8 mm film

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8 mm film is a motion picture film format in which the filmstrip is eight millimeters wide. It exists in two main versions: the original standard 8mm film, also known as regular 8 mm or Double 8 mm, and Super 8. Although both standard 8 mm and Super 8 are 8 mm wide, Super 8 has a larger image area because of its smaller perforations.

There are also two other varieties of Super 8 — Single 8 mm and Straight-8 — which require different cameras but which produce a final film with the same dimensions.


Standard 8

The standard 8 mm (also known as regular 8) film format was developed by the Eastman Kodak company during the Great Depression and released on the market in 1932 to create a home movie format that was less expensive than 16 mm. The film spools actually contain a 16 mm film with twice as many perforations along each edge than normal 16 mm film; on its first pass through the camera, the film is only exposed along half of its width. When the first pass is complete, the camera is opened and the spools are flipped and swapped (the design of the spool hole ensures that this happens properly) and the same film is then exposed along its other edge, the edge left unexposed on the first pass. During processing, the film is split down the middle, resulting in two lengths of 8 mm film, each with a single row of perforations along one edge, thereby yielding four times as many frames from the same amount of 16 mm film — and hence the cost savings. Because of the two passes of the film, the format was sometimes called Double 8. The frame size of regular 8 mm is 4.8 mm x 3.5 mm and 1 meter of film contains 264 pictures. Normally Double 8 is filmed at 16 frames per second.

Common length film spools allowed filming of about 3 minutes to 4.5 minutes at 12, 15, 16 and 18 frames per second.

Kodak ceased sales of standard 8 mm film in the early 1990s, but continued to manufacture the film, which was sold via independent film stores. Black-and-white 8 mm film is still manufactured in the Czech Republic, and several companies buy bulk quantities of 16 mm film to make regular 8 mm by re-perforating the stock, cutting it into 25 foot (7.6 m) lengths, and collecting it into special standard 8 mm spools which they then sell. Re-perforation requires special equipment. Some specialists also produce Super 8 mm film from existing 16 mm, or even 35 mm film stock.

Super 8

In 1965, Super-8 film was released and was quickly adopted by the amateur film-maker. It featured a better quality image, and was easier to use mainly due to a cartridge-loading system which did not require re-loading — and re-threading — halfway through. Super 8 was often erroneously criticized, since the film gate in some cheap Super 8 cameras was plastic, as was the pressure plate built in to the cartridge; the standard 8 cameras had a permanent metal film gate that was regarded as more reliable in keeping the film flat and the image in focus. In reality, this was not the case. The plastic pressure plate could be moulded to far smaller tolerances than their metal counterparts could be machined. The permanent metal pressure plates had to be machined to a compromise size for all film likely to be encountered, whereas the plastic pressure plate was custom moulded for the specific film in the cartridge. This was of greater importance in sound cameras as the sound film was thinner than its silent counterpart. A further issue was that every film cartridge came with a brand new (and hence unworn) pressure plate. Super-8 was at one point available with a magnetic sound track at the edge of the film but this only made up 5 to 8% of Super-8 sales and was discontinued in the 1990s.

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