Save your memories:  Convert them to digital

Save your memories:  Convert them to digital

In 1932, the Kodak Eastman Corporation began to market 8 mm film to the public. This was the beginning a new era in memory preservation. Regular people could make their own movies and film their own families. In the post-war era of the 1950s, the popularity of the home movie expanded as the equipment for filming and projection became more affordable. In 1965, Kodak Eastman introduced Super-8 film that improved the image quality over 8 mm.

The memories of many special events and family traditions were captured on this film. First steps were filmed. Achievements were documented. Often, the crowning moment of a family reunion is gathering together to watch these movies, seeing our younger selves and relatives long gone once again waving to the camera.

Unfortunately, all analog media will break down over time. It is rare that a family will store their film reels at the proper temperature and humidity for preservation. Perhaps there is a shoebox filled with reels pushed back in a closet; perhaps a box of them in an attic or basement. It is estimated that consumer film has a shelf life of fifty to seventy years. Many of your old home movies are in or approaching that window.

Several things can happen to 8 mm and Super-8 film as time passes. The images themselves begin to fade as the dyes that color the images break down. The different colored dyes also break down at different rates which can lead to color shift, tinging all the images with a single color. Also common is vinegar syndrome. This happens when the acetate base layer of the film begins to break down, yielding acetic acid, commonly known as vinegar. This syndrome will eventually cause the film to become brittle and warped.

Another serious issue with old home movies is that the film itself shrinks over time. This means that the sprocket holes of the film no longer line up correctly with the projector. Just playing your old home movies can lead to tearing, warping and other damage.

In order to preserve those memories, it is best to convert them to a digital format. The best and safest results will come from a professional service that is well-versed in converting 8 mm and Super-8 films to digital media such as:,, or Many video conversion services advertise the ability to produce video quality that is even better than the original film. These services will provide a range of scanning options, depending on the desired video quality and format. For example, transferring your film to DVD is a good option if you plan to watch them on television, while transferring to an MP4 format is better if you want to view them on several devices. Importantly, make sure that these services will scan your films using a roller-based scanner that does not depend on sprocket holes, thus minimizing damage to the original film.

If you have home movies that are slowing fading away, perhaps it is time to seek to preserve them. Do not let the next time you project them be the last time they are seen.

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