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How to transfer film to video

Archive your 35mm, 16mm and 8mm films to digital video; watch them in DVD or project them in HD format.

Some decades ago, there were no Blu-ray discs, no DVDs, not even VHS and Betamax tapes. There was a time that shooting on 35mm, 16mm and 8mm films was not just for filmmakers. 8mm films documenting family memories were widely used. And your parents and grandparents may have these film collections until now.

When transferring film to video, the film needs to undergo telecine transfer, the process of transferring motion picture film into video format.

There are many kinds of film scanners that can either digitize films to standard definition (SD) format which suit video storage media such as Betacam SP, Mini-DV and DVD; or to high definition (HD) format which suit high quality storage media such as Blu-ray, DigiBeta, DVCPRO HD, HDCAM SR and HD movie files in an external hard drive.

  1. Ask for price quotes and choose the film-to-video transfer company to digitize your film. While these companies generally have the same technical requirements, your choice depends on the price rate in relation to the available resolution of the video copies, shipping options, length of process and digital media choices. You can be the one to provide the video storage material, or the company can provide it for you within the package or at an additional cost. Upon confirming the company you want for the service, place your order.
  2. Prepare the required materials for shipment, or if the company is near your residence, bring all the materials straight to the office. Films deteriorate over time. Ideally, when storing films, you need a film archive that can fully control the temperature and humidity at all times. So, if films are not stored in an area with the right low temperature and low humidity, they deteriorate faster. What you mainly need to prepare are either the film prints (film positives) or the film negatives. The positives considerably have better shelf time than negatives. However, properly stored negatives provide better resolution and visual quality than positives. Another concern to address is when using the original film negatives. In such case, the negatives don’t have the soundtrack coming along with the visuals. If so, you need to provide the sound negative or edited magnetic tape as well. This would more likely mean additional service and payment. This concern though, is more often an issue with professional filmmaking projects and not much with home, family and other personal footage shot on film. If you can, inspect the films if there are any physical damage like molds so you can note these conditions when you send the films to the company. If you are not very knowledgeable with films, you may prefer to just put them in protective film cans and seal them well for sending to the company. Just let them clean and do the other fixes on the films, if necessary.
  3. Ship or personally send your films (including the video file storage media, if you’re the one to provide it; and the sound negative or magnetic tape, if needed) to the company specializing in film-to-video transfers. It’s always good to have backup storage media. Even if it would possibly cost you more, ask the company to provide you with at least two transferred copies. And it’s best to get the highest possible resolution for each film in digital format. If you need to select only one format, choose the HD movie file transferred to an external hard drive over the other high quality storage media. This file allows you to produce your own Blu-ray, DVD and other digital formats as long as you have the proper hardware and software. If shipping via any courier, disclose the materials as fragile items. You may want to get insurance for the package at an added cost. If sending the materials personally, secure the package on a space inside the vehicle where the films won’t get direct sunlight, or wrap the film cans with thick cloths. It’s best to put the aircon on. Never put the films in the trunk.
  4. Wait for the processing of your order. The length of time of digitizing and shipping back of your film and video copies depends on your choice of company’s schedule, but ideally, it can take a few days or a few weeks. The actual process of telecine transfer requires a real-time transfer by playing your film footage during the digitizing, which normally takes less than a day, unless you have long hours of films for transfer, or a restoration process or serious color correction is involved to make the quality of the footage better.

“Transfer Your 16mm, Super 8 and 8mm Film to DVD,” Home Movie Depot.
“My Movie Transfer.”
“How to Transfer 8mm, 16mm, 35mm or 65mm Film to Video Tape or DVD,” Videomaker.
“Home Movies Converted to DVD and Video Tape,” Integrated Imaging.
“Transferring 8mm, Super 8mm, and 16mm Film to Digital Video,” Film to Video.
“Video Conversion Experts.”
“Old Home Movies to Video,” Video Transfer.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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