Good-Bye, VHS; Hello, DVD

At a Glance
  • Hitachi DZ-MV350A DVD-CAM Camcorder (Hitachi-DZMV350A)

  • Sony DCR-TRV70 MiniDV Handy Camcorder (Sony-DCRTRV70)

  • Canon ELURA 50 Mini DV Camcorder (Canon-8713A001)

  • Sharp VL-Z7U Mini DV Camcorder (Sharp-VLZ7U)

  • Samsung SCD33 MiniDV Camcorder (Samsung-SCD33)

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From Dusty Film Reels to DVD Treasures

Got a pile of 8mm home movies lying in your closet? Moving them to a digital format will make them easier to edit and share. You can either do it yourself or pay someone else to do it for you. The former is definitely the cheaper way to go, especially if you have more than a reel or two to convert. You may already have the equipment you need: a film projector, a video camera, a white wall, and not much else to do for several evenings. Just project the film onto a white wall in a dark room and videotape the projected image.

Should you decide to pay someone to do it, you'll want to do some research: Specialty photo shops, video companies, and some copy shops offer film-to-video transfer services, but most of these are small, independent operations whose costs and quality vary widely.

Before you commit to a service, ask questions: How much does it charge per foot of film? Typical costs range from 10 cents to 20 cents a foot (16 feet of super-8mm film is about 1 minute). Most services can migrate your movies to DVD, VHS, or MiniDV, but watch out for hidden costs that can add up quickly. One service I tried charged me nearly $30 for a MiniDV tape--about four times what you would pay in a retail store.

Ask how the service actually does the transfer: If it simply projects the film onto a wall, you might as well do that yourself. Others use a video camera and a projection box, while some use a special projector that has an electronic sensor instead of a lens--probably the method that produces the best quality. Regardless of the method, the safe bet is to give the service one reel and check out the results. If you're happy, send off the rest of your movies.

--Tracey Capen

At a Glance
  • Hitachi DZ-MV350A DVD-CAM Camcorder (Hitachi-DZMV350A)

  • Sony DCR-TRV70 MiniDV Handy Camcorder (Sony-DCRTRV70)

  • Canon ELURA 50 Mini DV Camcorder (Canon-8713A001)

  • Sharp VL-Z7U Mini DV Camcorder (Sharp-VLZ7U)

  • Samsung SCD33 MiniDV Camcorder (Samsung-SCD33)

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