What we perceive as moving images are actually a succession of static photographs that exploit a defect in the human retina which, unlike that of other animals, is not fast enough to be able to understand what is happening.

For this reason, it is extremely easy to create photos from a video.

8mm or super 8 films often portray people of whom, perhaps, there is no other image. That's why my laboratory often receives requests to deliver, in addition to the restored film, individual frames of it or even the entire image sequence that comprises it.

Doing so is not so difficult if you know what to do.

The number of frames per second

Before explaining the procedure to extract a photo from an 8 mm or super 8 film, I would like to give some technical explanations that help explain what I’m about to say.

As mentioned

we watch thousands of static photos on TV that, due to a flaw in our eyes, we mistake for moving images.

This also occurs:

  • on computer monitors
  • on smartphones
  • on tablets
  • in movie theatres

A movie today is shot at one of the following frames per second (fps): 24, 25 or 29.97.

There are different broadcasting systems in the world. The most common are two:

  • PAL (used in much of Europe) which uses 25 frames per second
  • NTSC (used in North America) which uses 29.97 frames per second

The 24 frames per second were born with the cinema, which in the previous technological era was very different from now. Until the early years of this century, in fact, theaters did not screen images electronically; they projected films on the white screen backlighting the celluloid with a system that had remained unchanged for more than 100 years since the Lumière brothers invented it at the end of the nineteenth century.

From 8mm film to photos

8mm and super 8 film quality is awesome, given that they were used decades ago. When I digitize and restore them, I get a video that would seem to have been shot yesterday if it weren't for the hair and clothes of the people and cars.
If you did the same thing with the technology that replaced them, VHS and Video8 tapes, you would be very lucky if you still saw something.

The contraindication of 8 mm and super 8 films compared to photographs of the same era is that the size of the frame is smaller than that of still photography: 8 mm against 36. So even the final definition of the photo to watch or print is lower.

However, it is not that bad if the work is done:

  • with professional equipment
  • by an experienced operator

The procedure for extracting a photo from an 8mm film

Telecine is the procedure that transforms an analog film into a digital file. Up to 15 years ago it was transformed into a videotape or DVD. This can be done in many ways.

Before explaining what I mean when I say that it can be done in many ways, I invite you to watch this video that I made and published with the permission of the client who turned to me after sending the same film to a low cost lab.

Some of my competitors shoot the image screened by an old projector, with horrible quality, and more than that, with great risks for the safety; once inside an obsolete device, the film can easily be chewed by its gears.

But don’t worry; there also people like me who have set up a professional laboratory:

  • investing a lot of money in professional equipment
  • studying the restoration techniques

Exporting a frame from a film poorly digitized means obtaining an image:

  • that is blurry
  • with false colors
  • that is full of imperfections (dots, scratches, stains)
  • with low resolution

I proudly work differently.

The digitization of the film

In my laboratory, the films are captured frame by frame with a scanner connected to a computer. The scanner model is the Filmfabriek HDS +, which costs several tens of thousands of euros as I explain in detail on this page.

With the same computer, once the acquisition is complete, thanks to software called FF Transcode, I decide how to export the captured frames, choosing:

  • the format (.mov, .avi or other less used video formats)
  • the number of frames per second

Blending and interpolation

As I mentioned earlier, 8mm and super 8 films used to be shot at a number of frames per second different from the number of frames per second that are used today. We must therefore adapt them.

If you don't want to see images speeded up like in a Charlie Chaplin movie, you can use one of two systems:

  1. blending
  2. interpolation

The most commonly used system is blending because, although it is less accurate than interpolation, it does not create artifacts. You can see it clearly in this video from the 1960s that I digitized for a client who authorized me to broadcast it:

The left image was created with interpolation by the computer, which creates 25 frames per second by analyzing the 16 of 18 frames per second originally shot.

On the right, the blending keeps the 16 or 18 frames per second and adds 9 or 7 frames per second by generating a fade between some of the adjacent frames.

Look at the preview frame, and in particular the position of the racket, both in the left and right window.

On the right, the blending has generated a fade between two adjacent frames, so you can see two faded racquets.

On the left, the computer has calculated the position of the racket by placing it in the middle of the trajectory that starts from the previous frame and ends in the next one. The image is incredibly realistic: there are no blurring and annoying fades of the racket, nor of the tennis player and the audience in the background.

In reality, that frame is entirely computer generated and the scene in that moment never existed, although its creation objectively reproduces what happened in that moment.

So far the interpolation method is extraordinary and it seems like science fiction.

However, there were some parts where the computer created unacceptable artifacts. This is why blending is used to digitize 8 mm films: it creates videos a little bit jerky, but there are no excessively damaged segments.

Back to my workflow—after digitizing the film with the scanner, I export a movie at the number of frames per second that I decide, still without producing the “overlapping frames” that can be seen in the right part of the window of the film above; only in the next phase, the restoration, the images are brought back to the actual speed.

I know these are very technical notions. I’m a technician who took years to understand what equipment and workflows to use to create the best videos from 8 mm and super 8 films. But you don't need to learn everything I’m explaining if you just want to extract a photo from a video.You need a professional editor to do this job for you.

The software I mentioned, FF Transcode, once allowed the user to export a sequence of frames in the the following formats:

  • jpg
  • tiff
  • png

In the latest versions its creators have eliminated that option for several reasons.

The first is that sometimes artifacts were created. This was a problem generated by that specific software.

The second reason, as evidenced in the photo above, is that professional scanners not only acquire the frame, but they also include the hole and the lower and upper portion of the previous and next frames.

In other words:

Printing the photo is not best at that point as it requires the operator to manually crop the frame.

Not everyone knows how to do this. Furthermore, the sofware restoration that follows can give the image a far better quality.

The reason for capturing such a large portion of the film is that by doing so:

  1. the stabilization during the restoration becomes more effective
  2. you don’t have to crop much of the frame like automatic systems of low cost scanners do.

The third reason is that the image acquired by a scanner, although very professional like mine, can be further improved with the software restoration. So exporting the video in the pre-restoration phase does not generate images as good as those that can be obtained later.

The best way to export frames from an 8mm film

The video captured by the scanner is then imported into a restoration software. I use Davinci Studio with a plug-in called Neat Video.

With this I can:

  • stabilize images
  • balance colors
  • bring brightness and contrast to correct values
  • remove the imperfections of time, such as scratches and black dots

Only after this has been done can you export the single frame you want.

This operation must be done before adjusting the number of frames per second with blending or interpolation, because if it were done later it could produce a blurred image or an image with artifacts.

Exporting a single frame from the video

Each software has its own frame export procedure. All editing programs do this. With Davinci Resolve and Davinci Studio, you must go to the Edit section by clicking the icon under the timeline:

There you have to play the movie and locate the frame you prefer:

Then you have to go to the Color section:

Right click in the monitor window and select Grab Still:

The frame you have chosen appears on the top left window. By clicking on it with the right button, select Export:

and in the following window you can choose the format (jpg, png, tiff, bmp, dpx) and export the photo.

Exporting frame sequences from a video

You can export a photo for each of the frames that make up the movie:

  • 16 per second for 8 mm films
  • 18 per second for super 8 films

Doing so is a matter of software. You just have to understand if the creators have made that option available.

Davinci Resolve and Davinci Studio, for example, haven’t done it. Other editing software, equally popular, have. To transform your video into thousands of photos, you can use:

  • Final Cut Pro
  • Adobe Premiere (as well as other Adobe Creative suite software like Adobe After Effects and Adobe Photoshop)
  • Pinnacle Studio
  • Sony Vegas
  • Edius

Generally speaking, there are more editing software that do this than those that don't.

The operation is simple. Usually, when you have to choose the options to export, instead of selecting videos in a given format, you select Image Sequence and choose jpg, png or tiff.

Now you are ready to export a photo taken from your video. If you do not want to do this yourself, you can contact me with the form below and let me do it for you.

Daniele Carrer

THE LAB IS BASED IN ITALY AND OFFERS FREE RETURN DELIVERY IN ALL THE EUROPEAN UNION

The price to digitize and restore your 8 mm, super 8 and 16 mm films in my laboratory is always 4 euros per minute of footage, regardless of the format or the fact that they are mute or sound.

If you want me to work on your home movies, please contact me with this form:

    I always respond to messages by the next working day. If you don't hear from me after contacting me, my email probably went to your spam folder. You can also reach me on Skype (live:dcarre77) or Telegram (@DnlCrr).