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9265 Dowdy Dr
Suite 100
San Diego, CA 92126
Mon-Thur: 10-6
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Movies and Film to DVD Transfer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Why is it so important to transfer your films now and not wait any longer?

We’ve been transferring 8mm, Super 8, and 16mm films for our customers for over 16 years now and we’ve been noticing some problems we think you should be aware of.  If you have any important home movies that have not been transferred to DVD or video yet, you may want to get them out and check them now.


16mm film and 8mm films are nearing the end of their life-cycle.  We have received many reels of film that have shown signs of fading, warping, color-shifting, shrinking, mold, and acetate film base degradation, often referred to as "vinegar syndrome" due to the overwhelming vinegar-like odor coming from the film itself. 

There is an article on the National Film Preservation Foundation's website that discusses vinegar syndrome.  It mentions "The symptoms of vinegar syndrome are a pungent vinegar smell (hence the name), followed eventually by shrinkage, embrittlement, and buckling of the gelatin emulsion. Storage in warm and humid conditions greatly accelerates the onset of decay. Once it begins in earnest, the remaining life of the film is short because the process speeds up as it goes along."

It’s very common for this to happen with 16mm film stored in metal cans.  If you happen to notice this smell coming from your films, it’s time to get them transferred to DVD or video right away.  In some cases we’ve found that it’s already too late and the film was brittle and had already begun to warp and curl to a point that we couldn’t transfer it. Don’t wait any longer on these.

16mm film to dvd

16mm film with vinegar syndrome



Some of the 8mm reels we’ve been transferring have faded to a point where the colors were dull or the image is hard to make out.  Some climates can be particularly hard on film.  Areas near bodies of saltwater like the ocean are higher risk zones due to the salt in the moisture in the air from the sea spray that converts the water to a form of aerosol-like mist that dissolves into the moist air.  Climates that are high in humidity or hot temperature areas can also be hard on film.  Even excessively dry climates may cause the film to dry out and become brittle faster.


The film to DVD transfer technology we have available to us now is better than ever before.  We can achieve a level of picture quality with more than twice the resolution of the VHS transfers that were done as recent as 8 years ago.  In addition, we have the ability to preserve home movies on DVD, Gold DVD, hard drives, and digital videotape master that can be used to put them onto future technologies before you film fades or deteriorates any more.


2. What's the difference between 8mm & Super 8 movie film vs. Video 8, Hi8 & Digital 8 video tape?

  There has been some confusion with the names used for the various 8mm formats.  8mm and Super 8 (see picture below-left) are two names that are used for referring to home movie films that most people used between the 1930s and the early 1980s. These are the two formats, along with 16mm film, that we refer to on this page.  8mm (Video 8), Hi8 and Digital8 (see picture below-right) refer to the videotape formats used in Sony, Canon and Sharp camcorders manufactured between the mid 1980s and the mid 2000s.   All three of these formats use the same size camcorder videotape (pictured below).  Sunray also transfers these video formats to DVD and they are discussed in more detail on our video to DVD transfer page.

8mm film transfer hi8 to dvd transfer
8mm / Super 8 Movie Film 8 mm / Hi8 / Digital8 Video tape


3. How do I tell what type of film I have?

  8mm & 16mm refers to the actual width of the film being 8 millimeters or 16 millimeters wide (see image below).  When they introduced Super8 film, they used the same film width as regular 8 but made the sprocket holes smaller to allow a larger image to be recorded onto the film.  You can see the difference in the image below.  The larger the image on the film, the better the picture quality.  Some time later, a pair of brown magnetic strips were added along both edges of Super8 film which allowed the film to now record sound.  16mm film offers an even better picture than Super8 since is twice the width of 8mm film.  While much of the 16mm films are silent, there are some that will have either optical or magnetic sound on the film as well.  It will have either a brown magnetic strip running along the edge (for magnetic sound) or a little "zig-zag" pattern for optical sound.  You don't have to know what type of film you have, we'll let you know when you bring it in to us.  We transfer all of them.

Sunray transfers all of the following formats:

Click on the corresponding format that matches your film for more information

8mm movie film

8mm movie film transfer

Super 8 film with sound super 8 sound film transfer

Super 8 movie film

super 8 film transfer

16mm movie film 16mm film transfer



4. How do I determine how much film I have?

  To find out how much film footage you have, measure the diameter of your film reels (straight across the middle of the reel from one edge to the other).  If full, each reel can hold the following:

8mm movie film to dvd transfer


5. How do I know if my film can be transferred?

  Sunray Video has successfully transferred over 2.6 million feet of film so far.  Of all of the film we've received over the years, we've only had a few reels that were so badly warped and damaged that they could not be transferred.  Warning signs to look for are: 1) when you open the film canister do you smell a vinegar-like smell and 2) the film is bowed from edge to edge and/or severely warped and starts to break apart easily when you handle it.  If you're not sure about the transferability of your film, we'd be happy to evaluate it at no charge.


6. Is there any part of my film that won't be transferred or will be edited out?

  We don't arbitrarily delete portions of your film transfer. If there is any portion longer than 45 seconds that is totally black (meaning it was never recorded on), we may leave that out.  Everything else will remain in the transfer.


7. What is a Digital Master Video Tape and why is it important?

  What if you had all of your films transferred to a DVD and then loaned the DVD to a family member and when they returned it to you, it was badly scratched to the point where it would no longer play in any DVD player.  What would you do?  If you didn't have another copy you'd have to pay to have your films transferred to DVD all over again and that can get expensive.  With a digital master tape we could make another DVD for you for a fraction of the cost of re-transferring all of your films.  And without the additional wear and tear on the film, assuming you still had it and it was still in good condition.

  Let's say several years down the road you decide you'd like to have your films put onto a hard drive or some other format.  Wouldn't you want it to be in the best quality possible?  Even though DVDs offer better image quality than their VHS predecessors, the video image has still been compressed in order to fit up to 2 hours of video onto 1 disc.  With our digital master tape, the video will NOT been compressed and we could transfer your films to whatever new format you'd prefer without any of the quality loss resulting from DVD compression.

Sunray includes Digital Master Tapes with all of our transfers FREE!

  Sunray was the first company to begin offering digital videotapes for film transfer masters.  We typically use an industrial grade digital tape (DVCAM) for our masters.  However, some of our clients have asked for the master to be put onto a MiniDV or Digital 8 videotape, so they could be able to play them on their camcorder, if they so desired.  Here are what these 3 formats look like:

 NOTE:  Digital8 tapes are rapidly disappearing so if you prefer having your videos on this format, you'd better act soon.

The top 5 benefits of having a digital master are:

  1. Should a new format come along to replace DVDs, all you will need is your master to have your movies put onto the latest video format and you'll save the cost of having your movies re-transferred again.
  2. If you happen to drop, scratch or damage your DVD, you can have a new one made from the master for a fraction of the price of re-transferring your movies over again.
  3. You may want to store the digital master in a safe-deposit box or somewhere outside of your home in case something should happen to your home.
  4. If provides another backup source for your movies.
  5. Whenever you need an extra copy, just bring in the master.  You won't need to bring the films back in.

Consumer Alert

  There are still some companies that are transferring the film to a VHS tape first and THEN putting it on a DVD.  With this method, you are only getting an image quality of 240 lines of resolution, even though they're putting it onto a DVD.  Our transfer goes directly to the digital master tape first providing more than double the VHS resolution.  So whether you prefer a DVD or a file on your hard drive, you know you'll be getting the best transfer resolution available.


8. What formats can I transfer my film to?

  Sunray can transfer your 8mm, super 8 and 16mm movies to:

DVD or Blu-ray discs
Flash drive or external hard drive (Your choice of AVI, MOV, MP4 or other file formats) [See #9 below]
iPad or iPod
iPhone or Android smart phone
YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, etc.


9. How much film will a DVD hold?

  A DVD can hold up to 2 hours of film.  That's the equivalent of between 1700 and 1900 feet of 8mm film depending on whether it's regular 8 mm or Super 8, or 2,400 to 3,600 feet of 16mm film.

Film Type 2 hour DVD will hold up to
Regular 8mm film 1,700 feet
Super 8 film 2,000 feet
16mm film 3,200 feet


10. What is a Gold Archival DVD and why is it so important?

  One of the major challenges we face in preserving and archiving precious memories is finding a type of media that will last.  Film has held up well, but it is subject to fading, warping, color-shifting, shrinking, mold, and acetate film base degradation, often referred to as "vinegar syndrome".  This is why we recommend having it transferred to DVD as soon as possible.

According to the National Film Preservation Foundation's website:
"The symptoms of vinegar syndrome are a pungent vinegar smell (hence the name), followed eventually by shrinkage, embrittlement, and buckling of the gelatin emulsion. Storage in warm and humid conditions greatly accelerates the onset of decay. Once it begins in earnest, the remaining life of the film is short because the process speeds up as it goes along. Early diagnosis and cold, moderately dry storage are the most effective defenses.

  Magnetic media such as videotape offers an alternative, however there's substantial evidence that traditional analog videotape (VHS, VHS-C, video 8 and Hi8) will begin to show noticeable deterioration of the picture just 7 years after being recorded.  Our experience with digital videotape (DVCAM and Mini DV) is that the image quality seems to have held up longer.  Some of our own digital tapes are more than 12 years old and show no sign of picture or sound degradation.  Digital tape is by no means full-proof and they can be erased by coming in close proximity to a strong magnetic field such as a magnet.

Gold Archival DVDs will outlast most computer hard drives

  Traditional computer hard drives, with the spinning platter, have been known to crash.  Even hard drives that sit on a shelf unused have been known to seize up in as little as 3 years.  Solid-state drives look to be a better alternative since there are no moving parts, but they may be vulnerable to damage from power surges or possibly other electro-magnetic related damage.  I have not come across any articles regarding the disadvantages of these drives as of yet. They are significantly more expensive at this time.

  Even DVDs are not fully indestructible since something as simple as scratches on the surface can prevent them from being read by a laser.  According to various articles scattered across the web, most standard DVDs are only expected to hold up for an average of 5-15 years.  Even if the readable surface on the disc has not been scratched or damaged, the metal composite material within the disc (used for reflectivity enabling the laser in a DVD player to read the information contained on the disc) is subject to corrosion and breaking down over time.  Also some DVDs have had their layers of materials (used to make the disc) begin to separate if not break down as well.  

  Back in the 1970s, NASA launched both Voyager 1 and 2 into deep space.  Both deep space probes were equipped with a album containing various recordings from Earth.  Both albums were made of solid gold due to the durability of the material.  Gold Archival DVDs have a reflective layer that is made with real gold that won't rust or break down over time.  In conjunction with how the disc itself is manufactured, it give the Gold DVDs a lifespan closer to 100 years making them ideal for archiving purposes.  Now even though most people may not live that long, what about your kids, grandkids or even great-grandkids?  Shouldn't they be able to see what their ancestors were like?  I'd take a 100-year disc over a 10 year disc anytime.

  I have noticed that several companies are claiming to be using a "100 year archival disc" from Taiyo Yuden/JVC.  As of this writing I have not been able to locate any information (even on Taiyo Yuden's own website) about any such 100 year DVDs.

Read more about the 100 year Gold Archival DVDs

  And to make sure that your Gold discs won't get scratched, Sunray includes a standard DVD copy for viewing FREE with every Gold disc purchased!

11. Why do various film transfer companies charge different rates and what is the difference between them?

  There are essentially 2 parts to any movie film to DVD transfer.  The 1st part involves the equivalent of shining a light through the film in order to retrieve the image.  Nothing special about this portion other than using a lower wattage bulb may improve the contrast when transferring to video.  

  The 2nd part is what really determines the quality of the transfer and ultimately affects the price.  This part of the process involves the use of a computer chip (often referred to a CCD chip or similar) that converts the visual image into video information that can be stored on various types of media, such as DVDs, flash drives, etc.  This is where the true quality of the transfer process presents itself and where you should be most concerned.  There are several different methods available for transferring film to DVD.  We've  devoted an entire web page to describing the various processes.  You can read more about them here.

  The level of quality of the transfer usually corresponds to the price you can expect to pay for the transfer.

  Here is a summary of what to expect.  If the film transfer company charges:

Less than 10 cents per foot, they are most likely either projecting the film on a wall and taping it with a consumer-quality camcorder or using a 30+ year old telecine unit (i.e. Costco, Walmart, etc.)
Between 10 and 15 cents per foot they are most likely using some sort of frame-by-frame or similar method which isn't as good as it sounds. 
Above 15 cents per foot is where you should expect to receive a good quality product using a preferred method of transfer
Above 25 cents per foot may provide a little better quality transfer, but it may be unnecessary.  8mm film is not a very high quality medium to begin with and when the transfer costs starts to really shoot up you get into a situation where you can spend a lot more money for only a slight improvement in picture quality. 

Again, you can read more about these methods on our film transfer processes page.

"Hidden" surprises to watch out for

Many companies will splice your smaller film reels onto larger reels without telling you.  Some will even charge you extra for it.

Some companies may have "hidden fees" in their services.  For example, many people are caught by surprise when they learn that DVDYourMemories (DYM) charges extra for the media they put the film transfer on.  For example, in addition to the $ .19 per foot transfer charge they add an additional $ 30.00 for each 2-hour DVD.  I'm not sure how you're supposed to view the transferred footage if you don't pay the extra $30 for the DVD.  (Sunray includes the DVD in the transfer price.  And we offer discounts if your total film transfer project exceeds 1,500 feet, with an additional discount over 3,000 feet!)  See below for more info on how Sunray can save you even more money over DYM.

What Costco and Walmart don't tell you about their film to DVD transfer process

There's so much information we've uncovered about Costco and Walmart's film transfer process that we've devoted an entire web page to it.  Read more about the Costco & Walmart film to DVD transfer process and why it may cost you more than you think.


12. How soon can I get it done?

  Our normal turn-around time is 5-7 business days for 8mm film and 8-10 business days for 16mm film. Our turn-around time increases between the 2nd week of November and Christmas.  Check our film transfer page for current turnaround time.  For an additional fee, we can expedite your order.  Give us a call for more information about our rush service.


13. How do I place my order?

  If you're in the San Diego area, you may drop by our office.  If you're outside of the San Diego area and you'd prefer to ship them, we strongly encourage using a courier service like UPS or FedEx that has the ability to track the whereabouts of your package.  For more instructions proceed to our order page


14. What if I don't know what's on the films or what order I want them to be in?

  We offer two options to help you:

1) We have 8mm and Super 8mm projectors available for rent so you can view your films prior to transferring them.  The cost is $40.00/day.

2) After the film is transferred to the digital master videotape, Sunray can make a "time-coded" DVD copy with a counter that will appear on your television screen.  You can then go through the video writing down the numbers corresponding with the beginning and end of each segment that you want to have deleted or moved to another part of the video. Using these "time-code" numbers, we can remove portions or "re-arrange" (edit*) the order of the film while putting them onto a new digital master without losing any quality. The new master will be used to produce your final DVD.

3) We can digitize the films onto our editing system.  Then you can come in and work with our editor to re-arrange the order of your films*.

*Note: An additional fee of $ 60/hour will be charged to cover the cost of the editing time required to rearrange or delete the clips.


15. What if I want to edit my own movies on my computer, can I retrieve the files from the DVD?

  Probably not.  Although we do not "copy-protect" the discs, most computer editing programs will not recognize the .VOB files that are put onto a DVD to make them playable on most DVD players. If you already have a MiniDV or Digital 8 camcorder AND you have the ability to capture video (via firewire) from your camera into your computer, we can record your films onto MiniDV or Digital 8 tape/s for you to capture on your own. 

  We can also convert your movies to uncompressed computer files that we can store on an external hard drive that you provide (see #11 below).  We can convert them to .AVI, .MOV, MPEG2 or MP4 files for an additional charge. Keep in mind that uncompressed files of video will require approximately 1GB of memory for every 4 minutes of video.  So if you want an AVI file for example, a hard drive might be a better method for containing these files since a DVD would only hold about 18-20 minutes of video.  Only in MPEG2 can you have up to 2 hours of video on one DVD.  This is due to the compression of the video information.


16. Can I edit my own films after they've been transferred?  If I decide to have my films digitized to a hard drive (i.e. AVI or MOV files), how much hard drive space will I need?

  Some of our clients have expressed an interest in using a video editing program on their own computer to edit their movies and make their own DVDs.  We've often been asked if it's possible to edit the films from the DVD after they've been transferred.  There are 2 disadvantages to doing this.  First, when the DVD is made it utilizes a file structure that contains files ending with a ".VOB" suffix that DVD players can recognize.  While this file type works for DVD players, most video editing programs do not recognize the file format.  Therefore you would need another program that can essentially "rip" the files into a format that your editing software will recognize.

  The 2nd disadvantage is that in order to fit 2 hours of video onto a single DVD the video is compressed from the equivalent of 26GB down to just 4.5GB using MPEG2 compression.  If you edit this video and then want to put it on a DVD, you'll be compressing it again from the equivalent of 26GB down to 4.5GB.  You can imagine how much video information will be lost by this time.  That's why we recommend having the films digitized directly to an AVI or MOV file where there won't be any image quality loss due to compression.

  Sunray can digitize your films and put them onto a flash or external hard drive for you.  At this time, we recommend using an AVI or MOV file format over MPEG4 or MPEG2 since the MPEG files require more compression resulting in some quality loss in the video.  You'll need 13GB worth of storage for every hour of film footage encoded to AVI or MOV file format.  AVI is the native format for PCs and MOV is native for Macs, but you should check your video editing software to verify which format/s it will recognize.  If you're not already familiar with how to use video editing software, you'll need to devote some time to learn how to use it as well as a DVD authoring program.  Or we can also edit them for you if you prefer.

  Even if you decide to have your films digitized to an external hard drive, we still recommend having a copy put onto the Gold Archival DVD that will last longer.

Here's how much hard drive or flash drive space you'll need, based on the type of film that you have.  Give us a call if you need another file format.

Film Type Hard drive space  needed per 1,000 feet (AVI or MOV file)
Regular 8mm film 15GB
Super 8 film 13GB
16mm film 8-11GB


17. Can I add titles to the video or chapters to the DVD?

  Yes.  The first title (appearing at the beginning of the video) is FREE. This is the title you will see when you push play on your DVD player.  Additional titles may be added to the video for $5.00 each.  Once you have put the DVD in your DVD player, you can press the menu button and you will see a generic menu with one chapter on it.  Selecting this chapter is another way to start playing your video.  You may add additional chapters to the menu that will allow you to go directly to designated parts within the video.  The first chapter title is FREE, each additional chapter title is $5.00 each.


18. Can I make my own copies of the DVD?

  Yes.  However, there are some serious issues to consider, including the hazards of improper labeling.  Read our DVD FAQ page to learn more about the Do's and Don'ts of DVDs.  For just $9, we'll copy the disc for you, print a custom label directly onto the disc and even include a DVD case.

Get up to $100 off your Film Transfer and a 2nd DVD copy FREE when you join Sunray's VIP list Today!

Be sure to check the box for 8mm or 16mm film


19. What do I do if my film looks like this? (see picture ---> )   

  If you have film that looks like this photo then you need to have it developed.  This is how film looks when it first comes out of the movie camera.  It will need to be processed before we can transfer it.

Here's one place that offers processing services: Spectra Film and Video

      super 8 movie film


20. What's the best way to preserve home movies?

  Since film does decay and deteriorate over time we recommend transferring them to digital video right away. Sunray video was one of the first companies in the country to offer digital tape masters for home movies.  Not only does the digital master make a great archival copy but it's perfect for making additional copies of your films or transferring them to whatever new formats may come out in the future without losing any quality. 

  If you're interested in storing and preserving the actual film, here's a great website with information on the best ways to preserve film.


Film to Video & DVD resources:

Start your movie film to video transfer now

Main Film to DVD / Video Transfer page

Film to DVD transfer methods explained

What you should know about other film to DVD transfer services

Acetate film base degradation (vinegar syndrome) -_National Film Preservation Foundation website


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