You may have noticed that some of your favorite old movies are available to watch in high definition or HD formats. With HD media players like Blu Ray players and streaming boxes, more and more old movies have been available to watch in HD. Many people have wondered how this is possible since HD cameras have only been around for about 20 years. Well, converting these old movies to HD is not as complex of a process as you might think. Video production companies have done some research on this process as they have transitioned from using film to HD digital cameras to produce their own video content. Here is how the process of converting films into HD is done.
In the 20th century, most movies were shot on 35mm film; bigger budget films were shot on 65-70 mm film. What people don’t realize about film is that it actually has a very high “resolution.” Film doesn’t contain pixels, it contains grains. So it can be difficult to compare analog film to a number of pixels because there are no pixels. If you had to compare them, a 35mm film translates to about 16-20 megapixels but it depends on the quality of the film. Let’s say a film translates to about 16 megapixels. 16 megapixels equals 4920 x 3264. That means old 35 mm quality film can translate to a 5k resolution in digital video. Now that’s impressive!
It’s important to remember that film and digital video aren’t really equal mediums but can be compared to serve as a frame of reference. Most old movies aren’t even scaled up as big as 5k because they don’t need to be, but it’s worth noting that they probably wouldn’t look as good as a digital camera that has native 5k resolution.
So now that we understand how high the quality of old films actually are, it’s easy to see how video production companies can go back and re-master these films in HD. As long as the original negatives have been preserved properly, it is fairly simple to re-master these films to watch them on HD media players or streaming devices. Video production companies like Sony will use restoration specialists to make sure old films are restored as best as possible and to protect the original film negatives.
When scanning film, it takes about 2 days to scan a 90-minute movie shot on 35mm film in 2k. If you are wanting to scan it in 4k it can take almost four times as long. That would mean it would take about a week to scan a 90-minute film in 4k if the negatives are in good condition.
Thanks to video production companies and restoration specialists, these old movies can continue to be cherished for generations and can be just as beautiful as if you were watching the scene being shot live. The next time you watch an old film such as Gone With the Wind on your Blu Ray player, keep in mind the process that made it possible for you to watch the classic film right in such high definition.