our everyday life

How to Transfer 8mm to DVD

by Bryan Cass

I took on a project a few years ago to transfer my parents' old reels of 8mm movies to DVD video. There are a few ways to transfer 8mm to DVD. I'll explain the best way, and the process I went through to transfer my 8mm to DVD.

The Studio Goldline V can help transfer 8mm to DVD

DO IT YOURSELF? -- If you want to do this process yourself, you will need an 8mm film projector and a video camera. There are 'converter boxes' available, like I have pictured, which makes this process easier and a little better quality than just projecting onto a screen and videotaping it with a camcorder. However, if you want top quality (these are your memories, remember?), I suggest using a professional service. They have much better and very expensive equipment, and can also do some minor restoration of your film for an additional fee.

Rank Cintel machines -- top of the line telecine equipment

CHOOSE PIXEL-BY-PIXEL TRANSFER -- What I wanted was frame-by-frame (or pixel-by-pixel nowadays) conversion, not simply projecting the running movie film into a camera lens. This process is much more accurate and there is no film flicker in the resulting video. If a company does not offer at least frame-by-frame transfer, find another one. If you are going to send out your film, you want it done right the first time.

CHOOSE A MEDIUM -- Your film will be digitized, but you will need to select a medium (DVD, MiniDV, hard drive, Digital8, etc) for your digital master. I wanted to produce my own DVDs so that I could add a background sound track, titles, do color-correction, and choose my own DVD menu and chapters, so I chose Digital8 because I have a Digital8 camcorder I can use to copy the video to my PC. However, if that's not important to you, you can have the company create a DVD for you, ready to play with simple chapters.

RESEARCH COMPANIES -- The tough part of this process is finding a friendly, quality company. What I did was wrote emails to several companies that offered frame-by-frame transfer. I immediately rejected any that either did not respond within a couple days or sent me a form letter; I want personalized service. Next, I personally called the narrowed-down 2 or 3 services. I want to talk to the person who will be doing my transfer - What equipment will you use (Rank Cintel is about as good as it gets)? Will you clean my film? What if I don't like the results, will you redo it? Can I choose what medium the resulting video will be on?

An example of supervised video transfer

CHOOSE SUPERVISED OR NOT -- All film will fade over time. You can have your film color-corrected and have brightness and contrast adjusted by the person doing the transfer. You will of course pay extra for that service. Personally, since color correction is up to the subjective eye of the person doing it, I wanted control over that process myself, so I opted for just a 'raw', unsupervised transfer from film to video.

SEND YOUR FILM -- Choose a reliable and insured carrier, where you can track the progress of your film, like UPS or FedEx. Number the reels in the order they should be processed. The company will likely splice all of the reels together onto a larger storage reel for you.

INSPECT TRANSFERRED VIDEO -- You should receive your transferred video back in a few weeks. Check it to be sure you're happy with the result. If not, call the company and find out if there's anything they can do to improve it. When I did mine, I had the company keep the film itself while I inspected the resulting video they sent. That way you don't risk losing both the original film and video if it's shipped together, and if you want them to redo it, they still have the film.

UPLOAD VIDEO TO COMPUTER -- Depending on the medium you chose, upload the video to your computer. Some companies offer an external hard drive as a medium, which you would just need to connect via USB port. In my case, I played the Digital8 tape through my camcorder into the computer.

CREATE DVD -- If you have a DVD burner and its burning software, you should be able to now burn the video file to one or more DVDs. In my case, I have ULead MediaStudio, which allowed me to edit the video, add titles and a background track. What I did, which turned out pretty cool, was I played the video on my computer with my Dad and sisters watching it, and recorded their comments on my computer as it played. Then, I put that recording into the DVD soundtrack -- instant family memories! :-)

Photo Credits

  • movies-to-dvd.com, www.mymovietransfer.com, oaktreevintage.com