The good news when it comes to preserving 8mm and super 8 films is that they only deteriorate a little over time. It’s crazy that the technology that has replaced them is not better.
In fact, if you have recorded your memories of the 80s and 90s on tape, which in those days were VHS and video8, today you will see them much worse than you saw them at the time. In this case, the best thing you can do is find a good digitization service that can block the decay of the image and sound by creating a file that, on the contrary, does not deteriorate.
When movies were digitized on VHS and DVD
In the 1990s and 2000s, many owners of 8mm and super 8 films transferred them to tape to make them easier to watch. In doing so, in fact, it was no longer necessary to use an old, noisy projector, but you could watch your footage on TV, connecting the VCR to it.
If you were one of these owners, today you have two big problems:
- VHS tapes decay quickly.
- The quality of the VHS format is very poor.
In a (slightly) better scenario, you may have transferred your films onto DVD discs. If so, you are a little luckier. In fact, DVDs are digital media, so they do not lose quality over time. Beware, however, that just a simple scratch can make the discs unreadable.
Another problem is that desktop DVD players are disappearing and in 10 years, when your footage will still be important, they will probably be gone, a bit like it happened to VHS video recorders.
Where will you read your DVD then?
I'm afraid that my answer is: nowhere, because even computers don’t use them anymore!
The third reason is quality. In 1997, when I watched my first film on DVD, it seemed to have the best possible quality, at least compared to VHS tapes I was used to. Actually, DVD discs do not support high definition (HD), and in an 8mm and super 8 film digitized by a professional laboratory this difference is visible.
Below, you can watch a video of Cattolica (Italy) in 1968. I digitized it and restored it in Full HD resolution (1920x1080).
Whoever you are, a film director or simply someone who got here because of Google while trying to find a telecine service for your home movie collection, the difference with standard definition videos is easy to see:
Why you are lucky if you have 8mm and super 8 films
An 8mm film from 1950, if preserved well, today loses 20-30% of quality compared to the period immediately after being shot. If then you rely on
- a serious digitization system built on a professional scanner (on this page I explain which one my laboratory uses)
- an operator who knows how to work on a restoration software
the image can be even better than the original one, thanks to the quality of the equipment, the experience of the technician and technological progress.
I will not go into the details of the restoration process because I do it very thoroughly in other pages of this site but, just to give you an example, one of the great limitations of the old cameras, compared to today’s cameras (or smartphones), is that they had no stabilizers, neither optical nor electronic, and the flowing of the film inside caused visible vibrations in the footage.
Modern editing software like Davinci Studio, Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere have such advanced stabilization functions that they compensate for all the limitations of the time, creating videos that can be better than the original one.
Store films away from humidity and heat
There are plenty of online guides that will advise you how to keep your films with a level of security close to that of drug research labs. Starting with such high goals means that you will eventually do nothing.
So I won’t tell you to store your collection of a few home movies in rooms created ad hoc with:
- fire system
- controlled humidity
- constant temperature at 20 ° C
In my personal archive (which unfortunately is not made up of my family's films, since when I was a child we didn’t own a camera, but from films that I buy around the world and sell to documentary productions, as visible on this other site of mine), I have digitized and restored thousands of amateur films.
The percentage of these ruined by bad conservation is less than 1%, although the owners were amateurs very similar to those who send their films to my laboratory for digitization and restoration.
That said, if you keep the reels in your house with temperatures between 18 and 27° C, in a low humidity room, you are sufficiently safe.
The film below, for example, was shot in 1952, and I restored it in my laboratory (obviously, I'm releasing it with the permission of the author).
If it weren't for the way people dress and their hair styles or the cars, it would look like it had been shot yesterday:
How to digitally store 8mm and super 8 videos
The state of the art of technology to digitize and restore 8 mm and super 8 films has reached unbelievable levels in just the last 5-10 years.
I'll now explain some of the basics of the technique. There are two steps to create a restored video:
In the first phase, at least in professional laboratories, a scanner created specifically for films photographs every frame. The maximum resolution of the scanner that I work with is 4096x3000, which is beyond what it makes sense to use. Let me explain:
The frame of super 8 and 8mm films is so small that it makes no sense to scan it in 4K.
Full HD (1920x1080) is therefore sufficient. I can say this just because I have done so many tests.
In other words, the current scanning technology cannot be surpassed in the future.
What can progress further and allow even better quality results thanks to technology is restoration. But be careful:
The file digitized today in a professional laboratory can be used tomorrow even if software restoration will allow higher quality.
Already now, thanks to software like Davinci Studio, plug-ins like Neat Video and, more than that, a skilled operator, incredible quality can be obtained.
I know my words sound abstract, but below is a video that I restored on behalf of one of my clients who had previously given it to a low cost lab that took advantage of the naivety of its customers:
Where to store the files with your videos
So you have figured out how to physically store your 8mm and super 8 films.
You also understand how labs like mine work to create videos that look like they were recorded yesterday despite the fact that the shooting dates back to 50-60 years ago.
Now that you have the files, all you have to do is find a clever way to keep them safe.
The best storage strategy is to save them in multiple media. Start with:
- a USB stick
- one or more computers
Having files on multiple physical media is a great thing, as keys, computers and hard drives get lost, break and can be stolen.
Store your videos on a cloud
Another form of security is to also keep the files on a cloud: a remote storage owned by a company that hosts the files of others. There are hundreds of websites on the market that do this, but I advise you to choose one of the giants of the web, which are more reliable and, from a commercial point of view, they should be fair.
Google calls its cloud Gdrive (you can find all the information on this page). It is a free service up to 15 GB; plans with more capacity start at less than 2 euros per month. Spending that small amount of money is worth it if you care about the data you have on your computer.
Be careful to only learn how important your files are the day after you lose them.
Other reliable clouds, always with free plans, are:
- Amazon Drive (5 GB)
- Microsoft One Drive (5 GB)
- Dropbox (2 GB)
To those who do not trust the internet, multinationals or people like me, cloud services are safe because the same file is saved several times in multiple hard disks located in different places and it is therefore almost impossible for it to get lost.
Always respect your 8mm and super 8 films, because the history recorded in these, if lost, cannot be recovered by any technology.
THE LAB IS BASED IN ITALY AND OFFERS FREE RETURN DELIVERY IN ALL THE EUROPEAN UNION
The price to digitize and restore your 8 mm, super 8 and 16 mm films in my laboratory is always 4 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: