A few years ago, I unknowingly made a BIG mistake with my home movies.
I was looking for a simple, inexpensive option for converting my family’s home movies. I wanted to go through the conversion process myself, so I could make educated recommendations to future clients who needed to convert their own movies.
I recruited a college student who purchased some basic scanning equipment from a local store, then gave him instructions on how to do the conversion. I paid him to convert our home movies and copy them onto DVDs.
Boy, do I wish I had known what I know now! Our video tapes were converted, but unknowingly, I paid him to convert them to a compressed format that didn’t give me a high quality outcome. At some point, we’re going to need to pay to have all our movies re-converted. Next time, we will definitely use professionals with high quality scanning equipment!
In our previous blog post, we talking about some of the basics of converting your home movies to a more modern format — including different types of home movies and what to think about before you get started on your conversion project.
In this post, I’ll let you know everything I learned from my big home movie conversion mistake. We’ll talk about the best way to convert your videos, and I’ll give you my best advice on how to pick a company who can manage this entire process for you.
Let’s get started!
The Best Way to Scan a Digital File
When you know you want to convert your home movies to a digital format, what’s the best way to do the actual scanning, so you can turn your treasured memories into digital files?
First things first – you want to invest in the best conversion option. Not all scanning solutions provide the same outcome, and you don’t want to end up making the same mistake I made! You’ll need to do your research and get the best possible conversion that you can get.
Secondly, it’s important that you convert from the original movie (whether the movie is on film reels, or on tape). This will give you the best possible chance to create a high-quality digital file when you do the conversion.
For example, if you’ve already converted the movie once (say, from movie reels to a VHS tape), use the original reels to create your digital file – not the VHS tape. If you use the VHS tape, your digital file will be lower quality.
Working from the original movie format is important, because when you’ve already converted your movies once (from VHS tapes to DVDs, for example) the DVD is now in a compressed format that is different from the original, and is of lower quality. If you take the DVD and try to convert it to a digital file, you won’t actually have all the data you need to create a great quality file.
Converting from the original format might be more expensive, but you will be much happier with the end result.
9 Questions to Ask Before You Select a Scanning Company
I recommend using high quality equipment to scan your home movies, which means you’ll need to hire a scanning company.
Before you select a company to work with, I recommend you ask these 9 questions:
1. Is the staff trained on how to handle the film and tapes? You need trained employees handling your movies, so make sure to inquire about whether or not the staff are properly trained in film conversion techniques.
2. Will the film or tapes be cleaned before they are scanned? Any dirt or dust on your movies will be converted over to the digital file, so it’s critical that the company cleans your reels or tapes before starting the conversion process.
3. Will the staff check for integrity of original, to make sure there aren’t any tears or broken splices on film? Also, if there are tears or broken splices, can your company provide a repair as needed?
4. Can your equipment handle sound? Sound capability was only added to film between 1967 and 1977. The staff should know how to identify when sound has been recorded in the video, and convert both the audio and the video when they create the digital file.
5. What type of equipment will you use to scan the movies? It’s critical that the company you hire to do the conversion works on the best possible equipment. Here are few things to keep in mind:
When you’re converting from film, a “sprocket” scanner can sometimes damage fragile reels. Request that the company uses sprocketless reels, if possible. If the company uses both sprocketed and sprocketless types of scanners, I recommend asking how they determine best option for your film.
When you’re converting from tape, ask if the scanning company needs the video camera to do the conversion. Sometimes using the original camera will ensure the tape is properly seated which will get you a better result.
6. Is color correction available? If the company can perform color conversion, will it be during the conversion process, or post-conversion?
Some scanning equipment can correct color while converting. This is typically more expensive as it is a longer process. Some scanning companies will provide this service after the conversion, for an hourly fee.
If you’re willing to do some editing on your own, Apple’s Final Cut Pro software has color correction features, so you can do your own color correcting when you get the final digital file.
7. Is dead space converted? If there is dead space in your home movies (and it’s at the beginning or end of your tape or reel), many companies will convert it along with the movie footage. However, if the dead space is in the middle of the footage, you will need to have the company convert the entire tape, then pay them to edit out the dead space in the middle during the post-conversion process.
8. Can you make clips from the original? If you want to separate out the digital file into specific sections, you may be able to have the scanning company do it for you. Creating clips is a service that some companies offer during post-conversion.
Once the file is converted, you can preview the footage, note where you want clips to stop and start and they can create smaller, individual clips for you. This is usually an additional fee, often based upon the number of hours it takes to customize the digital file for you.
If you’d like to create clips yourself, you can use iMovie software to separate out your individual movie files.
9. Can you make both a digital file and a playable DVD after you scan the originals? Many scanning companies can do both, and it’s a great idea to get your movies in both formats. This is a good solution if your family members have a mixture of older and current equipment (like DVD players, high-definition televisions, and laptops/desktops/tablets).
Your relatives with standard TVs and DVD players can use the playable DVD, and the folks who prefer to view from their computers or view the videos on their high-definition TVs can use the digital files. You’ll also have a digital master you can keep backed up in a safe place.
How Picture This Organized Can Help
If you don’t want to manage this process yourself, or would like some help in selecting a company to hire for home movie conversion, we can help!
I am a home movie certified professional. Last year I went through an 8-week certification program from Pro 8mm to educate myself on best practices to help our clients make the right choices when they’re deciding how and where to convert their home movies.
Converting your home movies is a complicated process and a considerable financial investment. We feel it’s important that you make the right choices during this process, so we can:
- Assess your footage and help you talk through your goals, including taking stock of the people who want to view your home movies.
- Make overall recommendations for the conversion process, based on whether or not you need our help in coordinating the process (from conversion to editing, backup, etc).
- Help you find scanning companies based upon your preferences and location, if you’d like to have someone else manage the process for you.
- Edit digital files removing unwanted footage or creating individual clips
Our goal is to help you with your home movie process, so you’ll be able to enjoy your home movies with the peace of mind, knowing they will be available for current and future generations.
Would you like to discuss your home movie conversion project? Contact us here to get started.