How to find experts to digitize analog movies


You recently answered a question about how to use a digital camcorder to record the screen where 8mm films are being projected. I would love some suggestion instead of where to send such film to have it transferred to DVDs. I no longer even have the equipment to view the 8mm reels that I possess.

– Bobbi Schindler

Among the most frequently asked questions this column receives are ones about how to digitize our old analog movies, videotapes and photographs. The Q&A you refer to dealt with making copies of one’s old celluloid movies just like pirates with camcorders who photograph Hollywood movies in theaters. That answer brought me a lot of commentary about flicker problems encountered when recording projected films as well as lots of notes, like yours, Ms S., asking how to get this work done by pros. So I’d like to answer you and then deal with the issue of flickering frames when trying to do it yourself.

My literary license doesn’t go far enough to let me tell folks where to buy stuff but there are several things to be said about shopping for a transfer service. First, the most visible outfit by far transferring 8mm and 16mm reels as well as old video tape to DVDs is Santa Clara, Calif.-based YesVideo Inc. They ask $50 for the first 250 feet of film and then 10 cents per additional foot.

This company has deals with many photo stores and drugstores where one can drop film off and pick up DVDs afterwards. Locations of available retailers can be found at where you can enter your ZIP code for information.

Not everybody has been blissfully satisfied with this mass-market service but the complaints seem to focus on issues like color quality and where individual clips are trimmed rather than any failure to deliver DVDs with digital files for the celluloid film.

One way to seek a more hands-on service is to do a Web search on Yahoo, Google, MSN or AOL using a search term like “transfer 8mm to DVD.” A number of the many companies doing this all over the country offer hand-holding like letting customers send in just a small amount of footage for a test transfer.

Do-it-yourself transfers aren’t for everybody partly because the process requires still owning a projector and a whole lot of folks’ projectors broke long ago. Also making the copies introduces the issue of flickering because modern camcorders pretty much record at 30 frames per second while the old projectors flash images at 24 fps or slower.

Not all camcorders have settings that directly permit reducing speeds to these slower rates so the process can require some tweaking of the camcorder’s effects settings. Usually it is the brightness effect that slows down frame rates so some fiddling is needed. But slowing down the shutter can overexpose the images so one also needs to experiment with lens aperture settings, reducing them from perhaps F4 to F8, etc.

The best way to carry this off is to connect the camcorder to a video monitor and then move the projector close to the screen to make the image small and bright as possible. Flicker can be spotted in the monitor and it is easier to make certain that the screen is filled completely and not distorted because of the angle of the camcorder to the screen versus the angle of the projector to the screen.

I cannot remove Microsoft Word from my computer since when I open “Add/Remove Programs” in the Windows Control Panel, it is not there. Right-clicking on the icon does not remove Word either since it removes the icon only. What can I do? FYI: I want to remove Word since it is infected. I would reload the program after I remove the current one.

– Shan Hung

If you have Microsoft Office on that computer the Word icon will not be listed under the Add or Remove Programs Control Panel. Click on Office and you will find the uninstalls for Word and other tools. If you have a standalone version of Word the fix is to reinstall the software first rather than waiting to uninstall it first. The old version will be written over and the Word icon will be restored.

Before doing anything else, however, you should restore Word to its factory default settings, which probably will fix whatever “infection” you are encountering. To do this find the file called that holds Word’s default settings and rename it. When Word can’t find it will restore a new version with the factory settings to fix your problem. To find the file click on Start and Search and then type in as a search term.

Contact Jim Coates via e-mail at or via snail mail at the Chicago Tribune, Room 400, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL 60611.