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Telecine type overview

Please feel free to correct my provincial view, add facts or point out those forehead-slapping oversights that are probably present.

The Standard Definition Telecines:

Rank (the company is now Cintel) MKIII and various "Turbo" off-shoots: The flying spot CRT standard of the 1980 decade. Latest machines with the "4:2:2" Digital store should the be base line for this generation of machine. Often these machines have been heavily modified by local engineering and may be fitted with some really excellent after-market kit. The Digital Deflection, FGR, Accuglow and AccuGrade bits from Dave Walker's Digital Audio and Video combine to keep this generation machine productive. (I don't work for or receive compensation from DAV but do have the products installed on our remaining MKIII.)

Rank URSA:

The standard of the CRT telecine in the early 90s has nearly as many after market enhancements. ITK TWIGI ( I refuse to try to write it as ITK sales does ;->) is a particularly valuable development. Any URSA will turn out standard definition work that is at least twice as good as can be recorded on DigiBeta tape. (That's my opinion and I will stick with it.) A good colorist on an URSA can give you anything you can get on any other machine.

BTS (and other incarnations) FDL-60 and 90 and Quadra:

The line array CCD pickup telecine family before the Spirit DataCine. This is a competent, workhorse telecine but not pervasive in Southern California's commercial post production industry. Which is another way of saying I don't have much direct experience with them. In 1993, I installed one in a new post house and found it to make fine pictures. We had to pull it out in favor of an URSA simply because we couldn't sell it to our commercial clients. Nothing wrong with the pictures or the engineering.

High Definition Telecines:

BTS FLH-1000:

The CCD line array high definition telecine that preceded the Spirit. I don't know if any survive in operation today. There were fewer HD standards then.

Philips Spirit DataCine:

The line array CCD telecine that dominates HD suites today. It has Kodak developed optics and is capable of both standard definition and HD transfer in almost any format thought of. It scans film at (arguably) 2K resolution and outputs to computer workstations as data files. It produces very good pictures (with the requisite good operator) and is extremely reliable. (My facility has two. My facility was acquired by a company that also acquired Philips. That makes us involuntary "family". That's the extent of any bias I have :))

Philips Shadow: Spirit-style line array CCD without some of the most expensive bits from a Spirit. They are out there but I can't tell you much about the differences. There may be less resolution in the (non Kodak designed) optical pickup. I believe there is a data scanning option for this machine. Ask the facility that has one for their summary on the differences between it and the Spirit.

Cintel C-Reality:

The flagship HD/SD telecine from the company that dominated telecine suites in the last two decades. This is a flying spot CRT telecine with the ability to scan up to 4K resolution images and output data. I don't have one of these but believe it to be a mature machine that should be considered for high end work. Cintel is showing some early demonstrations of the OSCAR optical enhancement feature that does amazing (as seen on the demo tape) things to remove surface dust and scratches (on either side of the film.)

ITK Millenium:

A company that was responsible for the best parts of the flying spot telecines (IMHO) has built their own from-the-ground-up telecine. I don't have one of these but they look good. Many "neat" technical features that intrigue me on these. This telecine also is based on a flying spot CRT and will do data scans up to 4K resolution.

Sony Vialta:

Sony's current HD telecine is a huge departure from the other telecines in current use. It uses a three color lamp house that can illuminate the film sort of like an optical printer can. The proportion of the colors can be varied to "time" the film before it reaches the pickup. The pickup is a TV CCD camera. No, that probably doesn't do justice to the engineering work involved but my understanding is that the pickup is a fixed resolution CCD array. There is (I think) some positioning and sizing capability in optics before the pickup. There is some attempt at registration using the film sprocket holes. The movement is intermittent. With all those departures from the other telecines, The people who have this telecine have always had positive things to say about them.

Why choose one telecine over another?

Don't assume one telecine (or technology) has a "look."
You will find very few real differences in the final pictures from any telecine.
You will find that some operators are more comfortable arriving at their signature style on one style of telecine and will have to work harder on another telecine.
Your choice of operator will be more important in nearly all cases.
You might "really need" pin registration on the telecine. It's rare that you would, these days. You either get very good stability on the latest, well maintained machines or you can use software stabilizing in a workstation after the session. URSAs have two pin registration options. On a good day, 10 years ago, they were both good enough. (If you can't tell, I am a sceptic on the suitability of mechanical pin registration in telecine ;->)
You might want optical sound pickup on the telecine. All Rank/Cintel product shipped with optical and magnetic pickups. Niether of my Spirits have that ($$$) option fitted. You will need to ask if any specific machine has a (working) sound pickup if your work requires it. Some types of radical picture distortions may be done on an URSA telecine. Some simple size, aspect ratio and rotate effects can also be done on a Spirit. I haven't seen much of this type work in telecine since high end computer workstations became pervasive.

DATA. If you are sending film resolution scans to a workstation, you will be using a Spirit, a Shadow, a C-Reality or a Millineum. If you must work at greater than 2K resolution, you will have to use C-Reality of Millineum. If you have to use greater than 4K resolution you won't be using a telecine.

Non-standard transfer speeds are easy and repeatable on Cintel and ITK telecines. Variable speed on a BTS/Philips line array CCD are easy but not precise. I'm not sure the Vialta can do other than a fixed speed transfer. Some shoots want 6 frame per second sync sound. I would attempt this with a MetaSpeed equipped MKIII, URSA or ITK. The available transfer speeds are all "crystal" locked at the same precision as regular 24fps.

---- David Tosh <dlt@earthlink.net> Engineer, Complete Post Hollywood, CA USA

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