The 8mm and Super 8 films deteriorate very little over time if stored correctly.

The 8mm format will soon reach 100 years, and even though it sounds strange, an 8mm film from, for example, 1935, can now be digitized and restored to produce footage not too different from that recorded with modern cameras or the best smartphones.

There's a reason why non-enthusiasts of amateur filming are misled: the technology that replaced films, namely tapes, deteriorates much more rapidly.

My generation (born in 1977), and perhaps even some earlier ones, associate amateur filming exclusively with tapes. Maybe those blurry and scratchy ones that were shown on TV years ago. For this reason, but also for logical reasons, it seems impossible that a home video from the '90s would look worse than one shot 60 years earlier. But that's exactly how it is.

Those who recorded their memories on VHS or Video8 accepted their low quality because videotapes were much easier to play. In the long run, this pushed 8mm and Super 8 films out of the market.

The problem is that those same tapes are now very damaged, and there's no remedy for this misfortune other than finding a good digitization service quickly, which at the very least can halt the decay by creating a file that, by its nature, does not deteriorate over time. If you find a reputable lab, you can already significantly improve the image quality, but without performing miracles. Perhaps artificial intelligence will take care of that in the not-too-distant future.

When films were digitized onto VHS and DVD

In the '90s and 2000s, many owners of 8mm and Super 8 films transferred them onto tape because, as I mentioned, they became more convenient to play. Projectors, unlike VCRs, were indeed not user-friendly and noisy.

If you did the telecine that way, you have a big problem today because your home movies have low quality, and they will only deteriorate further.

In a (slightly) better scenario, some people, from the late '90s onwards, transferred films onto DVDs instead of tapes. DVDs are digital media, so they don't lose quality over time, as long as they don't get scratched and become unreadable.

The problem is that standalone DVD players are disappearing, and the technology that replaced them, Blu-ray, which is backward compatible with DVDs, unfortunately didn't have such commercial success to ensure its future. Additionally, the quality of DVDs, although better than that of VHS, is not very high because they don't support high definition. In a film digitized from a serious lab, high definition is perfectly perceptible if the video is delivered on a USB drive or file.

Below is footage of England in 1952, and the Full HD resolution you see, if you activate full-screen viewing, is magnificent considering the years that have passed.

How to preserve physical copies of 8mm and Super 8 films

Having made this necessary preamble, let's talk about preservation because it's absurd to get rid of the film reels after digitizing and restoring them, even if you rely on a professional telecine laboratory that has provided you with a very high-quality video. It would be like throwing away an antique painting after photographing it.

There are plenty of guides online that will advise you to preserve 8mm and Super 8 films with a level of security reminiscent of pharmaceutical research laboratories. Setting such high objectives often means that ultimately nothing will be accomplished.

So, it's pointless for me to suggest storing your 10 home movies in specially created rooms with:

  • Fire suppression system
  • Controlled humidity
  • Constant temperature at 20°C (68°F)

With my personal archive, formed by films I acquire by agreeing with amateur filmmakers from around the world or their heirs, and after restoring them, I sell them to documentary productions, as visible on my other website, I have dealt with thousands of films. The percentage of these greatly damaged by poor preservation is less than 1%, even though the original owners were entirely non-professional filmmakers similar to those who send their home movies to my laboratory, therefore people not particularly inclined to create industrial storage conditions.

That being said, if you keep the reels at home, with temperatures between 18 and 27°C (50 to 80°F), in environments less humid than what would cause mold to appear on the walls, you should be sufficiently at ease.

For example, the film below was shot in Dresden, at the time part of East Germany, in 1972, and I restored it in my laboratory (obviously, I am distributing it with the author's permission). Confirming what I said at the beginning, if it weren't for the way people dress and the cars in the street, it would seem like it was shot yesterday.

How to digitally preserve 8mm and Super 8 films

The state-of-the-art technology for digitizing and restoring 8mm and Super 8 films has reached the highest levels.

There are two phases to achieve the final video:

  1. Digitization.
  2. Restoration.

The first thing to do, at least in professional laboratories, is to use a scanner specifically designed for films that captures the film frame by frame. The maximum resolution with which one can work, in my case, is 4096×3000, which is beyond what makes sense to use.

Let me explain: the frame of Super 8 and 8mm films is so small and lacks definition. Therefore, Full HD (1920×1080) is sufficient. I have conducted so many tests that I'm confident about it (unless a competent person with equipment of equal level to mine proves otherwise).

Resolution is not the only element that determines the quality of a video. The optics and sensor used by the scanner make a difference, but if one works with professional equipment, it can surely be said that:

The current scanning technology cannot be surpassed.

What can progress further in the future is restoration, but by preserving the digitized file, if the job is done by a serious laboratory, that same file can be used even in the future when technologies will allow even better quality. Artificial intelligence, which can already be used today, has results not as surprising as shown in certain promotional videos on YouTube.

The smartest way to save a file containing the video of your 8mm and Super 8 film, as well as any other type of file, is to first name it clearly and uniquely: FilmSuper8-01, FilmSuper8-02, etc. This makes it easily traceable with a simple search.

As a second step, you should store it on different media:

  • USB drive
  • one or more computers
  • a cloud

Having files in multiple locations is necessary since USB drives, computers, and hard drives can be lost, stolen, and in some cases, even demagnetized.

Storing videos in a Cloud

The greatest security is obtained by storing files in the cloud, which is a remote memory space managed by a company that offers such a service. There are dozens of them, but I recommend turning to web giants, which are more reliable and should not play tricks commercially.

Google calls its cloud Gdrive (you can find all the information on this page). It's a free service up to 15 GB, and for plans with more capacity, it starts at less than 2 euros per month. It's the best money you can spend if you care about the data you have on your computer.

Be careful not to realize how important your files are only the day after losing them.

Other reliable clouds, always with free plans, are:

Cloud services are secure because the same file is saved redundantly, and it is nearly impossible for it to be lost or attacked by hackers. If someone steals your password or if you accidentally delete it and only notice it months later when the cloud backup is no longer available, it's something that only you can avoid; it's not the service's fault.

Always have respect for your 8mm and Super 8 films because the history recorded in them, if lost due to neglect or distraction, cannot be recovered by any technology.

Daniele Carrer

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, 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).