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How Much Film Do I Need for a DVD?

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By Christian Roemer

If you’ve been shopping around for digitization services, you’ve probably run into a perplexing question: how much film do I need to convert to a DVD? What’s the maximum amount of film I can put on a single DVD? What’s the minimum amount of footage I need for a DVD?


Those are great questions, and I’m going to answer each one of them separately.


First, I’ll answer the easy question: there’s no minimum amount of film required to digitize and put on a DVD. It’s true. If you’re converting 1 second of film to DVD, Southtree can do that. 


But what if we’re talking about more film? What if you have a bunch of tapes or film that need to go on a DVD? What’s the maximum amount of film that can fit on a single DVD? How much VHS, Hi8, Super 8, or 8mm film can fit on a single DVD? That’s a great question, and I love it. In order to figure all of this out, I’m going to do some math.


Stick with me here.


To calculate how much film you can digitize into a single DVD, we need to figure out how to measure the capacity. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll use minutes as our common measure. A single DVD can hold around 120 - 130 minutes of video, depending on the compression. We don’t want to worry about compression, and we want to make things simple, so we’ll just use a constant of 120 minutes. That means one DVD can hold 120 minutes--or 2 hours--of video.


So how does that compare to those other film formats? Here’s a handy chart:

Film capacity by roll/cassette (Mins)

Total Film Length

Qty Required for 1 DVD

VHS

120

1410 ft.

1410 ft. / 1 tape

Hi8

120

???

1 tape

16mm

4:26

400 ft.

10,666 ft

Super8

20

400 ft.

2,400 ft.

35mm

8:53

400 ft.

5,545 ft

 

 

How insane is this chart? A single DVD can fit over 10,000 ft. of footage from 16mm film on it. That’s a whole lot of film.


If you’re worried about whether it’s worth it or not to convert your film media to DVD, the answer is yes, it’s always worth it. Film has a very short shelf life, and it might start losing its magnetism sooner rather than later. If you’re concerned that you might have too much footage to convert, you shouldn’t let that bother you either. We can fit a bunch of stuff on a single DVD. Also, since there’s no minimum to converting your film to DVD, you can convert as much or as little as you’d like.


Technology is amazing.

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