Genealogy: How to convert 8mm, Super 8, Single 8 and 16MM to DVD

Genealogy: How to convert 8mm, Super 8, Single 8 and 16MM to DVDion-Home MoviesDo you by chance have 8mm movies of when you were a child?  Do you still have the projector to watch the movies?  Do you remember how fun it used to be to watch those episodes?  Have you thought about converting your old 8mm movies to digital images?  If so, there are several methods for you to consider.

Services for a fee
These services specialize in transferring 8mm, super 8mm and 16mm movie film to digital.  There are different types of processes used. The one I prefer is either a high-definition or standard-definition frame-by-frame transfer service. Each individual frame of film is individually captured as a still image and later assembled into an uncompressed video file. This enables the output to be transferred to any frame rate without flicker or blended frames. With the absence of a mirror, screen, or box, this process produces extremely vibrant images without any loss in color fidelity.

Some of the other benefits are
• Steady frame registration.
• Perfect image focus.
• Flicker-free images.
• No blended frames.
• Improved image clarity.
• Frame rate independence.
• Even light illumination.

Services may include
• Transfer of film to digital.
• Splicing (if necessary).
• Editing out of blank spots, beginning and end leaders, etc.
• Opening and closing transition (DVD only).
• Encoding to MPEG2 (DVD only).
• Correction for upside-down reels.
• Sound Capture.

Pricing is usually based on
• How many total feet of film you have (or how many reels, and their size).
• How many DVD copies you need.
• If you purchase the optional mini DV master cassette(s).
• Shipping.

Step by step conversion of film to DVD
The best way to make the transfer—short of paying extremely high fees to capture the film frame-by-frame—is using a DV camera to reshoot the image as it projects on a screen.  The focus of this section will be on how to capture film yourself and convert it to DVD.

What’s needed?
The following items are needed for the conversion:

  • 8mm film projector (preferably one that has at least a three bladed shutter and variable speed control).
  • New bulb for projector.
  • A smooth screen (a white wall that hasn’t been textured or a white sheet of paper with at least a brightness of #92).
  • A digital video camera that has variable exposure and shutter speed control.
  • A tripod for the camera.

Projector and DV camcorder setup

  1. Make sure the film projector is dust free and clean the screen to get the best possible image from the projected film. (As mentioned above, the best results will be achieved using a white sheet of paper with at least a #92 white brightness affixed to the wall.)
  2. Make sure to adjust the projectionlenssothattheimage is as small and tightly focused as possible. This is vital to getting the best possible DV recording from the 8mm. Shootingthe8MMimage in the smallest possible space will result in the best quality image in your DV recording.
    1. 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.  If you don’t compensate for this you will see frame skips and jumps on the video after it is recorded, as well as a 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 be able to adjust the aperture of the camcorder to match more closely to the original film brightness.
    2. In order to get rid of the flicker for films that were shot at 18 frames-per-second (which is the normal amateur filming speed), the projector has to run at about 20fps, which is slightly faster. Using a variable speed projector, you slowly adjust the speed on it until you no longer see any flicker in the video camera’s viewfinder. When you load your film into the projector, it will be under ‘load’ so you will have to again fine-tune the speed upward a tad to get rid of any flicker. Trial and error will show you the way.
  3. To capture the projection, set up your DV camcorder on a tripod next to the film projector (with the least possible angle between the projector and DV cam) without putting the projector in the DV camera’s field of vision. Shoot a short test, then remove the tape and place it into a VCR. Watch it on your TV to make sure you have completely filled the frame and can’t see any rough edges all around the sides. The cameras aren’t that accurate, so you will want to definitely conduct the playback test prior to spending all the time it will take to transfer your films!

Capturing the image with a DV camcorder

  1. Start the projector and run a few minutes of film to give you time to configure the DV camera.
  2. Zoom in tight on the projection, eliminating as much of the surrounding screen area as possible from the edge of the 8MM film.
  3. Once you get the picture tightly in focus, rewind the 8MM film, start playback over and initiate recording. Be careful not to move the projector or the camera at this stage of the process so you won’t have to start over.

Capturing sound with a DV camcorder

  1. For best results in capturing sound from an 8MM film, connect the sound output on the projector to the audio on the DV camcorder.
  2. Many of these projectors may not have an output, but it’s best to isolate any audio track on the film from the noise generated by the fan and motor on the projector.
  3. If the film does not have an audio track, plug a mini-jack adapter into the audio input on the DV cam or mute the DV cam audio input to prevent fan noise.

Transfer DV camcorder tape to PC/Laptop

  1. Connect the DV camcorder to your computer using the USB or FireWire connection on the camera (also referred to as iLINK or IEEE1394).
  2. Launch your favorite video editing application and follow the directions for importing digital video from a camera. If you use an application like Premiere Elements, the DVD authoring components are built right in, complete with menu templates for creating something polished.