With my film archive, I have saved hundreds of home movies from oblivion.

I have highlighted the work of amateur filmmakers who, in times when few used cameras, immortalized the world. I have enabled people who watch the videos I have restored on YouTube to better understand what life was like in the past.

If things worked properly, a project like the one I have undertaken should be carried out by the State, which should safeguard the images of its past. Knowing that this does not happen, at least not as effectively as it should, I rolled up my sleeves and did it myself.

My life: Cinema, Television, and Internet

Despite what television and social networks say, today there are many more opportunities than in the past. You have to take the best of technology and having the discipline to stay away from its pitfalls, starting with the culture of complaint and the tendency to blame others for one's own mistakes.

By applying these principles, I have saved thousands of historical films that would have otherwise been lost, spreading them thanks to advances in restoration techniques and the distribution possibilities offered by the internet.

Among my passions, there have always been:

  • Film
  • Contemporary history

As for the former, since I was 18, I have tried to become a filmmaker, starting with amateur short films. It was 1995 and soon I realized that to succeed, one needed to go through the whole process of film schools and making the right connections.

Then I worked in television, but even though by then we were in the 2010s, it was still a very self-referential environment.

Creating a Historical Film Archive

In 2013 (pictured above), I realized that to reach my goals, I simply had to look at the changing world. I began acquiring home movies, in formats such as 8mm, super 8, 9.5mm, and 16mm, and built a business around them to spread the history they contained as widely as possible.

To do this, all that was needed was to:

  1. use the internet
  2. learn how to use restoration software
  3. replicate what successful people had alreay done.

The internet is not a magical tool through which people without talent or merit become millionaires overnight, as the headlines on Facebook timelines suggest. It is a place with rules to know and respect to achieve success.

Using amateur films for commercial purposes is not compatible with going on eBay and buying amateur 8mm and super 8 reels, as many who have tried to clone my project do, because this would lead to serious legal problems.

By applying such rigor, I built a film archive through which I provide productions from around the world, from major documentaries broadcast on leading OTT platforms (Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV, Sky) to student graduation films.

I make my content available to authors both on microstock platforms, such as Pond5, which sell videos in the form of short clips, and on my own websites:

I find clients through my YouTube channel, which has over 100 thousand subscribers, where anyone can watch hours of footage recorded from the 1930s to the 1990s, celebrating the amateur filmmakers who bravely took on the challenge of shooting with 8mm cameras in times when it was extremely complicated to do so.

Technology also allows for this: enabling a person from a small town in Italy to work with TV programs and documentaries from around the world, without actually leaving home.

In doing so, one ends up in the credits, for example, of Netflix's wonderful documentary about Wham!, which mentions the name of my archive, Footage For Pro:

 

and dozens of other audiovisual products where, whenever possible, I also ask to cite the name of the author who shot the footage at the time.

What to do if you find a collection of 8mm and super 8 films

Anyone who owns a collection of historical films, shot in their youth or inherited, can give a stage to those works by preserving the unique history they contain and having the concrete possibility of seeing them included in productions directed by the greatest filmmakers in the world.

Or they can keep everything in the shelf, delegating to others in the future the decision to discard them, because that is the sad ending they are destined for if nothing is done immediately.

Alternatively, they can donate them to other projects similar to mine, which however do not have an equally popular YouTube channel and therefore not even an audience to show them to, except the few productions that occasionally contact them. Without even being sure that these may spread, in addition to footage of places, also personal images that should remain accessible only to the close circle of relatives of those who shot the footage.

What home movies are

The term home movies can mean several things, starting from those films that are shown in cinemas and then recorded on DVD or Blu-ray, and in the past on VHS tapes and Super 8 films, to be watched at home.

Regarding my project, home movies are historical amateur films that immortalized places around the worlds:

  • the streets of California in the times of Starsky and Hutch or CHiPs
  • Germany when it was divided in two
  • Beijing when it was far from being a metropolis full of glass and steel skyscrapers.

Each image encapsulates the history of cities and countries that, given the speed at which the world changes, no longer exist today.

Contents like these are not easy to find because the classic 8mm and super 8 film usually depict private events athat do not have great historical value for those who are not part of the family of the people filmed, and they are also difficult to manage from a legal point of view.

The image of Milan shown below, taken from a super 8 film from 1981, can be distributed by obtaining the signature of the person who shot it or their heirs, as I regularly do. Even if in the footage there are commercial names, such as shop signs, in such a context, publication does not require the authorization of the owners of the brands if the video is used for documentary purposes. Nor is the signature of recognizable individuals necessary because the right to reportage prevails over the right to privacy.

If you want to set up an archive of amateur films, you cannot overlook these considerations; otherwise, you take legal risks and show disrespect to those who were filmed.

To create the archive, I first started from footage of my Country, and then began to expand it by searching for content recorded abroad by amateur filmmakers from all aroudn the world.

Anyone who loves Berlin appreciates the scent of history that is breathed at every street corner, even today when its recent past is not only represented by what remains of the city from the time of the wall, but is alive in the memory of many people who lived there at the time or even of those who, while living in other parts of the world, keep among their vivid memories of youth the world divided in two after World War II.

Among the symbolic places of the Cold War is Teufelsberg, an artificial hill where first all the rubble from the city destroyed by bombings flowed, and later it was the site of a radio station that the United States used to spy on East Germany.

Enthusiasts of contemporary history who today want to reach the former CIA base and its iconic tower inside which scenes worthy of a James Bond film were hidden, can do so by climbing a hill where there is a strip of lawn in the middle of a forest. In the 1970s and 1980s, in fact, in that place, West Berliners went skiing, as evidenced by one of the films that I managed to save and of which I publish a couple of frames below.

Berlin has been at the center of the world for over 40 years, so there are many other similar recordings. The problem is that professional footage is not accessible because the owners, usually television channels and traditional archives, do not make their content public.

Amateur recordings from that time cannot rely on professional digitization and restoration work like what I can do with my lab, and they are almost never published, or they can even be lost.

That's why, for me, saving historical films is a kind of a mission that compensates for what public institutions are not able to do.

Amateur footage versus professional footage (and artificial intelligence)

Until the 1970s, in most countries, there were only one or two public TV channels. Therefore, there is no video documentation of most places other than home movies.

The great value of amateur films is also linked to the fact that they show the real world as it was at the time, unlike professional films on which other archives are based. It may seem like a marginal distinction, but it is actually the foundation of everything.

Today we are accustomed to having a phone in our pocket that can be pulled out and record a video in a second, without people paying much attention to it. Television crews, on the other hand, up until a couple of decades ago consisted of several people (cameraman, assistant, sound technician, producer, journalist) and did not go unnoticed. So, when people saw a professional camera, they didn't behave as if nothing were happening, so when they were filmed, they acted a part.

A super 8 camera, on the other hand, was little larger than a camera, and the person using it did not resemble a Hollywood director. Therefore, as evident in the footage below donated to me by a tourist vacationing in New York in 1970, home movies are shot with a discretion that is lost in the chaos of life and capture places and people as they were every day.

Unlike news broadcasts and even more so, artificial intelligence, which today works wonders when trying to recreate historical scenes, but it's only fiction.

The restoration technology solves home movies problems

Unfortunately, amateur films also have flaws. Those who filmed, not being professionals, were not always able to produce impeccable shots. The typical amateur footage is therefore:

  • shaky
  • filled with incorrect framing
  • full of with backlit shots

One of the most complicated tasks for anyone setting up an archive becomes then:

  1. Selecting films above average.
  2. Compensating for the director's mistakes through restoration work based on the latest technologies.

I explain in detail what this second point entails in a guide that you can find on this page, but to summarize, it requires, first and foremost, a professional scanner, the cost of which is never less than 40 thousand euros. Mine is this one:

Image correction

In addition to the significant investment, years of experience in the field of software restoration and continuous updates are required because technology advances every day.

Regarding color and brightness correction, thanks to the improvement of compression algorithms combined with plugins that reduce noise, it is possible to restore the lighting to its original state even if the footage is many decades old. With the same technique, it's also possible to correct the typical problems of dark or backlit scenes that amateur films are filled with.

To achieve this, automation of the software is not used, but rather, one must have experience based on thousands of films that have already been worked on because in difficult conditions, manual intervention is necessary.

Stabilizing footage

Another typical problem of home movies is the unsteady hand of the filmmaker. Filming in the era of 8mm and super 8 cameras took place in difficult conditions because the film, as it moved inside, accentuated vibrations.

Software like Davinci Studio today have implemented a feature that compensates for all unwanted movements, transforming amateur footage into something very close to the work of professionals.

You can see this in the video below, shot in Rovinj in 1973. On the left is the frame without stabilization, and on the right is the same footage after stabilization:

The collection of amateur films by Otto Wolf

One of the most interesting collections I have had the pleasure to work with is that filmed by Otto Wolf (the gentleman in the blue shirt in the preview frame of the video below), a Swiss amateur filmmaker born in 1909 who, at a time when people struggled to travel outside their country, traveled to 4 continents in places that today, thanks to his efforts, each of us can see through the images from his camera, much more realistic than those of the rare documentaries that depicted them in the same era.

It starts with a car journey in 1960 that, starting from Switzerland, touches Venice, Trieste, Zadar, Dubrovnik, Split, Peja in Kosovo, Sofia, Istanbul, Ankara, Lebanon (Byblos, Beirut, Baalbek), Syria (Damascus, Homs, Latakia), Egypt (Alexandria, Giza, Cairo, Saqqara, Luxor, El Alamein), Libya (Tobruk, Derna, Tripoli), Tunisia (Sfax, Carthage, Tunis), and then back up through Italy (Palermo, Taormina, Messina, Naples, Cassino, Rome, Florence, Pisa).

While simply reading the destinations chosen in the itinerary provides interesting historical context (why not Milan? why not Israel?), anyone watching the footage, as they can on my YouTube channel, cannot help but lament how many places visited at the time were peaceful and easily accessible by a European father with his daughters freely traveling in a car with Swiss plates, camping wherever they pleased without fearing for themselves and their family.

These are all pieces of information that can be gleaned from the images, which I make available to anyone who loves history.

As is the case with Mr. Wolf's journey the following year, this time in Eastern Europe afflicted by dictatorship. An itinerary that starts from Munich and Nuremberg, continues by crossing the border into East Germany to head to Berlin, Poznań, and many other cities beyond the Iron Curtain: Warsaw, Terespol, Minsk, Smolensk, Moscow, Zagorsk, Novgorod, Leningrad, Vyborg. A journey that then involves returning to the free world in Finland (Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Kuopio, Oulu, Kemi, Rovaniemi), Sweden (Luleå, Umeå, Sundsvall, Gävle, Uppsala, Stockholm), Norway (Oslo), Denmark, to return to West Germany (Hamburg, Bremen, Hanover).

Otto Wolf filmed until well past his eightieth birthday, to be precise, the last shot was at the Expo in Seville in 1992 (I provided the footage for a documentary about Maradona, who was playing in the city at that time), and his commitment deserves a gratitude that only making public the work he has done can partially give him.

Without him and without the willingness of his heirs to share his work, today the history of that time and those places would be less complete, and if those films had ended up in another archive, probably no one would have seen them, which is equivalent to losing them forever.

There are many similar collections stashed in cellars, storerooms, and attics. We all have a duty to save them and donate them to the world.

Daniele Carrer

THE LAB IS BASED IN ITALY AND OFFERS FREE RETURN DELIVERY IN ALL THE EUROPEAN UNION

Anyone interested in reaching an agreement to distribute their collection of home movies on 8mm, super 8, 9.5mm, or 16mm film, or to digitize them for a fee using the telecine service at my lab, can contact me using the form below: