The films were originally shot 1967 to 1978, by Barry, Linda, and Jim. They are on Super 8mm film, at 18 frames per second, color, and silent. As far as we can remember, there were two different cameras, both Kodak Instamatic movie cameras. The first was the M2, which was used for the earliest few movies. Then probably around 1970 or so, we must have bought the M26. Maybe the old one broke.
We (Chris, Nancy, Casey, Jim, and Linda) used to watch the movies, with our movie projector and screen, quite often as kids. The projector had a storage compartment in the bottom where we kept some of the films, and others we kept in a box. As far as I can determine, there were a total of thirty films (possibly more, but if so then not many more). Some of the reels were labeled, and some of the reel covers were labeled. Most had no labelling. Each film was about 3 minutes long.
Sometime around 1985 or 1986, Nancy took most of the films (28 of them) and had them copied onto a VHS tape. For this process, she labeled the films numbered from 1 to 28, but not in chronological order.
As time went on and the kids moved away, the films remained in the house. At some point, the projector was given to Good Will. As far as I can figure, probably some of the films were still in the storage compartment of the projector, because as of today there are still 5 films missing.
In 2005, I began to get interested in gathering all the films and archiving them in some way. I decided that digitizing them and storing them on the computer would be worthwhile. Mom (Linda) gave me all the films she could find, and gave them to me. There were 25 films in all.
I also located the VHS tape that Nancy had made, and compared what was on the tape to the films I had in-hand. There were 4 films on the tape that I didn't have. (There was also one film I had that wasn't on the tape.) That makes 29 total, and I can remember one scene (from watching as a kid) that is not on either the VHS tape or in any surviving film, so that makes 30 films in all:
I sent the 25 surviving films to ForeverOnDVD.com for digitizing. The process they use is essentially to take each frame of the film and scan it into the computer. The process uses a dim light, so as not to "blow-out" the colors. Also, I had them specially alter their device so that it would scan in the whole original film frame, instead of cropping it like most places do. You can even see some of the sprocket holes in the scanned image, to make sure none of the original frame was lost.
The image was standard NTSC resolution, with progressive frames. This means that each original film frame becomes one 720 by 486 pixel image on the computer. The standard film length for these 3-minute reels is 3600 frames. Some films had a bit more, some had fewer.
In the process, the original short films were spliced together into 3 large reels. There are now in my posession, and stored in good archival film containers in the freezer (which is the recommended way to preserve film reels).
I used a normal VCR to play the tape through a Panasonic GS400 video camera, which digitized the images into DV (digital video) format. From there they were streamed directly to the computer. I captured them into two AVI-format files, with the video 4CC format of "dvsd". After studying these files, I realized that when the original tape was made (1985-6), there was no synchronization between the film projector and the video camera tying to capture the images. Since the video was interlaced screens at 60 frames per second, and the film was running at 18 frames per second (and fluctuating, at that), this lead to varying "combing" of the images as odd rows from one frame were interlaced with even rows from the next frame. The pattern varied throughout the films. I used the AviSynth program, and went through each film frame-by-frame manually and matching each one with its corresponding frame to reconstruct the original film frames. The process achived pretty good results, with most frames being able to match up pretty well. Of course, the quality is not as high as the digitization directly from film.
Once all the films and VHS tape sections were digitized and put on the computer, I was able to process the videos to clean them up. Using the AviSynth program, along with various other free plug-ins, I was able to correct some of the following things:
The images are stretched horizontally, because each image is intended for ultimlate display on a TV screen, which shrinks images horizontally. So, for display on the computer, I needed to squeeze them horizontally and remove 3 pixel rows from the top and bottom to achieve the standard size of 640 by 480 pixels.
I added some captioning in the videos of key dates and places.
The final step was to compress the videos using the x264 codec. This is a high-quality compressor that maintains a high-quality image that is nearly identical to the original, but that is small enough to be downloaded over a DSL or Cable internet connection while watching it. This ability is what allowed YouTube to become famous. I uploaded each video to YouTube. You can see the set of videos on my Films page. Click on a video to take you to a page that lets you play the video (embedded from YouTube), and has a brief description of the scenes in the film.