Do you have an old family video you’ve been meaning to watch, but can’t because it was recorded on dated dinosaur technology and isn’t compatible with the digital age of DVD and On-Demand? Well friend, fret no longer! We’ll cover how to convert that video of you and your friends singing “MMMbop” during that backyard concert you totally don’t regret now from the VHS and 8mm formats to DVD.
While both can be do-it-yourself projects, they require special equipment. Here’s what you need:
VHS is the easier of the two formats to convert—if everything goes well. In theory, all you need is a VHS/DVD combo player and your old VHS cassettes. A combo player isn’t a cheap investment if you’re only going to use it to convert a few tapes, but they’re not bank-breakingly expensive either. Often times, you may already have one lying around in the basement from the late 90s or can find a friend or relative who does. They can also be rented for a reasonable price if need be.
Be careful with the VHS tapes though; it’s a fragile medium not meant to last a lifetime. Many tapes can be worn out or damaged easily through time or overuse. That means you may slide in a video tape to convert from VHS to DVD only to have it tear, wear out, or become tangled and unsalvageable.
If price isn’t an issue, tape problems are less common with more expensive high-end professional equipment, which allow more control over the speed the tapes are played.
8mm Film Reels
8mm or “Super 8” film is a bit more durable, but the machine involved is more expensive. A telecine, the machine needed for conversion, is basically a film projector that doesn’t project on the wall at all—it plays the film into a closed box that digitally records it under ideal conditions. The result is a high quality DVD playback of the film.
Not only are telecine machines expensive, they are also hard to find (unless you’re friends with film students, that is). Furthermore, they are very expensive to rent, with only a few niche companies offering a rental service. Unfortunately, there is no way to convert 8mm to DVD without them.
Whenever you’re converting VHS and 8mm to DVD, resist the temptation to just record the video with a camera. Some project 8mm on the wall or play VHS on a TV and use a digital camcorder to record it anew. This method loses a ton of quality, especially in comparison, and in time you won’t be happy with the results. More playbacks of a VHS tape also increase the chance of destroying the tape forever.
An alternative to trying to find and use this equipment yourself is to simply send your VHS or 8mm to a professional digitizing service. They can do a professional job converting 8mm and VHS to DVD at a fraction of the cost of buying or renting equipment. Also worth noting, you’ll save a few hundred headaches that D.I.Y. conversion cause.
Can you really chance losing that backyard concert video?
Yeah…didn’t think so.