9.5 mm film is an amateur film format introduced by Pathé Frères in 1922 as part of the Pathé Baby amateur film system. It was conceived initially as an inexpensive format to provide copies of commercially-made films to home users, although a simple camera was released shortly afterwards.
It became very popular in Europe over the next few decades and is still used by a small number of enthusiasts today. Over 300,000 projectors were produced and sold mainly in France and England, and many commercial features were available in the format.
The format uses a single, central perforation (sprocket hole) between each pair of frames, as opposed to 8 mm film which has perforations along one edge, and most other film formats which have perforations on each side of the image. The single hole allowed more of the film to be used for the actual image and in fact the image area is almost the same size as 16 mm film. The perforation in the film is invisible to viewers as the intermittent shutter blanks off the light as the film is pulled through the gate to the next frame.
The width of 9.5 millimeters was chosen because 3 strips of film could be made from one strip of 35 mm film. This was useful when duplicating films because only 1 strip of 35 mm had to be processed. Then the sides, which contained the special narrow 35 mm sprocket holes, were cut off, the remaining film was cut into 3 strips, and the central sprocket holes added to each new strip.
The projection system also incorporated a way to save film on non-moving titles. A notch in the film was recognised by the projector which would then project the second frame after it for 10 seconds. By this method, 10 seconds of screen time was available for 1 frame of film, rather than the 140 frames required if the film was projected at the normal rate.
In Britain, 9.5 mm film, projectors and cameras were distributed by Pathescope Ltd. During the years leading up to the Second World War, and for some years after the war, the gauge was used by enthusiasts who wanted to make home movies and to show commercially made films at home. Pathescope produced a large number of home versions of significant films, including Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop cartoons, classic features such as Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail,and comedies by such well-known stars as Laurel and Hardy and Chaplin. A notable element in the Pathescope catalogue were pre-war German mountain films by such directors as G.W.Pabst and Leni Riefenstahl. Classics such as Fritz Lang's "Metropolis", "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and Dupont"s "Vaudeville" attracted many film collectors.
Film for home cinematography was usually supplied in rolls approx. 30ft (9 m) long and enclosed in a "charger" or magazine, but spool loading (50ft/15 m or 100ft/30 m) was also available. Pre-war the most popular film was Ortho reversal costing only about 23p per charger. After the War Panchromatic film became more usual and around 1953 even Kodachrome I became available, though it took weeks to get it processed in Paris. Pathescope Colour Film (actually made by Ferrania) was introduced in the 1950s. A number of cameras and projectors were produced, the more successful including the Pathescope H camera and Gem projector. Optical sound was introduced for 9.5mm in 1938, but efforts to produce a library of sound films were interrupted by the War. The optical track resulted in a rather square frame format for the picture.
After the war, the 9.5 mm gauge suffered strong competition from Kodak's 8 mm film, which was introduced in 1932. Notwithstanding the far poorer resolution of the 8 mm frame, which could hold only about a quarter of the information of the 9.5 mm or 16 mm frame, 8 mm was taken up by a wider public, partly because of the commercial power of its sponsors and the much lower cost of Kodachrome processed in England. Pathescope found itself struggling to hold its place in the market and in 1959 there was a workers' buy-out and name change to Pathescope (Great Britain) Ltd., with links to French Pathe being broken. The new Company produced a well made 9,5mm Prince camera made in England by Smiths Industries and a low powered Princess projector, but the gauge was already doomed as a popular format and in 1960 the firm went into liquidation. Nevertheless, the gauge has been kept alive by a dedicated group of enthusiasts who have used methods such as re-perforating 16 mm film to provide continued supplies of material.
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