How to Convert 8mm Tapes to DVD

Before hand-held straight-to-DVD recorders and camera phones, people captured their childhood memories with a reel-to-reel analog recording system called 8mm. The 8mm camera film was not the most convenient of videotaping formats and could be easily destroyed over time through natural aging or exposure to direct sunlight. There are ways, however, to preserve those memories by transferring your 8mm to DVD.

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It's possible to copy your treasured 8mm to DVD at home.

Transfer 8mm to DVD

Step

Look for a Hi-8 or Digital8 player/recorder that has audio and video output capabilities. The Hi-8 is a more modern version of the 8mm camera with better-quality videotape, while the Digital8 tapes have more narrow film and can record more footage before running out of tape. The audio out jack is typically red, white, or both; the video jack is yellow. RCA jacks may have those corresponding color bands on black connections. If you have a FireWire connection, the process is much easier because FireWire connections are specially designed to transfer audio and video to a computer.

Step

Ensure your computer has video editing software on it that can capture auxiliary sources in addition to a DVD conversion program. Systems like Windows Vista come with simple video editing programs like Windows Moviemaker that can receive auxiliary audio and video. Programs specialized in DVD conversion can sometimes handle both the capture and conversion process. If your computer does not have a FireWire or audio/video-in jacks, you may have to purchase special hardware for your computer with those connections on them. See your local computer store specialist and ask him for TV connection hardware.

Step

Set up the recording process for capturing by first turning on your software program. Make sure the software is set to record. The commands to do this for software can vary from program to program, but the command typically mentions capturing or importing video. In Windows Moviemaker, for example, the command is “import from a Digital Video Camera.” Bring up the command so that it is ready for use. Turn the camera on and set it up to the “play” position. For advanced cameras there may be commands that auto-prepare the tape for output capture.

Step

Plug the camera into your computer via the audio-video cords or FireWire cord and then press the "play" command. Then press the “capture” command on your software. The capture process is real time, so if you have an hour’s worth of tape, it will take an hour to capture. Save the file as an Mpeg-2 file; this makes it much easier to convert 8 mm to DVD. Save it onto your desktop so that the file can be easily retrieved later. Once it’s saved, you can splice in photos, add effects, or edit the file before setting it up for final burn.

Step

Insert a blank DVD and follow the “DVD” burn instructions on your particular program. “DVD Santa” is a highly recommended, easy-to-use converting program. In 2008, it cost around $30.