Enhancing 8mm film-to-video footage

Hi all, I’ve got some old (1950’s) 8mm films that have been converted to mp4 video, but I want to both sharpen them up a bit, and also stabilize them. I’ve found that stabilizing them removes some of the sharpness – well, what there was of it, anyway – so is it best to stabilize and then sharpen, or vice versa? I thought I would ask in case some of you have done this, and save myself a lot of trial-and-error time. Any info appreciated! Thanks…

How did you get the 8mm to digital ?

I sent it off to one of the transfer houses – the mp4 is 1080p

I hope they did a good job, I’ve seen some dreadful work these people charge for.
Have you got a sample you can post for us to look at.

Below is an example of a poor vs good conversion.

Yeah, this last one did a great job. I will try to post a screen shot. I tried doing it initially with one of those Wolverine machines – bad result. I then sent a reel off to one of the transfer places, but I think they were using the same type of equipment – bad result. I decided to give it one more try and sent it to a place that uses a Moviestuff Mark II machine and it was like night and day – really good result. But, the original 8mm film was a little “soft” so I just wanted to enhance it a bit without losing what sharpness there was, and also stabilize it.

I would try Stabilize 1st, sharpen 2nd. that is what I would probably go for.

Thanks, I will try that!

I have some 8 mm and Super 8 as well. I went big on the transfer and used a local company that uses Lasergraphics. Had them scanned at 3872 x 2792. As expected with that resolution, quite a bit of grain. I am still working out a bit of the workflow. It is a little different than most, as I am actually downscaling, but improving quality in the process.

8 mm film wasn’t cheap, and as was typical, my parents tried to get as much value out of the film as possible, so lot’s of panning and short clips. There is quite a bit of blur on the fast pans which I am still l trying to improve.

There is a certain charm in the 8 mm look, but as an experiment, I tried to make my dad’s junior high graduation ceremony footage from 1956 look as modern as possible, at the risk of getting soap opera effect. I mostly succeeded, and my kids were in disbelief. We judge the era by the footage we see, and having this old footage looking so crisp and sharp at 50 frames per second with grain severely reduced was surreal for them. It really brought the footage into the present, which was my intent. I haven’t tackled the colors balance yet … it is definitely a giveaway. Need to find the right software for that.

  • Grain removal - I first went with a pass in Iris, but switched to Artemis LQ. I also tried converting to TIFF and using Topaz Denoise. I am probably going overboard at the expense of sharpness, as grain is less visible zoomed out than I think.
  • Frame rate increase - probably the largest benefit of Topaz. It does a great job, and I triple the frame rate without issues.
  • Stabilization - as mentioned, lot’s of pans and other camera motion. One benefit of having the footage at 6K is that I can use stabilization with auto-crop without losing resolution in final render when I bring it down to 1080P or so. I might settle on a final resolution between 1080 and 4K.
  • Sharpness … not sure yet. There are many causes of unsharp footage, still playing with different settings and learning more. Themis deblur gives artifacts.

The problem with Topaz is that it keeps improving, so I am hesitant to commit too much time (mine own as well as CPU/GPU time). It is a good problem to have of course. Some faces would benefit from subtle upscaling, but it is such a fine line. Some of the ones Iris improved looked grotesque. I am looking forward to the future versions of Iris that will do better on higher resolution source.

I hope that there will be some models specializing in higher resolution grainy 8 mm, but I realize that it is a small market.

edit: On a whim, I took one of my final outputs, an H264 compressed 1080P file, put it in Iris cranked to a 100, and it looks much crisper than the previous final, so an improvement on my quest to create footage that could pass for being taken on an Iphone 13. So I downscaled, then enhanced. Sounds counterintuitive, but I think Iris does better with lower resolution. I try again with slightly higher res, and leaving it as Prores or uncompressed until final render (luckily 8 mm footage is only 3 min per film, or I’d be buying harddrives).