Reel-to-Reel celluloid film comes in two formats of 8mm, each often just called "8mm" in Ebay ads. Super8 will not run on a Standard8 projector, indeed will get damaged. And vice versa. The original 8mm was invented for Kodak in the early 1930s. The camera and all the gear were smaller and lighter than used heretofore with 16mm film, and so cheaper, though the amateur movie makers still tended to be affluent in those Depression days.
The 8mm stock adapted 16mm by simply doubling the number of sprocket holes and providing for the film to be turned around and exposed one more time. Each run covered half the film width, hence 16mm became 8mm, and (think!) the user got four times the number of shots. The "sprocket holes" at the edge for transporting the film remained the same size as had been used for a decade,and is today, for 16mm film. Those holes lie horizontally across the film. On the projector, 8mm film fed from the upper arm using a reel with a central hole about the diameter of a lead pencil. The spindle on the feed arm had three ridges at 120 degree intervals to grip three equivalent splits around the hole in the reel to make it turn. Ditto the take-up spindle and spool.
Introduced by Kodak in 1968, Super8 film has a wider image area with sprocket holes only about the width of a needle running lengthwise down the same-width film. In principle, the larger image area allowed the use of a larger screen (which was in favour in those wide-screen times). Thus Kodak made the established format (now to be called Standard or Regular) seem out of date -- a marketing coup. So that the Super new film could not physically be loaded into a projector made for the former format, Kodak also changed the size and shape of the spindle-hole, and correspondingly of the spindles on the projector arms.
To spot the difference, look at the sprocket holes in the film
and the centre hole on the film reel --
1 If the reel of film in your hand has a hole of pencil width AND the holes at the edge of the film will accept the point of the pencil, that is Standard or Regular 8mm film.
2 If the hole is the width of a stick of chalk, with three small fat notches, the spool is a Super8 spool. It would wobble about on a Regular/Standard 8mm projector spindle. In Super8, sprocket holes are only needle-point size.
Caution The film itself may prove to be the wrong format, put onto the wrong kind of spool by some ignorant or desperate user. There is no way to make a film play on the wrong projector, nor to fit the wrong spool on to a projector. Durn! We all need to try to get the films and spools lined up to fit each other, format for format, projector by projector. Luckily, they mainly do come that way, just not always so in the collector field...
8mm film: How to Tell Regular/Standard8 from Super8
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4 May 2009
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