Converting Old Home Movies

converting old home movies

How to convert old home movies to DVD

Home movies are a mainstay of recording your memories in a more active way than still photos, though the modern digital format is a far cry from the old reels of film our ancestors used to have. Even so, if you have a collection of old home movies, that’s a treasure you want to take care of.

Unfortunately, watching your home movies was a bit more of a chore than just tossing a DVD into the machine. You’d have to set up a large projector and get some sort of screen in place. Many people ended up keeping their old movies in boxes, rarely watching them.

So why not convert some of these old movies into a digital DVD version so that you can keep them safe from age deterioration and to make them easier to watch and enjoy. Here are a few things you need to know about converting your old home movies.

What Kind of Movies Are They?
The first thing you need to establish is what kind of movie you have in the first place. Those that are on reels of film are either 8mm, Super 8 or 16mm. Thankfully, most conversion companies can handle all of them, so you don’t necessarily need to know them apart. More “modern” home movies may be on VHS or even Beta tape cassettes. If you are really interested in safe-keeping your genealogy records, you could even see if they can put photos or slides on DVD as well.

Where to Get it Done?
It’s not actually that hard to find places that can convert your old movies, and there may even be a location near you where you can go in person. Ask at a standard photo finishing store or see what’s in the yellow pages. You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding places that can make DVDs and some may even offer more services like restoration if your movies are in rough shape.


Don’t worry too much if there is no places that do conversions near you. Many will take mailed-in film to work with. Places like Home Movie Depot or Scan Digital are two options you can check out (I’ve never used either of them).

What’s the Cost?
That will depend on the movies you have and what format you are working with. Newer VHS movies are given a cost per minute but reels of 8mm or 16mm film are done by the foot instead. Whoever is doing the work for you can outline the prices and whatever specific policies they have. You can expect a price of 10 to 15 cents per foot, based on th average costs that most services offer.

Do It Yourself
And even if you aren’t particularly handy with digital things, you can always do a little converting on your own. This may be a better option to save money and to spare you the stress of trying to mail your precious movies away to a company of strangers. You just need a digital movie camera of some kind and the necessary projector to play your old movies.

Set everything up and play your old home movies, while a modern camera is set up to record. If you get in close enough and don’t disturb the set-up, you can create a decent second version of your movies at now cost.

Not the Final Step
Just remember that movies on DVD aren’t going to last forever either. They will last longer than your brittle old reels of film or tape, but even a DVD can degrade over time. One single scratch can also render hours of video irretrievable. Take care of your discs.

In time, you or your descendents may end up looking at your boxes of DVDs and wonder what they are going to do with these “old”movies and have to find their own ways to convert them again into whatever format is popular at that time.