I'm not in the business of making that kind of movie! This is a page about film animation
and the technical problems of converting movie film to television and computer files.

Movie Film: How Animation Works

My film stand. Animation requires a movie camera with a single-frame release, and lots and lots of light. Super 8 is usually 40 ASA. That's not very fast. You have to be careful when animating things such as plasticene as it gets a little hot!

Edison Phonograph

Unlike the continuous signal of analog sound, movies are strips of single pictures, which run anywhere from 16 to 24 frames per second. This rapid motion fools our eyes into seeing constant motion. Animation, whether done with plasticene, paper, cels, or computers, is created by shooting film one frame at a time and changing the picture between each shot. This basic principle was pretty much the same in 1906, the beginning of animation, as it is today when you watch Shrek.

Home movie film is mostly 8mm wide, but film is made in several other increasingly expensive sizes such as 16, 35, and 70mm for educational and theatrical films, all the way up to IMAX film. Nowadays 8mm film is very scarce and most amateurs do animation on computers.

What you see above is the classical style of animation, where animation is drawn by colored inks or felts on transparent sheets called cels. There's no need to re-draw new grass and an amp in each cel- so this part of the picture is drawn only once on a separate sheet and placed underneath. A lower cel could also be much wider and rolled in an endless loop-- which is how Fred Flintstone seems to run in an endlessly repeating living room. Cel animation has largely been replaced now by the same sort of process done on computers.


It's far less labor-intensive to animate real objects such as Lego or plasticene. The easiest animation is, of course, to animate people. This is known as pixilation.

Transferring Movie Film to Other Formats

Learn more about the very early days of television and audio recording at www.tinfoil.com.

It would be very nice if you could just point a projector at a screen and aim your video camera at the same screen, and be done with it.
But it doesn't work very well. Here's my hack technical explanation why.

Television works by scanning the picture at 30 fps.. sort of.. what really happens is that every other line of resolution is scanned every 1/60 of a second, and a complete picture is thus reassembled 30 times a second (made up of two fields of scans). Picture tubes didn't stay lit long in the 1930s, and sixty times a second made for a much more viewable picture.

Most European TV scans at 25 fps. The reasons have to do with our different voltages. Their 50 Hz electricity gives them 50 fields a second, and our 60 Hz cycles give us 60 fields a second. To make things even more complicated, it's not precisely 30 fps, but 29.97 fps.

Now, when we aim a projector at the videocamera, our film is running at either 16, 18, or 24 fps (for sound film). None of these speeds divide into 25/50 or 30/60 evenly, and so the periodic mismatch gives us a nasty flickering picture.

Here's my first efforts. Premiere cleaned up the flicker a little, but it's still annoying. What can we do?

My scanner doesn't scan film well. Most scanners work by bouncing light off paper surfaces like a photocopier, and don't do transparent materials.

I could buy a scanner with a transparency adapter, but another problem pops up... movie film is really, really tiny. Super 8 film is, well, 8 millimetres wide, and the picture area is slightly less. To get a usable image, we need film superscanners that can output at least 3600 or 4800 dpi... not in my budget. As well, at 18 fps, ten minutes of film would involve 10,800 scans. This would take years.

Many companies now make commercial film scanners, but most that I've seen load a short strip, such as a 35mm negative strip, and then spit it back out. As 8mm movie film is in a continuous 50 to 200 foot strip, this doesn't work. There are now 35mm and 16mm movie film scanners being made which autofeed the film, but no one has yet marketed a workable consumer 8mm scanner.

What I've done as an interim solution is to take my films to a local audio-visual company which uses something called a telecine projector. This is a movie projector with special blades that blend film frames together so that they match the rate of the camera attached. The result is recorded onto SVHS videotape. The tape can then be captured directly to a video file.

Lastly, the editing. Parts can be stretched out or shortened, colors can be corrected, and minor problems such as focus and lighting fixed. Sound effects and music can be synchronized as well.

This answers the question, "how do you do this?"
As for the question, "why do you waste time doing this?", I suppose I have no good answer.

Comments? Contact Ken.