When 8mm film was introduced by Kodak in 1932, it helped create a boom in home movie making because it was less expensive than 16mm film that had been around for a decade and easier to use. This innovative format featured a greater number of perforations on the frame, resulting in a smaller film size and the ability to shoot longer films. The film began its life as a 25-foot spool of 16mm film with two sides of 8mm film. After being threaded through the camera and exposed on one half, the film was turned over and rethreaded to expose the other side. During processing, the double width was split down the middle and spliced together to make a 50-foot reel of 8mm film perforated on just one side. A clever way to reinvent the wheel, don’t you think?
What is Super 8 Film?
Like all technology, 8mm became yesterday’s news when something new and better came along, albeit it more than 30 years later. In this case, the new and improved innovation was Super 8mm film, introduced in 1965 along with Kodak Instamatic Movie Cameras, which sold more than 10 million units in the first two years on the market. Super 8 film was contained in a compact plastic cartridge virtually foolproof from jamming that eliminated threading the film. Another benefit was that the entire 50-foot cartridge could be shot without interruption. The introduction of the Super 8 film format truly revolutionized amateur filmmaking beyond that of its predecessor.
How to Determine the Difference: 8mm vs. Super 8
To determine the difference between 8mm and Super 8, it’s necessary to look at an 8mm comparison of technical specs vs. Super 8, side by side.
Sprocket holes: Standard 8mm film has larger and almost square sprocket holes compared to the smaller, elongated, and rectangular ones (sideways) on Super 8 film. They are also closer to the edge of each frame than Super 8 sprocket holes.
Processed spool size: The center hole of an 8mm film spool is smaller than the one on a Super 8 spool. The center hole on 8mm reels measures approximately 8mm vs. about 13mm on Super 8.
Frame size: The frames on Super 8 film are 50% larger than the first 8mm film introduced in 1932, which were a mere 4.5mm. Kodak increased the frame on 8mm from 4.5 to 5.7mm to achieve a sharper image. On this newer version of the 8mm film, the frames fill about 57% of the film’s full width of 7.9mm vs. 73% on Super 8.
Picture quality: When Eastman Kodak introduced Super 8, it was intended to be an upgrade from the standard 8mm film format. The larger frame size does result in better picture quality, however, when you compare both of these formats to the videos shot on your smartphone, you’ll likely be disappointed.
How to Recognize if a Film Has Sound
8mm: Although very few cameras could record sound directly onto the film, a magnetic strip could be added before exposing the film or after it was processed. While uncommon, it is possible for 8mm films to have sound. If the film has a yellow or rust-colored stripe running along with the reel next to the sprockets on one side, it likely has sound
Super 8: In 1973, a magnetic full coat strip was added on the side of the Super 8 film to enable shooting movies with sound. A reel with only sprockets is silent, while a thin yellow or rust-colored strip next to the sprockets and a thicker yellow-colored strip on the other edge of the reel indicate it has sound.
The Importance of Transferring Film to Digital
If you discovered stacks of old 8mm or Super 8 movies sitting untouched for decades with family footage, it’s important to get them digitized before these celluloid memories fade away forever. Time isn’t kind to old films and they’re vulnerable to many types of decay. You can undertake the time-consuming project of digitizing old movies yourself if you have the desire, time, and right equipment or let a professional service do the heavy lifting for you. Regardless of whether you own 8mm or Super 8 movies, ScanCafe is the right place to convert them into forever digital formats.