History of Super 8 Film

Super 8 film, also known as Super 8mm film, was created in 1965 by the Eastman Kodak company.  The “super” designation indicated that it was an improvement over Kodak’s older “regular 8mm film” (also called “double”).  The improvement stemmed from the fact that while the two films – Regular 8mm film and Super 8 – were approximately the same width (8mm) and had perforations on only one side of the film, the perforations on Super 8 film were smaller which enabled the exposed area to be wider and larger.

While many companies offered Super 8mm film and systems – including Kodak, FujiFilm and Polaroid – the most popular Super 8 film and system was the Kodak system.

The Kodak Super 8 system

Kodak’s Super 8 film was encased in plastic light-proof cartridges which contained, in the beginning, 50 feet of film.  The length of viewing time, depended on the speed with which the film was shot.  If the film was shot at 24 frames per second – the standard professional motion picture speed — this resulted in viewing time of approximately two and a half minutes.   If the film was shot at the slower amateur speed of 16 frames per second, this resulted in a viewing time of approximately three minutes and 20 seconds.  After the film was processed, the film was generally spliced by the user into 5″ or 7″ reels, which could hold up to 200 or 400 feet of film respectively.

Over time, Kodak introduced a cartridge with 200 feet of film which quadrupled the length of viewing time for professionals and amateurs.

How to watch Super 8 film

Manufacturers have stopped mass-producing film projectors suitable for Regular 8 or Super 8 film, although some specialty firms manufacture projection systems suitable to transfer Super 8 film to DVD or other digital formats.  Rather than hassling with setting up a 8mm film projector, most people today transfer their film to DVD or digital video so they can more easily watch their memories on film.

Fast loading time for Super 8 film

One of the more popular features of Super 8 film was its fast loading time.  Because the film itself did not need to be touched or threaded into the camera, amateurs and professionals alike could load the Super 8mm film cartridge into the camera in about two seconds.  A second beneficial feature was the camera could automatically recognize the speed of the Super 8mm film rather than the operator needing to spend the time to adjust camera settings accordingly.

Super 8 film with sound

The soundtrack of Super 8 film was found on the edge of the film opposite the side with the perforations.  Sound was recorded 18 frames in advance of the corresponding picture.

Super 8mm film today

Most amateurs first migrated from Super8  film cameras to VHS Camcorders, 8mm/Hi8/Digital8 Camcorders or MiniDV camcorders, or now even hi-end digital SLRs shooting HD video.  However, some professionals continue to use the Super 8mm film format in order to achieve certain visual affects, including imitating the look of old home movies or giving the movie a deliberately grainy look.

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