The major film festival we got in to requires the exhibition "print" to either be Beta SP, DigiBeta or 35mm.
Given it would cost more to transfer to 35mm than the entire film cost to make and submit, it's out of the question.
DigiBeta is the highest quality option. I was all ready to pay a transfer house to go from DVD to DigiBeta when it was pointed out that DVD quality isn't actually as good as MiniDV.
I did a bit of research and here are the numbers. In all cases, we're dealing with Standard Definition 720x480 NTSC. The difference is in the colour subsampling and the amount of (lossy) compression.
DigiBeta is 4:2:2 (which means the colour resolution is half the luminance resolution) and has a data rate of 90Mbps.
MiniDV (in NTSC) is 4:1:1 (colour resolution is one quarter the luminance resolution) and has a data rate of 25Mbps.
The MPEG-2 codec used by DVDs is 4:2:0 (alternates between horizontal and vertical colour information with a resolution of half the luminance resolution—ultimate result is similar looking to 4:1:1) and has a data rate of 9.8Mbps on average, peaking to 15Mbps.
Now, the data rate isn't all the matters - a better codec will have a lower data rate for the same quality. However, I believe that the compression used by MiniDV and MPEG-2 is pretty similar and hence the doubling of the data rate in MiniDV is pretty indicative of an improvement in quality, even though from a colour point of view they both fall pretty much equally short of DigiBeta.
Now here's the challenge: I'm in the US with a DVD. The raw MiniDV-quality footage is on my computer at home.
To get the best possible DigiBeta transfer, I need to get the raw file, either as an AVI or an uncompressed Quicktime. At 25Mbps, it should take up 3G which would fit on a DVD-R.
So I'm going to have to get one (or both) of my sisters to make me a DVD-R of the 3G file and courier it as quickly as possible.
The kicker is: I had the 3G file in question on the laptop I'm using right now - but I deleted it the day I left for the US to make more room.