Success Story: Converting a 79-year-old 8-mm Movie to Digital

by , under Audio-Visual, Cuyahoga County, Libraries, Technology in Genealogy, YouTube

Last Saturday (17 Mar 2018), I attended an indoctrination session for the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Memory Lab at the South Euclid/Lyndhurst branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. The objective: learn how to convert old home movies to digital files. The Memory Lab has a Wolverine Film2Digital MovieMaker unit that library subscribers can use for free.

Today (22 May 2018), I did a test run of the process by converting a 50-ft reel of 8mm film to a digital file in the MP4 format. The label on the film said that it was made in 1939, making it 79 years old. The subjects were my late wife, MJ, and her brother, Sid, also now deceased. The cameraman no doubt was my father-in-law Clyde Van Court.

The result is a black-and-white “movie” that runs for 2 min 19 sec at 30 frames a minute. The action is speeded up but it still is wonderful to see MJ and Sid as little kids. I had never seen this before because it was in 8mm and apparently the Van Court 8mm projector stopped working decades ago and it was tossed out.

After doing some research on the Internet, I learned that I can “slow down” the film so the action appears more normal through manipulation with an application. It sounds simple, but I haven’t tried it yet.

In any case, I consider the trial a success and I am going to work on converting other old films, including some Super 8 films that we made when our kids were growing up. The Wolverine unit is designed to handle Super 8 as well as 8 mm.

The main task will be to organize the many film reels to prioritize the time I spend at the Memory Lab. A 50-ft reel of film takes about 30 min to convert. But the price is right: FREE.

If you are interested in reading more about how the Wolverine unit works, go here to download a user guide. It is easy to read and understand. Also, there are several YouTube videos available.

The Memory Lab has several other audio-visual conversion systems available for use by library patrons.

 

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