Film to Video transfer (Do it yourself)

Instead of dishing out hundreds of dollars to have 8mm film transferred professionaly, what's the optimal way to do it yourself? I already have a DVD-burner and firewire and capture cards on my computer. How can I transfer the 8mm film? Is there a way to go straight from 8mm film to computer or do you have to go to vhs, and then from vhs to computer. If anybody knows of a device that can "scan" 8mm film or a method that can acomplish the same result I'd be forever grateful. Thanks in advance

I assume you mean you have a 8mm camcorder that you want to transfer to computer? If so this is what I do. I have a ATI video card that has a video in port that I plug in my camcorder to and capture the movie. Depending on the quality you save it as determines the size of the file. There are many video cards that can do this and mine was only around $50.00. I dont have a DVD burner yet so I am still burning my home movies to CD

There are several ways to go about transferring 8mm, super 8mm, 16mm, etc. to digital, and ultimately to DVD if that's your goal. You asked about 8mm, so I'll just answer for 8mm but it's all basically the same..

Elmo used to make an 8mm telecine transfer machine. They show up on ebeigh from time to time. They usually sell for $1500 to $2000. You run the film just like in a normal projector. The machine projects the film onto a ccd cell, and the output is typical VHS quality output. You can feed this just like a live TV broadcast into something like the Phillips DVD burner that has recently come available, but the quality won't be very high (typically around 250 to 300 lines per picture). The Elmo units have a frame per second and shutter blade combination that synchs the film to the TV signal. The closest easy synch for 8mm is to run it at 20 fps with a 3 blade shutter, but I don't know for sure that this is what the Elmo unit does.

Goko used to make a Telecine Player model TC-20. There are 8mm and Super 8mm models. You can pick these up on ebeigh too. They usually sell for $1000 to $1400. The Goko units are also similar to projectors, but instead of projecting the image onto a ccd cell, they project the image so that it appears to be floating in air inside the machine. You use your own video camera to capture the image by alligning it with a little window on the back of the TC-20. The interesting thing about the Goko units is that they use a 24 facet prism as part of their projection system, and for some reason they will synch with the TV at any speed. The range of speeds on the unit is typically from about 16 fps to about 24 fps. If you use the Goko approach, you can get a 3ccd cell camera, like the Canon GL1, XL-1s, or similar, and you can then get a digital file that you can run into your computer via the fire wire port. Resolution for miniDV is about 500 to 525 lines per picture. It holds up pretty well, even on a 54" TV. The Goko units are still supported in the US, so if repairs are needed, there is a place to send them. If your Goko and camera are properly adjusted and properly lined up, you can get very high quality by this approach.

Another approach is to use an 8mm projector with an adjustable speed control. If the unit has a 3 blade shutter and you can adjust it to run at 20 fps, you can synch with the TV. Normal 8mm projection speed is 18 fps, so this is only a 10% difference, and it isn't noticable to most viewers if there's no audio to deal with. You project the image onto either a telecine transfer box (mirror and ground glass), or onto a white screen, and you capture the image with your digital camcorder, like with the Goko unit. You typically project the image to a size of maybe 4" or 5" square. With the high quality digital camcorders, if you use the ground glass approach, resolution can be high enough to show the ground glass texture, so some people prefer to forget the telecine transfer box and just project onto a clean white sheet. If you're using the telecine transfer box, your camera will be at an angle of approximately 90% to your projection. If you used the clean white sheet approach, your camera will be located very close to the axis of the projector lens.

If you are interested in this general area, you can go to Google and do a search using the key word "telecine." There is another method that I have not used that involves frame by frame capture using a specialized set up that is being sold over the internet. I haven't looked at it recently, and I've never tried their gear. They are very negative about the Elmo and Goko methods in their literature - but my experience with the Goko is that the negative hype that this guy publishes is based on the results you get when your Goko lamp and camera are misalligned. The web page where this method is discussed is at

FWIW, I would pass on the Elmo telecine transfer units just because of the modest resolution. The video camera chip in these units is about 15 year old technology. My prefered method is via a 3ccd mini DV camcorder and either the Goko or the variable speed projector. You can get good results with either method. The one thing to watch out for is that most of the folks who are selling projectors on ebeigh seem to be overly optimistic about the functionality of their unit. These old projectors can eat the film and ruin your stuff pretty quickly. It is for this reason that I finally settled on the Goko TC-20 for my own 8mm film to DVD transfers.

If you would like to transer your old V8 or Hi8 tapes in DV formate to computer, the best way is to get a Digital8 camcorder. Sony D8 backward support V8 and Hi8, so you can just simply insert the V8/Hi8 tapes into the D8 camcorder, then transer them to computer in DV format through firewire cable. The price of cheapest Sony D8 is about US$500. If you are interested in buying a analog-digital converter to connect your Hi8 and PC, you can try Sony D8 video walkman for US$600. Of course, you also can buy a univeral analog-digital converter to convert RCA/S-VHS signal from you V8 to DV format like Dazzle's Hollywood DV-Bridge for US$300. However, the video qulity will not be as good as the other two.

We use a camera which points at a mirror and convex lens, which points at a variable-speed projector. I modified the projector to sync to the video signal. (PLL circuit). Contrast is usually too high with direct methods like this. We use a nice 3CCD camera with built-in DSP to control contrast as well as color, to compensate for changed colors in some old film.

This system has done some beautiful transfers. With properly-exposed Super8mm material, the quality far surpasses consumer camcorders, in my opinion.

If you don't want to spring for the transfer I've described, you could project on a flat white surface, then use a digital camcorder to record and Firewire it into your computer. There's a VirtualDub plugin to fix the flicker you'll get with a normal projector. (I haven't tried it, let us know how you make out if you try this).

I worked transferring home movies to video for about 18 years, about 8 years in my own business (now out of the business). This is my opinion about these issues.

I tried many types of projectors, but ended up only using Goko Tc-301s and Tc-302s. These projectors replaced the Goko Tc-20s and are far, FAR, FAAAR superior in image quality. This is understandable because the Tc-20s were based on a cheap revolving prism just like a low end consumer film viewer. Every time the corner of the prism went by you would get a little "pull" in the picture. This pull as the edge goes by 18 or 20 times a second can be noticed in any film viewer, and in transfers made with the Tc-20s. I suffered with these sh#tty machines for two years in the mid eighties before the TC 300 series replaced them. The image in the Tc20s was also not very bright cause the light had to go through the entire prism (about 3 inches thick).

We were getting a lot of complaints with the tc20s and the new units really saved us. No more complaints after the 300 series came on.

Goko never really overcame the bad rep for consumerish quality generated by these early machines. I'm amazed that people are actually buying them still. I can't believe the prices people are paying for these things. They're just crappy modified viewers.

The Tc301s and Tc302s on the other hand are typical telecine projectors with aerial imaging systems (no screen, just like the Tc20s) and they run at 20 fps (with almost no flicker and much brighter images than the TC-20s). In order to handle super 8 sound at this speed (the chipmunk effect) you need a pitch adjusting device like a digital pitchtraq. Speed issues aside these projectors were for me real workhorses and I was very successful for many years using them. They almost never break. Just don't let the tail end of the film go through the gate at the end of the roll as this sometimes results in bent film claws.

Elmo made very good telecine projectors but the transvideo (built in camera) units had horrible quality ccds, even for their day. The units without the built in camera are far superior.

Don't waste your money on Goko Tc-20s or Elmo Transvideos. Buy Tc301s (reg 8) or Tc302s (super 8) or regular Elmo telecine projectors (not transvideo).

Just my two cents, hope it helps someone.

I recently started to explore this as my mother-in-law has a bunch of old Super 8mm film that she was wanting to transfer onto DVD. I use a decently old Sony Digital Handycam DCR-TRV315 with a DV (firewire) port. There is a setting with this camcorder to where you can record the projected film with little to no flicker. I used the Program button on it and just kept pressing the switch/select button until the flicker went away. I have to looke at the manual for what it is exactly, but looks like an alien space ship icon ... :-P. I use a Canon Cine S-400 projector to a white board about 2 feet away. With just the right settings, the film transfered nice. Decent enough to put on DVD. I'm exploring with lighting, exposure settings and distance before I'm happy. I transfered a few to DVD ... well, VCD format since they are the 3" (3.5 min) films ... so practice will be perfect.

I have been transferring 8mm & Super 8 film for many years using a Sony VX-1000 / Canon XL-1 and a Chinon Whisper variable speed projector. The transfer quality has been average. I recently purchased a TVT R8H & S8H from Tobin Cinema Systems. The transfer quality is incredible. My new telecine (film transfer machines) use a CCD video pickup with 480 line resolution and DSP (digital signal processing), a special macro lens system, sprocket drive that assures a sharp, steady, flicker-free image.

I've been copying reg 8 and super 8 and super 8 sound movies to VHS for several years using Bell and Howell autoload projectors using DJL bulbs (150w) , a piece of white stationary taped to a black music stand, and a Panasonic PV 800 full size VHS camcorder.

Today, I cleaned all lenses and was surprised at how dirty they had become. A friend turned me on to other sources of paper to project the image on. All white paper is not equal and I had no idea the copier paper / printing paper had a Whiteness Number -

My friend gave me a piece of white printer paper with a 92 number and when I compared it to what I had been using, I was quite surprised and pleased and just how much whiter the paper was. He told me that it comes up to a # 99 number - which I'm going to try and find. I know that the # 92 paper will give me a much better picture. It was such a difference, you'd think I'd put a new bulb in the projector !

I plan on obtaining a MiniDV camcorder in the near future for a higher quality picture. My setup gives me very good pictures from very good film. I'm surprised at the quality of reg. 8mm films shot outdoors from the 60's. I'm not so happy with the look of Super 8mm sound films shown on my sound projector. I have a Super 8 silent projector that gets a sharper image than the sound one. I think the zoom projection lense may be part of the problem. I'm going to look for a fixed lense for the B&H 626R projector. It has a 1" barrel facing the apeture with a groove around it.

I've copied many 16mm films with the setup and I'm very happy with the end results - even on VHS ! Good lighting and good photographing skills make all the difference in home movies. I just did a 94 film job of Super 8mm sound and it was horrible. Every scene was improperly focused. Every zoom was out of focus, the lighting was deplorable - only the sound saved the project.

I think that people who order VHS copies of their home movies are glad to see ANY picture from their old films. Quality seems to take back seat to the CONTENT of the films. I've yet had a complaint regarding my film transfers to VHS. And, some have been transferred from VHS to DVD - the 94 film job was. Someone else did the DVD for the client.

A true scanning device will set you back at least $1500 USD. The Workprinter by is an example. We tend to feel that all the advice about Goko and other less capable things such as Buhl or a Laird multiplexer is a bit mythical since they are as rare as hens teeth. No matter what device you try to obtain or do get you need to be aware of a few things as none of it is straight forward or simple as some make out and the results may satisfy those who think they have a great set up using VHS systmes. VHS systems are fine on most PC's however if using DV you better look at the expense involved for RAID and a decent CPU and high end video card. If you have a small amount of film take it to a pro for scanning, they know what they are doing and have ALL of the gear and software that works and the know how to give you a great result. Nothing is simple and requires not only hardware and MONEY, but knowledge skill and ability, why? you have only started to look at the sharp end of the stick, there is so much more to it than instamatic point and shoot including videoscope analysis colour balance since film is so different from video, then there is contrast range, saturation and authoring a DVD seems simple, but with film, frame rate and camera capability is just part of the equation. I could go on but I really think I have said a lot. If you are looking for the challange and satisfaction of doing it your self be warned the learning curve is steep, some get lucky and obtain acceptable results. it is rewarding and very stimulating challenge.

The usual DIY way (note, the projector is ideally variable speed, adjust the speed knob until flicker is gone). Keep the camera and projector as close to eachother as possible, do your transfers in a room that is dark.