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Transferring Old 8mm Film Movies To DVD or VHS

Put Your Old 8mm Film Movies on DVD or VHS

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Filmstrip
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Toshiba DVR-620 DVD Recorder/VCR Combination

Toshiba DVR-620 DVD Recorder/VHS VCR Combination

Image provided by Toshiba
Super 8mm Film To Digital Video Converter

A photo of the Hammacher Schlemmer Super 8mm Film To Digital Video Converter

Photo provided by Hammacher Schlemmer

The best way to accomplish the task of transferring old 8mm Film home movies is do take your films into a video editing or production service in your area and have it done professionally as this will insure the best results.

However, if you want to do this yourself, you need to take several things into account:

1. You need a good 8mm movie projector, preferably one that has at least a three bladed shutter and variable speed control.

2. You need a camcorder that has variable exposure and shutter speed control.

3. You need either a White Card or Film Transfer Box.

If you use the White Card method, the film projector projects the image onto the white card (which functions as small screen). The camcorder needs to be positioned so that its lens is lined up in parallel with film projector lens.

The camcorder then captures the image off the white card and sends the image to the DVD recorder or VCR. The AV outputs of the camcorder are connected to the AV inputs of a DVD recorder or VCR (you don't have to put tape into the camcorder, unless you wish to make a simultaneous back up copy). The camcorder will feed the live image to the video inputs of the DVD recorder or VCR.

If you use the Film Transfer Box method, the movie projector projects the image onto a mirror that is then deflected into the camcorder lens. The camcorder then captures the image off the mirror and sends the image to the DVD recorder or VCR.

Additional Factors to Take Into Consideration

The reason you need a film projector with variable speed control and multi-bladed shutter and a camcorder with variable exposure and shutter speeds is that the film rate for 8mm film is usually 18 frames per second and the frame rate of the camcorder is 30 frames per second.

What happens if you don't compensate for this is that you will see frame skips and jumps on the video after it is recorded, as well as variable flicker. With variable speed and shutter control, you can compensate for this enough to make your film to video transfer look smoother in appearance. In addition, when transferring film to video, you also need to able to adjust the aperture of the camcorder to match the more closely the original film brightness.

Final Points

1. This can be a fun project to undertake, but be prepared to spend some time. I have experience doing this myself with 16mm film and the main challenge is the actual setup. Be prepared to do several test recordings once you get it down though it can be fun.

2. You have the ability in this process to actually view the end result as you are recording by connecting the video outputs of your DVD recorder or VCR to a TV. This will show you how the signal is actually passing through to the recorder(s). However, it is a live image; the recording itself may not quite as good, as your end result on tape or disc may show a slightly lower resolution, especially if you are using a VCR instead of a DVD recorder.

3. If you use a VCR, make sure you record in the 2 hour SP speed - which will give you the best results in the VHS format. If you use a DVD recorder, make sure you use the One or Two hour recording modes, as this will insure the best picture quality.

4. ONE PIECE OF IMPORTANT ADVICE: At this point in time, I would make your transfers to DVD and not VHS (You could do both if you wish). New VHS VCRs are very scarce these days should you need to purchase one, while DVD and Blu-ray Disc players (which can also play DVDs)  will be around for a long time to come. However, the choice is yours.

5. Another Option for Super 8 Film to Digital Conversion: If you have a collection of Super 8 format films, another option is a Super 8mm Film To Digital Video Converter. This is a device that looks like a video projector, but doesn't project an image onto a screen. Instead, it captures Super 8 flim one frame at a time, and digitizes for transfer to a PC or MAC for futher editing for either hard drive storage or burning onto a DVD or transfering to a portable flash drive. Here is an example that is offered by Hammacher Schlemmer:
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