How to View 8mm Film Without a Projector

Ways to see old film video even if you don't have a projector

What to Know

  • Magnifying glass and light: Use a magnifying glass and light source to look over individual frames from an 8mm film reel.
  • Digital film scanner: Purchase a film scanner for digitizing your 8mm film at home.
  • Professional scanning service: Send your film to a professional film scanning service and receive a digital video within a few weeks.

This article explains how to view an 8mm film without a projector. Whether it’s old home video footage or an old video reel you’ve come across, here are a few ways you can see what’s on the film, even if you don’t have an 8mm projector on hand. The methods we’ll highlight are using a magnifying glass and a light source, using a digital film scanner, and using professional digitization service. 

Magnifying Glass and Light Source

This method is less about precision and more about using what you have on hand. You can use either a magnifying glass or loupe in combination with a light source to look over the film in a pinch. 

The most basic option is to hold up the film in front of a well-lit window in one hand and use a magnifying glass in the other hand to look over the individual frames on the reel. If you have the equipment on hand, another option is to use a light table and a loupe to look over individual frames. 

Regardless of the exact tools you use, be sure to protect the film while viewing it, so it doesn’t get damaged or scratched. The best practice is to use cotton or powderless nitrile gloves. Using gloves ensures the oils from your fingers won’t transfer to the film base. 

Digital Film Scanner

If you want to view the images on the film and digitize the footage, one DIY option is to purchase a digital film scanner. These usually start at around $150 and go up in price depending on image quality and features. Two popular options are the Kodak Scanza and the Wolverine Film Reel Converter.

Determine what scanner fits your needs and purchase it. Once you have it, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for inserting and digitizing the film. The exact process will vary from one scanner to the next, but the result should be the same—you end up with a digital video file from your film reel. 

Professional Digitization 

If you want to take a hands-off approach, you’ll want to use a professional digitization service to scan your 8mm film. These companies will carefully handle the film and turn it into a digital video file for you to view and share. You can choose to go with a local option or use a mail-in service, such as ScanCafe and DigMyPics

Pricing varies from one digitization service to the next, but you can expect to pay between $0.25 and $0.50 per foot of film. The process is usually as simple as filling out a form, mailing your film, and receiving the digital video (and your original film) when the process is complete. Wait times vary on demand, so most places offer digital downloads, which let you access the digital files as soon as they’re scanned and processed rather than having to wait for a flash drive or DVD to be mailed back to you. 

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