Your 8mm film only has a few years left before it becomes too fragile and warped to convert to DVD. Even if you have to convert the film using a lower quality and cheaper method, it is better to do something than nothing.
There are many different ways to convert your 8mm film to DVD and there are many companies out there that do it. There are really 3 different classes of companies that can convert your 8mm film.
1) Real-Time Film Transfer Setup
The lowest class would be your high volume retail resellers like Walmart, Costco and Walgreens. They all farm it out to a company in California. They all squeeze the supplier to the point where they have to do it as cheap as possible with the cheapest equipment and cheapest work force. They are usually using modified projectors and camcorders in a closed box system. It’s kind of like using a camcorder to record your film off the wall as it plays in the projector. These machines are usually referred to as real-time film transfer machines and they cost about $2000-3000.
2) Small Independent Companies – Frame By Frame
The next class would be small independent companies. Basically your mom and pop shops. They might sell cameras or video games and in addition will transfer your video tapes or film to DVD. Typically they are using real-time or frame by frame machines – basically modified projector and camcorder setup. They charge about the same or maybe a bit more than the high volume retailers like Walmart but the staff is usually better trained and they might be able to give you personal attention that you can’t get from the Walmart’s of the world. There are probably about 500 of these small independent companies around in the USA today.
3) Professional Film Scanning Equipment
The last class would be companies that professional scan film. Some only work on Hollywood films. Some do a mixture of Hollywood and semi professional work. A few span the entire spectrum from Amateur film to Hollywood films. Because these companies do some amount of professional film scanning they will have the most expensive and best quality machines to scan your 8mm film. The machines they scan on usually run well over $100,000 each. But if you are looking for the best quality these are the companies you want scanning your film. In addition, these companies usually do some amount of restoration. So, color correction, grain reduction, etc.
The best advice is to do your homework. Talk to at least 4-5 companies. Find out what they offer and how much it costs. See if they offer the options you are looking for. Keep in mind that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to pass your history down to the next few generations. If you can afford the best I would recommend getting the best.