Located in Northern Minnesota, Frame by Frame Video Transfer is committed to the old-fashioned belief that customer service is the first priority. Our clients are the only reason we're here, they entrust us with their valuable memories, and we certainly appreciate their business.
Deep inside the closets of many homes, family memories are waiting to be rediscovered. There in the dark, dusty corners are reels, or maybe even boxes of reels, of 8mm and Super 8mm films. On these aging films are moving images of long-departed friends and relatives, family vacations, and long-forgotten events.
So why do these precious images stay locked away? The biggest reason is the near impossibility of finding a working movie projector capable of showing these obsolete films. Even if a person could find a projector on e-bay or a garage sale, as soon as the bulb burns out, the projector is worthless.
A new Thief River Falls business is helping bring these forgotten films back to life on DVD. Frame by Frame Video Transfers, a home-based business operated by Mark Johnson, can transfer 8mm and Super 8mm films to DVD with amazing clarity. Johnson said the business started as he was researching a way to put his great grandfather’s films on DVD. “I knew that there were scanners capable of transferring old pictures and slides to a computer, and I wondered if there was a machine available that could scan each frame of film to computer and play back the images at the correct speed,” Johnson said.
It turns out there was such a machine, and Johnson purchased one to transfer his grandfather’s films as a Christmas present for his family last year. “I knew there were a lot of films. Gumpy, as my great grandfather was known, was very into photography in the 1950’s and 60’s. When it was all done, I had transferred 16 hours of his films to DVD. One disc can accommodate 2 hours of material, so I gave each family member 8 DVDs of Gumpy’s movies. There were films of my mother and her siblings as infants, my parents’ wedding, and lots of other mundane slices of 50s and 60s life that look very nostalgic today. There were films that my grandmother, Gumpy’s daughter, said she had never seen in her life. It was fun to watch with her and have her narrate about who we were watching and where the films were taken.”
Once he had finished with his family’s films, Johnson decided to offer his services to others by opening Frame by Frame Video Transfers as a home business. Johnson teaches Mass Communications at Northland College and has previously worked in TV and radio. “I didn’t play with toys like a normal kid,” Johnson said. “My toys were always movie and video cameras, tape recorders, and other media-related stuff. I’ve always had a fascination with capturing life’s moments. This business is great because I can help other people preserve a part of their history, too.”
Johnson said that as a child he used his grandmother’s Super 8mm camera to make movies with neighborhood kids as a hobby. “Each year we would pool our allowances and come up with the $10 to buy a 3-minute roll of film. Then we’d write a script and shoot the movie. This was in the days before home video cameras, so we didn’t have sound. When we got the film back from developing, we’d charge 25 cents for people to come watch the movie.”
Frame by Frame Video Transfers can transfer a 50 foot reel of film to DVD for $5. Johnson said these are typically the shortest films he receives. Many times, these smaller reels are spliced together on 200 or 400 foot reels, with the charge remaining at $5 per 50 feet. Johnson noted that many people are surprised that their old films look as good as they do, even after years of sitting in a closet. “The oldest reel I’ve done was of a wedding in the 1940s,” Johnson said. The film was in color, and though the colors had faded a bit, it was remarkable how good this 60-year film had held up.”
Johnson said that because each frame of film is captured individually, there is no flicker when it is played back on DVD. “Years ago, some people had these films transferred to VHS tape, and the image quality then was really bad, because the image was projected and recorded off of a screen with a VHS camera. I use a much better method. The film is illuminated only enough to be clearly captured to the computer. I don’t use the old, hot projector bulbs because they can damage the film,” Johnson said. With my method, the frame enters the film gate, where it is magnified and captured to the computer one frame at a time. Because of the magnification, I can capture the entire frame without cutting off the edges. The image quality on film that was well-shot to begin with is astoundingly good.”
Johnson said that chapter markers can be added so a viewer can jump to particular reel on the DVD. Another benefit of having the films on DVD is that they can be copied for friends and family. “Once you have the DVD, any computer with a DVD burner can be used to make identical copies that you can give as very personal gifts,” Johnson said. For those without access to a DVD burner, copies can also be purchased from Frame by Frame Video Transfers.
Johnson’s business can also transfer Beta, VHS-C, 8mm Video, Mini DV, and VHS tapes to DVD for $10 per tape. More information is available on Johnson’s website at www.framebyframevideotransfers.com or by calling 681-3492.
Frame by Frame Video Transfers can also transfer records and audio cassttes to CD.