Do-It-Yourself Digitizing: How to Preserve Reel-to-Reel Film


As the years go by, your old home movies move out of sight, maybe to the back of a closet or the bottom of a storage box, and eventually out of mind. These precious memories of a child’s first birthday or family wedding are invaluable to you. But you risk losing them forever if you don’t preserve reel-to-reel film before the delicate material decays.

Why Do I Need to Worry?

The film wrapped around each reel is made of delicate material that degrades over time. Its chemical content is affected by environmental elements. Temperature, moisture, light, and dust all play a role in the decaying process. Film drys out, gets brittle, and cracks. Or a little moisture makes it moldy. Where you store your home movies makes a difference. But even if you keep your collection out of the attic or garage, time still is the ultimate enemy.

The best way to properly preserve reel-to-reel film is to transfer it to a digital format. It not only saves it from decay, but also gives you easy access to your memories. You can now watch your collection on a computer or tablet whenever you want. Plus, you can upload it to social media and share with friends and family.

Transferring Your Home Movies to a Digital Format

First, find a dark room to set up your equipment. You’ll need a projector and a digital video camera. Place the projector on a table and the camera on a tripod right next to it. They’ll need to be about five feet from a smooth white surface, like a wall or poster board.

Turn on the projector’s lamp. Then turn on your video camera and frame the projector’s square of light on the wall neatly within the viewfinder. Load your reel on the projector’s spindle and carefully feed it through the slot. Once the film is loaded correctly, power up the projector while simultaneously hitting the camera’s record button. Play the movie from beginning to end.

When the recording is done, hook your video camera up to your computer using the proper cable. Transfer the content by using an editing software of your choice that you’ve previously downloaded. Use the editing software to make any changes you want or to copy it to a DVD or another format.

Let the Pros Preserve Reel-to-Reel Film for You

To preserve reel-to-reel film properly and get quality results you need experience. The process may require equipment you no longer have. This is a time consuming task, especially if you have a large collection. Call Disc Hounds at 610-696-8668 with any questions about transferring old footage to digital formats. We’re happy to help you preserve your memories for years to come.