Bring new life to those old family films

by Steve Pender, video biographer & personal historian, Family Legacy Video, Inc.

At my Rotary meeting the other day, a fellow member turned to me and said, “Steve, I’ve got lots of home movies from the 40s and 50s. What I can do with them?” The answer: Lots!

If all you want to do is free your old 16mm, 8mm and Super 8mm films from the back closet and make it possible for you to view them again (without having to set up a screen and projector), have them transferred to DVD. You probably have a local company that’ll do this for you (check with photo developers or with companies advertising video production services). The great thing about this is you’ll be able to pop a DVD into your player and watch your long-ago relatives once again. The downside is that your movies might be transferred in no particular order. You may find yourself jumping decades forward and backward as the reels change. But if all you want to do is preserve your films, this option may be the one for you.

Another option: Use your films to tell stories. Instead of having your footage transferred directly to DVD, get it put on miniDV or Digital 8. These are formats that you’ll be able to use in conjunction with a computer that has digital video editing software. Once your films are on tape, review them. Think about the events they chronicle, the stories they bring to mind and the people they feature. Then transfer your films-on-video into your computer. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to use your films to tell some stories.

There are a number of techniques you can use. You and/or other family members can narrate the films, describing the events and the people as you see them on screen. You can interview family members on videotape and ask them questions about the events and people in the films. Then you can combine the interviews with the films, and with family photos, to create a family documentary. You can also incorporate titles, sound effects and music. Once you’re done, you can output the finished program to tape or burn your own DVD.

Be as creative as time and your ambition allow. Whatever you do, please realize that there’s no reason to let those old family films continue to collect dust. And if you’re not technically or creatively inclined, remember that Family Legacy Video is here to help.

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