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5 Cool Things You Can Do to Bring Home Movies Home for the Holidays

OrnamentWhen I was a kid my favorite part of our holiday gatherings was always after the meal when my grandfather would take out the home movies. I would watch in awe and feel great anticipation, as he would thread the projector. Sometimes he would ask us, “What would you like to watch?” My cousins and I would shout out the topic of our favorite film, such as “Our trip to the New York City World Fair”, or “mom all dressed up.” And like magic, there she was on screen in her brightly colored 1960’’s outfits, iconic cat glasses, wearing the bee hive wiglet that added 5 inches to her already enormously high hair! When there was a new film that we had not yet seen we were really excited, and maybe a bit nervous. Would there be some footage of me on there that I would feel embarrassed about?

As he carefully loaded the reel on the projector there are things that I would see, smell and hear. We would lower all the shades and make the room as dark as possible. Sometimes he would have to rewind the film because it was not done after the last viewing. That hollow, steady projector sound is so distinct that even today when I hear it (as I do each week as the familiar sound opens my weekly podcast, The Home Movie Legacy Project it brings me right back to my grandparent’s living room. Sometimes Papa might splice two or 3 small reels together by using a small tool that was about the size of a deck of cards. It had special sticky tape and a blade that could cut though the film. Combining the small reels to fit on a larger reel was convenient so he would not have to change out the 3 inch reel every 3 ½ minutes, and we would get a longer show!

I remember that sometimes during this living room cinema experience that sometimes the film would break and you would hear the crisp SNAP, or the light bulb in the projector would blow and you might smell the film burning a little if the projector bulb got too hot. Sometimes the belt that made the reels move would pop off causing the film to spool off the reel and onto the floor. I remember Papa would almost always be able to fix whatever happened and we would be excited for the show to go on. In fact, Papa was part of the show as he would narrate for us and tell us about some of the people in the films.

PresentsThe most magical experience was when we would watch the 16mm reels from the 1940’s from before I was born. The experience of getting to see my great grandmother whom I am named after, but had never met felt surreal. She looked so alive and I loved how I could see a family resemblance in her eyes and smile. Though she looked ancient dressed in typical garb from the “old country” she had a familiarity about her that I could connect with.

I’d love to hear the stories about her from my mother and grandparents. On these oldest films I loved seeing my mom as a child, my grandparents raising their young family and my many aunts and uncles so young, playful an in love. They always seemed to have so much fun at the beach, in the backyard and being silly in their daily lives.

For me, my home movies that span 5 generations create a legacy for my children and future grandchildren that is the indisputable physical evidence of how we lived. As I have been on my own journey of self-discovery I have had a few big “A HA “ moments and insight about some relationships and personality traits that I discovered by watching our family home movies. If a picture is worth a thousand words, than a home movie is worth a million!

There is no better gift this holiday season than to continue the tradition of sharing
our family home movies. For most of us, gone are the days of setting up film projectors that may have fallen into disrepair, or are simply inaccessible. This is probably a good thing, as these old projectors could damage or scratch the film, especially if it is brittle, shrunken or dirty.

When we think about bringing home movies home for the holidays today, technology now gives us so many opportunities to share these priceless films with our families in interesting and creative ways. While we still love the experience of watching the films with our families, it is not always easy to get everyone together, but we can still have a shared experience!

We already share pictures with friends and family over the internet and upload them instantly from our electronic devices. Why not do the same with your home movies on film and tape? Technology has given us the ability to share our legacy in a way never before possible. Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Create A High Quality HD Digital Master

HarddriveCreate A High Quality HD Digital Master of your home movies by having them scanned as data files and downloaded to an EHD (External Hard Drive) as data files such as .mov (like ProRes). Once your archive is mastered in this way, we have so much flexibility as to how our families can watch it. Grandma might prefer a DVD copy burned into a disc from the files. Mom wants to watch them on her ipad, kids on there iphone, or some people may prefer an on line platforms. Give each family member a copy of the scanned home movies on their own drive so they can edit projects that tell a story. Most new computers come with editing software built in.

2. Edit Compelling Projects

FilmImagine yourself as head of your own studio, editing your home movies to tell a specific story. Just like in the studios, the editor has the power to bring a story together in a creative and emotional way. With all the tools readily available on your home computer, it is easy to repurpose your original films into an edited story by theme or person. Make a Christmas Video in HD or 4K log scan selecting favorite clips form past holidays. You will be surprised how easy and fun it can be to use iMovie, Final Cut or Adobe Premier. Add some holiday music. Upload the completed video card to Vimeo and send everyone a link via email.

You might want to create other projects such as “Family Weddings Through The Generations,”  including a log scan of a modern Super 8 wedding if your family has this type of footage. Super 8 Film is a great choice for today’s bride. Even the guests can get into the fun and shoot Super 8 film! because of the archival value or “The Fabulous 50’s”. How about a “Home Grown History Project” that tells the story of your community through the eyes of the people and fostering collaboration between families? Give each family member their own hard drive to edit the story they want to tell. An added benefit is one drive becomes back up for additional hard drives. Creating your own short story or music video can be amazingly fun, easy, and a great way to re-purpose original content into funny, serious, or loving stories to share with your family. This makes an amazing gift for birthdays or holidays.

Have a “RED CARPET EVENT” over the holidays or at your next family reunion. Give out awards to people in the films. Best actor, best actress, best comedy, and best dancer, best family vacation, and best-dressed, best hair-do!

Be READY for a celebration or a memorial. Edited clips of an individual have also been used to lovingly portray ones life and help families heal through hard times when a loved one passes. A montage video of the person’s life can play at a memorial service, giving friends and family comfort through the moving images and happy times of a person’s life. And guess what? You CAN have your living family member help create what will eventually be shown. It is a powerful way to connect with a person and have them have a say in how they wish to be remembered.

3. Create A Family YouTube or Vimeo Channel

YouTubeIt is free and easy to set up a YouTube or Vimeo site dedicated to your home movies. You will get a dedicated web page that can be set as private or public. Have family members “tag” names, places, dates, and events in the clip. This gets everyone engaged in the footage. These tags (key words) will come up in the Google search. This might help long lost family members reconnect with you! Bonus! When a video clips live in “the cloud,” it makes a great back up of your files at no charge!

4. Share Home Movies on Social Media

FaceBookFace Book, Instagram and Pinterest as just some of the platforms you can access your home movies easily on your smart phone or tablet from these sites. Pass around your device at the next family gathering the and see the reaction your family will have!) 1945 can meet 2015! This works perfectly when media is transferred and recorded to an Apple TV (.m4v) file format.

5. Funding Your Digital Mastering And Restoration Project

Technology has given us the ability to share our legacy in a way never before possible, and there couldn’t be a more exciting time. Many families are overwhelmed by the expense of treating their home movies like the studios would, even though in their hearts, they know that is what they would like to do. There are now several options to get funding for your home movie transfer!

Crowd FundingCrowd Funding: On line fund raising platforms are where you create a campaign to raise money for personal projects. These include Kickstarter, Indigogo and Go Fund Me. Someone in your family may want to organize raising money from friends and family members to cover the cost of scanning your home movie legacy by a company that specializes in professional scanning. This is an innovative and effective way for family members, friends and interested parties to collaborate and raise funds for the transfer. You have your own landing page where you can add a video talking about your family and why this project is important. The family archivist can have one roll of home movies transferred to high quality HD, 2K or 4K files and than share the scan with family members on the site. Families get really excited and invested in the project when they see the stunning results of what the films look like when digitally remastered and color corrected. After all, we are getting more sophisticated in our media consumption because so many of us have HD flat screens.

Find out what other family members have and ask the scanning facility to estimate the cost. Set a family budget for the fundraising and discuss how that cost could be shared. People can donate to the project on line. Often there are rewards for the donation that you would set. These could be DVD copies, a family photo, or all the material loaded on a hard drive.

Stock Footage: Could your family home movies be worth money? You bet they can! A single clip of 8mm film sold on Getty Images for over $5,000! How is that possible you may ask? Filmmakers and documentarians are often looking for authentic archival 8mm and Super8mm clips that capture specific events, people, time periods and so much more. This is a win/win so they don’t have to go to the added expense of re-creating them for a project and the content contributor (you) earns revenue and shares amazing material with a wider audience, These clips are called Stock Footage, and are made available to the public by posting short clips onto the web. When transferred professionally, there is a greater likelihood that your clips could be purchased and downloaded for use in a documentary, films, television shows, and more. As long as the films are your original material, your home movies could be the most valuable asset in your attic! Stock Footage platforms include Getty Images, Pond5, and many more!

Hopefully you have got some of your own ideas from reading 5 Cool Things you can (and should!) do with your Home Movies!! Pick one for the holidays and stay inspired all year! As you may have figured out, this is just a short list among dozens of applications for watching, editing, playing and funding your home movie project. So what are you waiting for?
© Rhonda Vigeant, Pro8mm 2015

Rhonda VigeantRhonda Vigeant is a home movie expert, passionate about raising awareness regarding why these reels are so important. They are a time machine that holds transformational power to shift lives and beliefs about how we lived. Rhonda teaches best practices for moving this aging analog material into our digital lives. She is Vice President of Marketing at Pro8mm, a Burbank, CA company long recognized as a leader in the entertainment industry for preserving and transferring millions of feet of legacy footage. She is the author of GET REEL ABOUT YOUR HOME MOVIE LEGACY…before it’s Too Late! a speaker, radio show host , teacher and consultant. Her mantra is “every frame matters, every reel matters, every life matters”. Access her blogs and podcasts at


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