Pogue on Digitizing Old Home Movies

November 30, 2006 — Leave a comment

New York Times technology columnist David Pogue writes in his weekly email about transferring old home movies (you know, the ones on “film”) to digital formats: “Saving Home Movies From Disappearing Formats“.

Old reels of film, however, seemed like a tougher nut to crack. My plan was to demonstrate, on the show, the old “mirror box” gadget that’s designed to bounce the light from your old projector into the lens of a modern camcorder, thus transferring the footage–except we couldn’t find one. The manufacturers told me they stopped making these things about five or ten years ago.

We finally did find an old used one on eBay, though. It was actually in great shape. But good grief, I pity anyone who thinks that it’s the solution to the decaying-reels problem. It took an hour to get the projector lined up with the mirror box, the box lined up with the camcorder, and everything in focus and adequately bright.

The results looked reasonably close in quality to the film reels–but the problem was the quality of the film reels! The home movies from the 70’s were red, red, red, as though shot on Mars. (As film deteriorates, red is the last color to go.)

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