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Don't Lose the Past -- Watch It On DVD

By Marshal Rosenthal

Throughout the years family gatherings have changed little, some aunt or uncle is always going to be recording the event. And no matter the holiday or reason to get together, there's going to be at least one person who wants to see "that old film of Great Grand ma," or Junior's 4th year birthday party (no matter that he's in his 40's now...). Back when Nixon was President, that meant getting out a film projector. But now we have video cameras and VCRs, so as a result those old Super8 and even 8mm films of the family get shuttered off to Nowheresville or the attic. Where they're eventually forgotten about or rot.

The ability to go and have those old films transferred to videotape isn't new and it's a lot better than trying to make copies yourself: sure you can get out that old Kodak Super8 projector, aim it at a translucent screen and film it from the other side, but the fact is that the quality won't be good enough to view. Brightness and color problems aside, it's mostly because the film speed and the video being shot don't jibe. So it's best left up to professionals to put it on a videotape for you.

But now you're trading one problem for another: remember videocassettes can break as well as deteriorate over the years.

It's time to look into a digital solution!

Let's start with DVD -- which keeps itself pristine throughout the years. But you still have to go to a professional to get it done right. And while there are any number of pro studios who will do this for you, frankly they're not geared for consumers either in price or the way they provide service.

Which is why I'm excited about YesVideo , a company based in California. First, they have the technical expertise to transfer movie film to video using a process called "telecine" which compensates for going from bits of film to bytes on a disc. They can even transfer an audio track should there be one, as well as adding titling and background music to silent films. Plus DVD niceties in the way of auto-generated chapter scenes and an onscreen disc menu with thumbnails representing each scene.

But what makes them not just affordable but usable is how you get your stuff to them; you can drop it off at a photo counter service (via Eastman Kodak) at retail stores where you normally develop film, or use a mail-in kit from Fry's Electronics or or Sony. I tried a kit and sent them two Super 8 films -- one in color and the other in black and white. In both cases, the quality was really good, the image sharp and with reasonable contrast and so much more viewable now. Not to mention easy to play. And all it took was a wait of about 2 weeks.

YesVideo's rates are more than fair, not that you can put a price on preserving precious memories that can again see the light of day. Just think how easy it will be the next time the family gathers for you to pull out a DVD and pop it into a player. Which doesn't mean that you still might not bore the heck out of your audience, but at least now what you're showing will endure, even if the desire to view it doesn't.

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