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DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Film to Video

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May 25, 2011 by admin

With the advent of very doable consumer video editing it seems ashamed to have to send your family legacy 8mm home movie films out to a pro shop to be converted to modern digital media and DVD. It would seem that you should be able to do the conversion yourself. In its simplest form, if you can project your home movies onto a viewable surface then you can point your video camera at the image and record it. The only question is: will you then want to watch what you have produced?

Our conclusion on the matter is that after spending massive amounts of your time and resources on developing your own conversion mechanism that you will be disheartened with the quality you are able to produce. But that is only our opinion and of course subject to our own selfish interests in drawing in your business for ourselves.

We suggest that you surf the web looking for comments other people have made who have been down that road. If you want to call us on the phone we would be happy to talk with you about some of the ins and outs of DIY film conversion on at least a superficial level. But meanwhile we can offer some hints that may help you along if you choose to venture down that path.

First we recommend that you obtain a quality 8mm home movie projector with a variable speed control from someone on eBay or CraigsList. Projectors made by Elmo are certainly excellent though there are others you will see mentioned on the web. Try to avoid a projector that has been used for professional movie transfer as these have run many hundreds of thousands of feet of movie film. Look for a projector sold by an individual or someone knowledgeable on projectors if possible.

The really big problem with home movie projectors is that in most cases they have been sitting in somebody’s closet for twenty years and the belts have become rotted from non-use. Replacement belts are readily available but you will have to find the service manual for that projector (also usually readily available).

Avoid vintage projectors as these have very hot bulbs that will burn your film if it stops for some reason. Later models manufactured in the 1970s or 1980s are what you are looking for. Again, Elmo is a trusted name for quality.

Once you have purchased a projector, hunt around on eBay for junk 8mm home movie film that you can practice on. It is almost guaranteed that your first use of the projector will result in the first few feet of your home movie film being transformed into an accordion.

Find a nice surface to project your image onto that is free of any irregularities. You would think that ordinary copy paper taken from your computer printer would work but usually this has a surface texture that the video camera will see. It is good enough to practice on at least, anyhow. Try to find something as bright a white as possible.

Don’t let the projected image show any larger than maybe six inches. Any larger and it may not have enough light for the video camera to capture without increasing its video gain.

You really need a pro-grade video camera to capture the image properly but use your consumer grade camcorder for now.

Now point the video camera at the projected image and start recording.

But here’s a better idea: Why not consider deleting the final step and just start enjoying your legacy family home movies the old-fashioned way. You have a true quality projector and you’ve learned how to maintain it. The images it will show will be absolutely the finest quality available and you can let the image size be as large as you like, even as large as many large screen televisions.

More than likely your film is in good condition and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Find a quality film editor on eBay to check every foot of your film for bad splices or torn sprocket holes. Consider buying a pint of film cleaner and clean your films.

On the downside, every time you play your film a little life leaves it and more so if a splice fails or the projector jams. Also, you only have one copy of your film so it is impossible to share it between homes whereas you could run off as many DVD copies as you need.

OUR CONCLUSION: Admittedly, paying a pro to convert and transfer your 8mm home movie film to modern media can be an expense you are not prepared for. Being old-fashioned in how you show your films can produce breath-taking quality. It just takes a few hundred dollars for a quality projector and a little time learning how to maintain it.


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