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how to guide by motion picture company | 2001

How To Transfer Tape to Film


In this guide, prepared by the Moving Picture Company, all the basic issues and questions of preparing tape or computer generated imagery for such transfer are covered, including sound, aspect ratios, NTSC and titling space.

Media for tape to film transfer originate in one of two formats:


Video Images

Material originated on film should be post produced in a digital component environment (Flame, Henry, Infinity, Inferno, Fire, Spirit) maintaining the original frame structure and output to a digital tape format, D1 or Digi Beta. Material shot on video should adopt the same post production techniques whilst maintaining it's field structure.

Computer generated images

Animated commercials and sequences provided as datafiles produce exceptionally good transfers. These files should be rendered as 2k RGB images in a SGI format and can be supplied on CD, Zip, DTF, DLT or Jaz disks.

To be projected at 1.85:1 To be projected at 1.66:1 For 16x9
Whole Picture - 1828 x 988 Whole Picture ?1828 x 1101 Whole Picture 1828 x 1028
Projected area 1746 x 944 Projected area1746 x 1052 Projected area1746 x 944
Safe Title 1528 x 826 Safe Title- 1528 x 826 Safe Title 1528 x 826


Post Production

Do not post produce on composite formats (D2, D3), these will result in permanent artefacts that will be evident on your final print. A D1 that has been dubbed from a composite format will retain these artefacts and will only show composite quality and will produce inferior results.

During post production the relationship of video fields and film frames should be preserved wherever possible.

If possible, scenes requiring speeding up and slowing down should be shot at the correct speed in camera. Varispeeding in post production should maintain the original field/frame structure by step or repeat printing to multiples or exact fractions of film speed (24fps). Digital speed compression or expansion should not be used as it superimposes one field/frame onto it's neighbour and destroys the integrity of the original fields/frames.

During your telecine stage avoid "pushing" or enhancing video colours beyond "legal" video values, as artificially created colours may not transfer faithfully onto film.

Aspect Ratios

There are two common cinema projection aspect ratios currently in use;

1.85:1- UK/USA/Australia/New Zealand

1.66:1- Europe (most of)

In the advent of digital transmission, broadcasters will demand 16x9 (1.78) TV masters (fig. 1). This aspect ratio is suitable to be transferred for cinema exhibition at both 1.85 and 1.66 with minimal image loss (fig. 2, 3 & 4). Ideally the material will be laid onto tape as a 16x9 Full Height (anamorphic) image (fig. 5), this format provides the greatest resolution and will therefore result in a better quality image once transferred to film.

Existing 4x3 (1.33) (fig. 6) television images will need to be manipulated to suit cinema projection. They can be "re-racked" to allow all essential action to be within a 1.85/1.66 image, cutting off the top and bottom of the image (fig. 7). Alternatively they can be shrunk to a degree where the entire image is visible leaving black bars left and right of the image (fig. 8).

Fig 1. 16x9 letterbox - as will appear on tape, black bars top and bottom.
Fig 2. 16x9 projected at 1.85:1.

Slight image loss top and bottom

Fig 3. 16x9 projected at 1.66:1.

Small black bars top and bottom.

Fig 4. 16x9 enlarged for projection at 1.66:1. Slight image loss left and right.
Fig 5. 16x9Full Height - will appear as anamorphic on tape and will give greater resolution.
Fig 6. 4x3 image
Fig 8 (right). 4x3 image shrunk to fit 1.85:1 projection, resulting in black bars left and right.



Safe Picture and Titles

To ensure all essential images and titles are within frame once projected please follow the guide below;

Box to 1.90:1 for safe picture and 2.16:1 for title safety.

Computer-generated images should be composed and rendered to the following pixel ratios;

To be projected at 1.85:1?To be projected at 1.66:1?For 16x9

Whole Picture?1828 x 988?Whole Picture ?1828 x 1101 ?Whole Picture ?1828 x 1028

Projected area ?1746 x 944?Projected area?1746 x 1052 ?Projected area?1746 x 944

Safe Title ?1528 x 826?Safe Title-?1528 x 826?Safe Title?1528 x 826

High Resolution Titling

If you wish to shoot any titling directly from tape, you will achieve the best quality if all titling and graphics are framed based. However, if your budget allows you to opt for the maximum clarity and sharpness, we would suggest that titling be processed at film resolution.

To achieve this we would require a "clean" master of the material along with the artwork supplied as Illustrator outlined EPS files.

Cinema Classification

All UK cinema commercials will need to be submitted to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) for certification.


Approved Dolby Mixes

Dolby laboratories now insist that all cinema soundtracks for commercials must be Dolby stereo encoded mixes (via a Dolby Matrix) created from the separate elements at a Dolby licensed studio. Commercial soundtracks must now adhere to the general specification of 82db LEQ, any mixes exceeding this level will be rejected. You will need to supply either a Dolby encoded DAT or MO disk.

As film runs at 24 frames per second your video material will run 4% longer when projected. A 30" commercial will run for 31"06 (see fig. 9), this should be considered when producing your cinema mix.

There are several ways in which to compensate for this;

Producing a 25fps Dolby mix

Your soundtrack will sync up to your TV image. This track will need to be re-pitched +4% & a sync plop should be placed —48 frames before start of picture.

With a 25fps mix, you may notice that your music track sounds slower in tempo, although dialogue will sound fine. If the music track is a significant part of your soundtrack, we would advise you create a 24fps mix.

Producing a 24fps Dolby mix

Your soundtrack will not sync up to your original video master. You will need to create a guideline video master that has the same running time as your projected material. You can easily achieve this by varispeeding your master edit -4%. This longer video reference will allow your sound engineer to create a true 24fps mix. There is no need to re-pitch & a sync plop should be placed —50 frames before start of picture.

Video duration in seconds


Film duration in seconds and frames when projected @ 24fps

Video duration in seconds and frames


Film duration in seconds when projected @ 24fps

NTSC Material

It is important to remember that the quality of an NTSC transfer will be slightly compromised by the 525 system itself, as it has less resolution and colour separation than a PAL master. Standard conversions from NTSC will produce severe artefacts, as the original frame structure will be destroyed. Whenever possible please supply your original NTSC master. If you are post-producing in NTSC, telecine at 24fps with a ‘3-2 pull down’ field structure. Maintain the ‘3-2’ field structure and avoid speed changes beyond the telecine stage.


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