Why a USB Stick is Better Than a DVD

The conversion of Super 8, 8mm, 9.5mm, and 16mm films to digital has reached an incredibly high level of quality today. Therefore:

The images are much better than those obtained even a few years ago, at least if you rely on a lab with professional equipment and experience in restoration.

Anyone who has had their home movies transferred to DVD has found a more convenient way to watch them, but from a quality perspective, they have wasted their money. For two reasons:

  1. The poor quality of the DVD as a medium, especially in terms of resolution.
  2. The fact that if a lab offered you a DVD instead of a file recorded on a USB stick, it means they lack the technical knowledge and equipment to do a job that meets today's technological standards.

The Super 8 film of a Wedding from 1974

What I’m saying is demonstrated by the video I’m publishing below, which compares two types of restoration done on the same Super 8 film shot at a wedding in 1974.

On the left, there is the video from a studio that:

  1. Used a budget digitization system
  2. Did not perform any kind of restoration
  3. Transferred the final video to DVD

The work was done in 2008, with the technology used at that time, which unfortunately most still use today. The image is blurry, cropped, shaky, the colors are unreal, and the definition is poor.

Comparing that result with the restored video created by me and shown on the right, for which I used:

  1. A professional scanner worth tens of thousands of euros
  2. Modern restoration techniques
  3. Export to file (which can then be put on a USB stick)

It is easy to understand the difference between labs that invest and stay updated on technology and labs that take advantage of customers by claiming that the video is poor only because the film is old.

You don’t have to blindly believe my words but compare with your own eyes the quality of the images obtained with the two different systems:

I thank the customer who explicitly authorized me to publish his wedding film to prevent others from making the same mistake by choosing the wrong lab and thus ruining their most cherished memories.

My email inbox is full of people who, after relying on unprofessional studios, write to me to find out if it’s true that nothing better can be done. The answer is always:

Today, it’s possible to achieve quality even better than what was seen with the projector right after the film was shot, but with the convenience of playing the video on your TV, computer, or smartphone.

So whether you had the work done in the DVD era or recently, if you are not satisfied and, as I hope, still have the original reel, today’s technology allows for great improvements.

By the way, my name is Daniele Carrer, and I have worked on thousands of historical films. Many belong to my personal archive, which provides footage for documentaries worldwide.

In recent years, I have made the same restoration system available to those who want to save their family films at the highest possible quality today.

Why you shouldn't save 8mm and Super 8 films to DVD

A fundamental aspect to consider in digitization work is the type of medium onto which the videos are saved.

Transfering a high-quality video file to DVD is the worst possible choice. If someone suggests you to do it, I strongly advise you to think twice before giving your memories to them, because it could mean only two things:

  1. They don't have the knowledge to do such an important job.
  2. They're trying to deceive you.

Technology has made giant strides, and not taking advantage of it is an unforivable mistake.

In the 1990s and 2000s, photographers and video production studios transferred home movies using artisanal methods that had little to do with quality because, better options weren't available at the time.

These systems are still used today, and the only way to avoid them is finding professionals who can prove how passionate about their job they are. Only them can invest in technologically advanced equipment and gained significant experience with restoration software.

I have a lot of respect for those who still have a photography store. The awful true is that today they can't have enough clients to afford professional equipment, even if they're located in a big city. Unlike me, who, through the internet, can have clients from all over the world.

Among the studios that work in an amateurish/artisanal way, there are even those who still use projectors and cameras to digitize 8mm and super 8 films. This is bad not only for the quality of video they obtain, but also because projectors have been out of production for at least 40 years: inserting a film into them, among gears that jam and lamps that can burn the film, is a risk that can ruin your home movies forever.

History of 8mm and super 8 telecine

At the beginning of telecine, in the 1980s and 1990s, to watch home movies without the hassle of using projectors and screens, they were transferred to VHS tapes. Using videotapes was an easier playback system, but it also had much poorer quality.

Later, technology allowed the transition from VHS to DVD. The medium was more advanced because it was:

  1. Better in terms of quality.
  2. Less subject to wear over time.

But DVDs, although representing an innovation when they came out in the late 1990s, are very limited compared to the technology that can be used today.

For the past twenty years:

the best solution is no longer to transfer restored videos to DVD. It's to use files: to be inserted into a USB drive or sent via link.

Examples of 8mm and super 8 films restored with professional equipment

Technology has changed everything, even in the world of telecine. You can see this by watching the quality of the footage below, shot in Super 8 over 50 years ago:

The first one was shot in Italy during the summer holiday of 1968. The second one is set in 1970 New York.

The period from the late 1960s to the 1970s is the golden age of home movies shot on film because super 8 film had become more accessible, while VHS and video8 tapes had not yet entered the market, as happened later in the 1980s.

I personally restored these two films, which, in some way, tell the story not just of the places portrayes, but of the whole world, which at that time was a totally different place than today. I really think home movies give a realistic point of view than the professional footage shot in that period

I worked on those two super 8 film:

  1. By capturing them with a professional scanner called FilmFabriek HDS+ (on this page you can read the specifications on the manufacturer's website).
  2. By restoring them with Davinci Studio software and the Neat Video plug-in.

Like all the films in my private collection, they are published only after a released was signed by the filmaker or their heirs.

The reason I spend so much to collect films from other eras, almost always shot before I was born, is that I love both cinema and contemporary history, and I believe that memory should be safeguarded.

Why DVD hasn't been the best medium for years

Many people who are about to digitize their home movies believe that DVDs are still the best medium to transfer them to. This is not true for several objective technical reasons.

The first is the resolution, which in the case of DVDs is standard, meaning 720×576 or 640x480, about 300/400 thousand pixels, while on file it's at least 1920×1080, which is two million pixels: five to six times as much.

Therefore, given that:

  • TV screens are getting bigger.
  • The grain of 8mm and Super 8 films is perfectly compatible with the difference in quality that can be achieved with a high-definition transfer.

It's a shame not to take advantage of the possibilities that technology offers.

The second good reason why it's not good choice to transfer 8mm and Super 8 films to DVD is that:

- DVD players are disappearing from the market and when your device at home breaks, you won't find another to replace it.

The same thing happened years ago with VHS VCRs. Even if Blu-ray is compatible with old discs, considering that it hasn't achieved such widespread commercial success, there are serious possibilities that in 10 years you won't be able to play any DVDs.

Saving restored videos to files

Pen drives and hard drives are universal media not only for videos but for any type of file. So they can't be abandoned.

Furthermore:

  1. They can be easily duplicated.
  2. They are playable by all TVs monitors sold in the last 10/15 years.

Internet links are even better than flash drives

There's an even more practical way than using flash drives to make digitized and restored films available: delivery via internet link. Instead of waiting for the physical reels to be returned, if you give the job to a professional lab, this is what happens:

  1. They send you an email with links inside.
  2. You click on them and download the restored films.
  3. You immediately watch the videos on your computer and TV.

This system is better not only for letting you play the videos a few days in advance but also because you can:

  • Check that the restoration job is good before receiving the reels back.
  • Share the videos with other members of your family by forwarding the message with the link, without waiting to visit them and bring the USB drive.

So, let me give you advice:

Forget about DVDs and all the labs that offer them to you or don't tell you that there are better solutions.

Daniele Carrer

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

The price to digitize and restore your 8 mm, super 8, 9.5 and 16 mm films in my laboratory is always 5 euros per minute of footage, regardless of the format or the fact that they are mute or sound.

If you want me to work on your home movies, please contact me with this form:

    I always respond to messages by the next working day. If you don't hear from me after contacting me, my email probably went to your spam folder. You can also reach me on Skype (live:dcarre77) or Telegram (@DnlCrr).