How to Convert 8mm Film to Digital: 3 Best Methods

How to Convert 8mm Film to Digital: 3 Best Methods

For decades, 8mm film was the standard for capturing home videos and special moments from everyday life. Fast forward to today, film decay and degradation threaten to erase priceless memories these relics of the past hold unless something is done soon to protect them.

In an era where streaming services and digital downloads have become the preferred way to share and view content, it’s common to wonder what can be done to preserve that collection of old 8mm and Super 8 film reels containing so much of your family’s past.

The number one question on everyone’s mind with a similar movie film collection is, “Can 8mm film be converted to digital?” The short answer is yes! Converting your film memories to DVD, USB thumb drive, or uploading to the cloud are all possible options, but where do you start?

This guide will cover the 3 best ways to future-proof aging 8mm film, covering both DIY and professional methods. Whether you're looking to digitize 8mm film for ease of viewing, to share with friends and family, or to maintain the remaining film quality before it's lost to decay, this article will cover everything you need to know about turning these precious reels into digital copies that will last for generations.

Method 1. Hire a Professional Film Transfer Service

8mm film reels

The safest and most reliable method for converting 8mm film to digital is to use a professional film to digital service. These services have the equipment, skills, and experience to preserve your film reels while saving you the time and hassle of DIY at-home methods. 

How to Find a Reliable Service

When looking for a professional film conversion service, look for providers who specialize in the field and have a solid track record of customer satisfaction. Some important questions to consider when researching services:

  • How long has the company been in business?

  • Are the company prices clear and easy to understand without hidden fees?

  • What is the turnaround time for film digitization?

  • Can I call the company and talk to a real person if I have questions or concerns?

  • Where is all the work done? Is it done in-house or do they contract out to a third party?

  • Does the company have a satisfaction guarantee?

  • What do online reviewers have to say about the service?

  • Can the company transfer my specific movie film format (sound or silent)?

Cost Implications

The cost of professional film conversion services can vary. Some companies, like Nostalgic Media, offer competitive pricing per foot of film, which includes additional services like color and contrast correction, cleaning, and repairing of film where possible. 

The advantage of companies that charge per foot of film is that you only pay for the exact amount of film that is transferred. Other services may charge a flat fee based on the size of a box, which means you could be overpaying for film you don’t even have. Always inquire about the full scope of costs upfront to avoid any surprises.

Advantages of Professional Conversion

Choosing a professional service like ours here at Nostalgic Media ensures that your cherished film memories are preserved with expert care at budget-friendly prices. We have been experts in the video production and photography field for more than 35 years, trusted by thousands of families and top organizations since 1989.

The quality you receive using a professional service will be better than the DIY methods we will explore below, depending on the quality of the original film, not to mention requiring a much lower time commitment and hassle factor. You’ll get back high-quality DVDs and/or digital copies returned on a USB flash drive or uploaded to the cloud for your convenience. Explore our film transfer service today to see how we can help you future-proof your past.

Method 2: Record the Film as It Plays

Movie film projector

This DIY film transfer method can be a cost-effective choice if you already have the necessary equipment in your home. If not, some initial investment will be required, which can quickly run up a hefty price tag.

What Do I Need to Convert 8mm Film to DVD or Digital?

  • An 8mm or Super 8 film projector (look for a dual 8 projector if you have both types of film)

  • A smooth, clean white wall or a flat projecting surface

  • A good quality camera

  • A tripod to stabilize your recording device

  • A dimly lit room to minimize glare and reflections

  • A computer and/or SD card

  • Video editing software

Steps for Capturing the Film

  1. Set up your 8mm film on the projector.

  2. Ensure the projecting surface is clean and flat for clear viewing. 

  3. Position your camera on the tripod next to the projector, making sure it’s aimed at the wall where the film will be projected.

  4. Start the projector and adjust the focus so the picture appears sharp on your projection surface.

  5. Adjust the camera to ensure it frames the projected image correctly. Test the setup by recording a few seconds and make adjustments if necessary.

Challenges and Considerations

Frame Rate Differences: Modern cameras typically record at 30 frames per second, while 8mm film plays at about 16 fps, leading to potential jitteriness in the captured video.

Film Condition: Older films may have become brittle, risking damage during playback. Ensure your films are in good condition before playing.

Ambient Noise: Ensure the recording environment is quiet as background noise can be picked up by the camera’s microphone. This is especially important if your film has sound.

Time: Film has to be converted in real-time. The time it takes to run film depends on the size of the reels. If you have a large collection, this project could easily take hours, requiring you to monitor the transfer process to ensure damage to your film and other problems do not occur.

While this method of digitizing 8mm film is straightforward and can be the most cost-effective, it often results in poor quality and is generally not recommended. However, for a small collection of reels, this option may work for you if you’re willing to tinker with multiple camera and lighting settings and can devote more time to editing your videos post-capture.

Method 3: Use a Film Transfer Machine

Movie film projector

These all-in-one digital film converters make it easy to transfer home movies to digital formats or DVDs in just a few clicks. These machines come equipped with a camera and a unique mechanism for capturing your film footage. 

Options like the Kodak Reels 8mm Film Digitizer and the Wolverine Data Film2Digital Moviemaker-PRO are popular choices, offering different functionalities such as built-in LCD screens for image viewing and adjustments, exposure and contrast adjustments, and varying resolutions for digital output.

The quality of digital videos captured by these machines is usually better compared to other manual capturing methods, but quality varies among machines. These devices also range in price, typically anywhere from $250 up to $450. Like most things, the more expensive machines will typically produce better results.

Why Convert 8mm Film to DVD or Digital Format?

Vintage kids on smartphone

Preserving analog media is more important now than ever. The unfortunate truth is that film reels degrade and decay, even if they have been stored in optimal conditions over the years. Priceless memories fade and become lost to time if they aren’t soon protected.

Preserve memories: Converting your 8mm film to a digital format ensures that your memories are protected from degradation and loss. Digital files can be easily stored, backed up, and shared with family and friends, allowing future generations to enjoy and relive those special moments.

Convenient access: By digitizing your 8mm film, you can conveniently access and view your footage on various devices such as computers, smartphones, and tablets. This eliminates the need for outdated projectors or specialized equipment, making it easier to enjoy your films anytime, anywhere.

Edit and enhance your footage: Once your 8mm film is in a digital format, you can take advantage of modern editing tools and software to enhance the quality, adjust colors, or even add special effects to your footage. This opens a whole new world of creative possibilities to make your films even more personal.

Easy sharing: Digital files can be easily shared and distributed online, allowing you to send copies of your 8mm films to family members and friends. You can also upload your digitized films to video-sharing platforms or social media, making it simple to showcase your memories to a wider audience.