on an editor before you project it. Have lots of editing tape ready. DO NOT use liquid cleaners, some film stock will get washed away. if you can’t get a 5 blade shutter projector slowing down the shutter speed will eliminate flicker.


And most important. There is no magic bullet that will fix color problems. you were right to say “Final Cut’s Color Corrector 3-way filter can significantly improve color and contrast,” and some times you have to do it shot by shot.


But these are family memories so who cares if grandma’s hair is a little green. a slow mo and the right music and you have gem that will be remember for as long as the DVD format exists.

Larry replies: Thanks!


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