Memories on film
Making home movies was a popular past time during the 1950s ’60s and ’70s. The passion of documenting memories is still popular today in the digital age, and many people are transferring their old home movies into digital formats.
Matt Miller, owner of Image Arts ETC at the Eastwood Mall, said he transfers all kinds of film formats onto DVD, giving customers the chance to preserve their old video memories. Whether it’s the old 16mm and 8mm films or VHS tapes, Miller transfers it all.
During the vintage eras, 8mm film was the quintessential medium for shooting home movies.
Jim Stamm, camera specialist at YM Camera in Boardman, said that transferring film is a process.
“Usually if they are 8mm reels, you have to put them on a projector, project them on a screen and record it on a digital camera,” Stamm said. “Then from there, you burn the footage on a DVD.”
With the smaller 8mm rolls, many people would splice the film together to make a longer-playing film.
“For an 8mm film, what most people do is to splice the footage,”?Stamm said. “You would need a splicing machine and splicing tape. People splice because it’s a small reel and two or three minutes of footage. Without splicing, you would have to stop the camera and change the reel, and you would have to keep doing this process every three minutes. So most people just splice the film on one reel and then they just transfer that footage. If you splice the film, then you would only have to change the reel every 24 minutes.”
Miller said that many customers want to transfer these old 8mm films on DVD.
“With a lot of the old 8mm film, people would store them in shoeboxes or a closet,” he said. “The nice thing about transferring films on DVDs is that you could make copies for your family and view them on a television screen.”
One reason people transfer from film to digital is the loss of old equipment.
“They would pull out their old projector out of the closet and the light bulb inside the projector that shines through blows out,” Miller said. “You can’t find these types of bulbs anymore. These are very bright light bulbs and are made specifically for projectors. Every manufacturer had a different type of bulb for their projectors and that is why they are so difficult to find.”
Miller said that once this bulb blows out in the projector you can no longer view anything.
“You need that bright light bulb to project the image and footage onto the wall or screen,” Miller said. “I see this situation all the time. The machine doesn’t work because you are dealing with a 50-year-old technology.”
Jeff Prahst, president of Fairview Photo Service in Fairview Park, said that the better the condition of the film format, the better the results are when it is digitized. He said one of the biggest mistakes is that people will store their film in a damp area of their homes, such as a basement.
“The biggest problem we see is film that has mold or moisture in it,” Prahst said. “If old film isn’t stored in a dry area, mold will form in the film. The mold will look like white snowflakes, and when you play the movie, you will see snowflakes in the picture because there is mold in the film. When mold grows inside the film, it grows in the emulsion of the film. The emulsion is what creates the image, therefore when you are trying to clean mold off of the film, you are wiping away the emulsion.”
Smell can be the ultimate indicator of the age of a film product.
“One way you could tell that your film is breaking down or accumulating mold is that it will smell like vinegar,” Prahst said. “That vinegar smell is the emulsion breaking down. It doesn’t matter what you see when you play the film. If it smells like vinegar, then it is going bad.”
The method that film is stored can have an impact on how well it lasts with age and result when it’s digitized.
“I have seen old film that has had mold and white crud on it, and I have also seen film that was subject to breaking,” Miller said. “Film gets old, brittle and snaps. A lot of people store old film in metal boxes or shoeboxes. Most people have taken care of that old film pretty well.”
Prahst said that heat can also affect film.
“Heat can make film brittle with age,” he said. “It helps if the film is stored in cans rather than a plastic bag where moisture can develop. With aged film and film exposed to heat, it makes the film brittle and sprocket holes will tear. We see a lot of people who will run their film through a projector that hasn’t been used in years and not properly maintained. The belts get brittle and cracked in projectors.”
Prahst said that it’s always important to digitize your old films before the original medium becomes damaged.
“Make sure you get your film transferred to digital format before it cracks or curls,” he said. “You can also transfer your film when it’s digitized onto a hard drive. Once it’s on a hard drive, we could enhance it and color correct it, but it depends on the condition of the film.”
Prahst said that even though it’s important to digitize those video memories, it’s always important to have them saved on a backup and to never throw away the original film format.
“It’s important to store your transferred video on a backup, because if your hard drive crashes, then it’s gone,” Prahst said. “A lot of people will bring in their film and have us transfer it on a DVD, and once they have all their videos on DVD, they will throw the original film out. Don’t throw the film out after you digitize it, because that is the original format.”