How Long Does 8 mm Film Last?

Before digital cameras and smartphones, our parents and grandparents used film to record home videos and preserve memories.

If you’re over the age of 30, you might remember your parents holding a giant video camera, which recorded home videos onto VHS tapes. This was the convenient way of making films and watching them shortly after.

But before that, they used 8 mm film to record videos. These are the classic spools of film you’d find in old movie theaters. 

You might find a box of 8mm film in a basement or storage closet somewhere. And you might think you have home movies that will last forever. But the truth is that the 8 mm film lifespan is shorter than most people realize. 

8 mm film doesn’t last forever. So are your home movies in jeopardy of disappearing for good? Keep reading to learn more now. 

What Is 8 mm Film?

There are many different kinds of film used to create both static images and videos. The most popular photography film includes 35 mm film and 120 mm.

For video, the most commonly used film is 8 mm. When you bought these rolls of film, they were actually 16 mm wide. That’s because the camera would only capture video on half of the film. 

Once a spool is used up, the videographer would flip the spool over and record on the other side of the film. Then, once they sent the film to a processor, they cut it down the middle, yielding two strips of 8 mm film. 

8 mm exists in two main formats; standard 8 and super 8. If you’ve watched the 2011 movie called Super 8, you’ll remember that it was set in the 70s and the characters were making a movie using super 8 films. 

This type of film originated in the 1930s during the Great Depression, as it was a cheaper alternative to 16 mm film, which was developed about 10 years prior in 1923.

Rolls of 8 mm film are inserted into cameras to record. And to watch them back, they are spun through a projector. So if you have 8 mm film laying around and you want to see what’s on it, you likely don’t have the equipment you need to actually watch it. 

How Long Does 8 mm Film Last?

Many people make the mistake of thinking their 8 mm film will last forever. But all types of film have a lifespan. They are rather delicate and sensitive to the elements such as light and humidity.

Too much light destroys the images stored on the film, for example. That’s why they need to be stored in dark locations.

But even if stored properly, 8 mm film can only last upwards of 70 years according to Kodak themselves. And 70 years is only attainable if the film is kept in pristine condition. 

Aside from light, humidity levels in a basement or attic can damage the film, as can dirt and grime. Even playing the rolls back too frequently can damage them, as they are subject to bright lights when placed on a projector. 

Over time, the images on the film can weaken, making them harder to see. Images can pause during playback as well. And the older they get, the more likely they are to tear. 

Maximizing Film Lifespan

If you’re a true collector, you’ll likely want to keep your film around as long as possible. If that’s the case, you want to store them as securely as possible. 

Your goal is to keep out moisture, light, and debris. But you don’t actually want them in airtight containers, or they might deteriorate more quickly.

Rather, they need a bit of airflow to degas naturally. So place the rolls of film into strong, solid-color storage totes. Don’t add any extra materials like cloth.

Just make sure the film won’t bounce around or get crushed by heavier objects inside the box.

Store them in a dark location such as a closet. Cooler temperatures are preferred, so if your attic gets hot, avoid putting it up there. Ideally, your film would be stored at 40 degrees year-round.

Each time you handle your film, try to do so in a dimly lit location to avoid overexposing the film. Also, wear gloves so that the oils on your fingers don’t transfer to the film.  

Digitizing 8 mm Film

8 mm film doesn’t last forever. But your home movies certainly can. All you have to do is digitize 8 mm of film to bring your videos into the digital realm, where you can keep them forever. 

Performing an 8 mm film transfer takes the videos stored on film and creates digital videos.

You can move 8mm film to DVD, making it easy to add them to a DVD player as you wish. You can also create digital video files from your film that can be stored on your computer, your hard drive, or in the cloud.

This makes your home videos much more secure. You can save them in multiple locations so that they are never lost, even in the event your home burns down and the film itself is destroyed.

With digital video files, you can enjoy them whenever you want without having to set up old projectors. You can also easily share them online with friends and family. 

All you have to do is mail your physical film to a studio that offers film conversions. Within a few weeks, you’ll receive your digital files or DVDs.

Then, your home movies are preserved forever, never to lose quality again, even if you keep your film afterward. 

Go All-Digital

If you have 8 mm film, you likely have other film formats as well. You might have rolls of 35 mm photos that you never got around to processing.

Or you might have books and books full of photographs. In either case, you can get those processed and digitized as well.

Digitizing your photos makes them easier to find and enjoy whenever you want, without having to dig through piles of photo books.

In most cases, you can include these when sending in your 8 mm film and get it all done at once. 

Make Your 8 mm Film Last Forever

No, you can’t make your 8 mm film last forever. But you can preserve the videos on them forever by converting them into digital files or DVDs.

The sooner you digitize them, the better the quality will be since the film only gets worse over time.

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