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Tips For A Super Fast Turn Around From The Lab For Your Super 8 Film and 16mm Film

Tips For A Super Fast Turn Around From The Lab For Your Super 8 Film and 16mm Film – Rhonda Vigeant (C) 2018

Recently I saw a post on Instagram from someone saying that the biggest problem this person experienced with their super 8 film project was that it took "forever" to get the processed and scanned film back from the lab.   I didn't ask which lab it was, as I felt there is no need to judge or put down the efforts of others trying to make it in this business.  The post did however get me thinking about how many filmmakers who want to use celluloid think that labs take "forever" to get the film processed and scanned.  I am quite sure that newbie super 8 and 16mm filmmakers are not aware that our company, Pro8mm can turn around your film project with processing and scanning in 2 to 3 business days.   We can even do same day rush services for an additional fee, as we typically do for commercial jobs here in LA or out of New York, Atlanta and Canada.

What Many Filmmakers Don't Know About Film Labs

At one time there were many labs throughout the country and the world that processed motion picture film.  Now there are a handful, and of that handful, only a very few get enough work on a daily basis to process the film every day.  Many companies want the scanning work, which is more lucrative and much less risky than the film processing business. This is why some labs take "like forever". Read on...


Here Are Some Important Things To Consider

Tip #1 Going to the Source:  

One thing that dramatically effects turn around time is whether you are sending your film to the actual lab or a company that is acting as an agent for another lab.  As we said, many vendors just want the scanning business and while they may list themselves as a motion picture film laboratory, many are not.  They only scan film, or are a very small lab that can only process certain types of film.  Modern super 8 film has 3 distinct processes, each requiring its own processing machine and chemistry.  These are:
1 Color Negative
2 Black &White Reversal
3 E-6 for Ektachrome 
Some lab facilities only have one of the 3 and send the other 2 out to another facility to be processed.  When this is the case, you have a longer turn around  time because you have to wait for the film to be sent out and returned to that facility, who will then either scan the film in-house, or perhaps send it out to another facility that they outsource to for scanning.  We know this because of the facilities we work with that send us film for processing and scanning on behalf of their clients.  Some of these vendors instruct us not to tell clients that we are doing work on their behalf.  This slows down the deliverable project to the client. We send the film back to the vendor that outsourced to us who then might be scanning it, and then on to the client. 

Tip #2  Scheduled Processing vs. Waiting for Enough Film to Make it Worth It:

Some facilities maintain a regular schedule for processing film. Others process when they have enough film to make it worth it.  If you go with one of these labs,  you have to wait until enough other customers send in film.  At Pro8mm we start our daily run at 10:30 every day,  Monday to Friday.  Because we are a one stop shop (cameras, film, processing and scanning) we have maintained enough volume over 45 years in this business to process film in our lab every day.  
Super 8 and 16mm Color negative film gets processed Monday through Friday.  We also schedule the days we are going to run E-6 color reversal and black and white film (twice a week) or do push/pull processing (twice a week) .  This schedule allows us to give clients real-time information on when their project will be done. 

Tip #3 Processing and Scanning at the Same Facility:  

This is always best because the film goes straight from the chemical processing to the digital scanning. Because this is done at the same facility there is no waiting for the film to go between facilities, and much better quality control because you have only one place to question if something is not correct. You don't spend extra money shipping to various places and the entire process is streamlined and expedited significantly. 
It is really important to develop a relationship with the Lab directly.  This way  you will find out about ways to save time and money,  and special promotions on services that they offer.  For example you can get super 8 film processed and scanned in one day and have the digital files sent back to you anywhere in the world over the internet.  There is extra cost but it can be done. 

Tip #4 Shipping and Digital Upload:  

Check out your shipping options both when sending film to the lab, and the shipping back of the film and hard drive.  While the postal service is often cheaper (Fed-EX now has about a $20 minimum for ground shipping) the post office is often much MUCH slower.  We prefer to use FED-EX because of the ability to track the package and their delivery time corresponds with the time the film needs to be here in order to make the 10:30 AM processing run.  When shipping film to us you do not need to be concerned with X-Rays that will damage the film, however we suggest you still write FILM: DO NOT X-RAY on the box.  For jobs under 20 gigs, we can also send you the files via WE TRANSFER as soon as the scan is completed.  Additional Fees apply.  
While the analog film process does have a time line in its workflow it should never take "forever".  Pro8mm prides itself on accommodating  YOUR production schedule.  Whatever it takes.  We offer same day rush and after hours service.  Our normal turn around time is 2 to 3 business days, and you can have the files sent to you over the internet if you have under 20 gigs.
So get out there and shoot some Super 8 or 16mm film.  You know you want to!
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