Saturday, November 21, 2015

How to Convert 8MM Films into DVD, Reorder Clips and Create a New Movie

Once upon a time, my aunt sent me 71 rolls of 8mm film from my mother's family from when they were kids.  It was 20 years of family history - what a treasure! Aaaaand... on a completely inaccessible media type.  Doh!

Being the do it yourselfer that I am, I toyed around with learning how to correctly lubricate, clean and record film to a more accessible media type.  I bought an 8mm film projector on craigslist, bought a splicer and all of the stuff I needed... and here's my magic tip for converting 8mm film to digital format : hire a professional.

Those family films are gold. They are people and events and lives that are 50 or 60 years past.  Many of the people in them have passed or have long forgotten what's there.  Although here are many accessible techniques online for maintaining film, without having had some practice, it is easy to screw up.   Without experience, you won't necessarily know how to counter what you find when you start rolling a film.  What if it cracks?  And although I am a diy pro and feel pretty confident I could figure it out with enough time, I don't want it to be at the expense of 20 years of family history.

So take the $200 it would take to buy all the stuff and stash it in a high interest savings account to hire someone and move on to picking someone out.  When you're looking for a professional, look for someone who will move it to a master tape and then make a DVD for you.  The tape they put it on can always be used to create more DVDs or copies later.  At least until one day, it's also inaccessible.  But for now, it's easier than 8mm.  Check reviews for the person you select.  Make sure their price includes  repairs or cleaning should the film break down in the process.

It's worth noting here, that film conversion is usually quoted by the foot.  When estimating the number of feet of film you have, on the thicker (wider) 8mm film, although it says 25 feet on the box, it's actually 50 feet of filmed images.  So, when pricing out conversion, make sure to do it with how many feet of images there are, not how many feet of film the box says it has.  That got me.  I was expecting to spend $300 and the bill was $600.

$600 isn't something I have lying around.  So, I created a crowd funding project for my family to pitch in.  Within a few months, we had it funded.

The day came and I went and dropped them off and, a couple of weeks later, they were done.  I immediately sat down to watch them.

Sidebar: I saw my grandfather, who I never met when he was alive.  My grandparents  - I saw them young and bright eyed with their first baby and watched them mature over the course of these films.   I saw both sides of great grandparents, some of whom I've never seen photos of at all.  Aunts and uncles I've never seen.  This film is truly a treasure.  I am so grateful that my grandparents were 'those parents', who filmed everything.   I am so grateful to have had the opportunity, the means and the know how to watch them again and that my grandchildren and their grandchildren will hopefully have these in some form.

The new issue was that although some of the film boxes had been labeled or had a post mark date on them and I could sort of put them in the right order for him, most of them were not.  Without playing them, I had no idea what was on some of them.  So although I labeled them and cataloged them before I dropped them off, when they were put onto tape and then DVD, they, of course, were not in the correct order.

I wanted to present my family with something they could watch from beginning to end or something my grand-kids (in 20 years, son) could watch and understand how it was moving through time. So, the next step was to figure out how to edit the video well enough to chop up the film, put it into the correct order and then re-create the DVDs in the correct order - with some additional menus and bells and whistles so that they were easier to watch.

I made lots of mistakes.  It turns out, there is some skill involved in film making.  Who knew?!   I had to redo it 4 times.  This post is the final solution for getting family films from DVD, cutting them up, re-ordering them and burning them to DVD again - without dropping  ton of cash.  It takes relatively advanced computer skills and I don't think I explain it very completely, in large part because I probably don't entirely understand the whys behind a lot of it.