After my father passed away, I brought home most of the personal items
he had, both at home and at his office. Among many, many (many, many,
many) other things, I brought two of his personal treasures: His photo
collection and a box with the 8mm movies he shot approximately between
1956 and 1989, when he was forced into modernity and got a portable
videocassette recorder.

I have talked with several friends, as I really want to get it all in
a digital format, and while I’ve been making slow but steady advances
scanning the photo reels, I was particularly dismayed (even though it
was most expected — most personal electronic devices aren’t meant to
last over 50 years) to find out the 8mm projector was no longer in
working conditions; the lamp and the fans work, but the spindles won’t
spin. Of course, it is quite likely it is easy to fix, but it is
beyond my tinkering abilities… and finding photographic equipment
repair shops is no longer easy. Anyway, even if I got it fixed,
filming a movie from a screen, even with a decent camera, is a lousy
way to get it digitized.

But almost by mere chance, I got in contact with my cousin Daniel, ho
came to Mexico to visit his parents, and had precisely brought with
him… a 8mm/Super8 movie scanner! It is a much simpler piece of
equipment than I had expected, and while it does present some minor
glitches (i.e. the vertical framing slightly loses alignment over the
course of a medium-length film scanning session, and no adjustment is
possible while the scan is ongoing), this is something
that can be decently fixed in post-processing, and a scanning session
can be split with no ill effects. Anyway, it is quite uncommon a
mid-length (5min) film can be done without interrupting i.e. to join a
splice, mostly given my father didn’t just film, but also edited a lot
(this is, it’s not just family pictures, but all different kinds of
fiction and documentary work he did).

So, Daniel lent me a great, brand new, entry-level film scanner; I
rushed to scan as many movies as possible before his return to the USA
this week, but he insisted he bought it to help preserve our family’s
memory, and given we are still several cousins living in Mexico, I
could keep hold of it so any other of the cousins will find it more
easily. Of course, I am thankful and delighted!

So, this equipment is a Magnasonic FS81. It is entry-level, as it
lacks some adjustment abilities a professional one would surely have,
and I’m sure a better scanner will make the job faster – but it’s
infinitely superior to not having it!

The scanner processes roughly two frames per second (while the nominal
8mm/Super8 speed is 24 frames per second), so a 3 minute film reel
takes a bit over 35 minutes… And a long, ~20 minute film reel
takes… Close to 4hr, if nothing gets in your way :-Þ And yes, with
longer reels, the probability of a splice breaking are way higher than
with a short one — not only because there is simply a longer film to
process, but also because, both at the unwinding and at the receiving
reels, mechanics play their roles.

The films don’t advance smoothly, but jump to position each frame in
the scanner’s screen, so every bit of film gets its fair share of
gentle tugs.

My professional consultant on how and what to do is my good friend
who has stopped me from doing several things I would regret later
otherwise (such as joining spliced tapes with acidic chemical
adhesives such as Kola Loka, a.k.a. Krazy Glue — even if it’s a
bit trickier to do it, he insisted me on best using simple transparent
tape if I’m not buying fancy things such as film-adhesive). Chema also
explained me the importance of the loopers (las Lupes in his
technical Spanish translation), which I feared increased the
likelihood of breaking a bit of old glue due to the angle in which the
film gets pulled… but if skipped, result in films with too much

Not all of the movies I have are for public sharing — Some of them are
“just” family movies, with high personal value, but probably of very
little interest to others. But some are! I have been uploading some of
the movies, after minor post-processing, to the Internet
Archive. Among them:

Anyway, I have a long way forward for scanning. I have 20 3min reels,
19 5min reels, and 8 20min reels. I want to check the scanning
quality, but I think my 20min reels are mostly processed (we paid for
scanning them some years ago). I mostly finished the 3min reels, but
might have to go over some of them again due to the learning process.

And… Well, I’m having quite a bit of fun in the process!

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