How to Watch Old 8mm and 16mm Film

So, you’ve found a bunch of old movie reels in a dusty old trunk somewhere and now you’re curious to see what’s on them. You vaguely remember seeing old home movies of your grandparents’ trip to the Grand Canyon or your great aunt’s house in Florida and although you remember those movies being dull and sleep-inducing, wouldn’t it be nice to see Grandma and Grandpa’s smiling faces again? Or maybe there are other long lost memories and glimpses into your ancestor’s lives. Old movie reels can go back generations, so you may have just stumbled upon a treasure chest.

If you don’t have an 8mm or 16mm film projector, viewing the old movies may seem challenging, but there are still lots of options out there. It is easy to find rebuilt and refurbished 8mm, Super 8 and 16mm movie projectors online, like Phil’s Vintage Movie Films and Collectibles, but that may set you back a few hundred dollars. Instead of buying a projector, you can rent one from a video transfer service or film equipment rental store, or your local library may still have a few lying around.

There are also portable devices available specifically for viewing and editing 8mm film. When Standard 8 and Super 8 were popular, 8mm film viewers were made as an easy, personal way to view what you had been shooting. While the hand-cranked contraptions were a little bulky, with two reels to feed the film and a screen in between them, there are now smaller, motorized versions available. There are always old models available on ebay, but the newer models require less film handling, so you may try a local film and video supply store.

For the film enthusiast or the romantic history buff, finding an old 8mm or 16mm film projector can be as exciting as discovering your family’s old movie reels. Watching the grainy home movies, either with the distant, echoing sound of the later Super8 medium, or the silent, beautiful 8mm and 16mm films of decades past, can be worth preserving the film. But, for many people, the easiest solution to finding out what’s on the mystery reels would be to have them transferred to DVD.

Here at Home Movie Depot, we have professionals who can edit and enhance your home movies before making them digital. The movies are then stored to a computer’s hard drive, which allows them to be copied to DVD, shared online or watched on a computer screen. Once digitized, there are so many options for what can be done with home videos and the movies are safe from damage and decay. Plus, once the movies are saved to your computer, you can still keep and preserve the old film reels. The original films may mean something to your kids too, but it’s always good to have a backup copy.


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