What is an 8mm Film?

What is 8mm film

The introduction of 8mm film in 1932 helped create a new age for home movie making because it was less expensive and easier to use than 16 mm. In addition, this innovative format featured a more significant number of perforations on the frame resulting in smaller film sizes and the ability to shoot longer films.

16mm film compared to 8mm film

Kodak developed the new 8mm film by splitting 16mm film into two sides or tapering it into a single 8mm strip. Both sides of the 16mm film have 8mm film with gear holes on both sides of the film. If you ran the film through the camera, you would only expose one-half of the film. When you get to the end, you need to turn the film over and run it through again to reveal the other side of the film, which makes it unsuitable for use and development later, unlike the 8mm film.


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What is a Super 8 Film?

super 8 film reel

Super 8 was introduced in 1965 with Kodak Instamatic Movie Cameras, more than 30 years after 8mm. Super 8 film is a favorite among amateur filmmakers for its higher image quality and more accessible cartridge loading system compared to 8mm. Also, the fact that more than 10 million Kodak Instamatic Movie Camera units were sold in the first two years on the market shows how popular they were and how fast the use of Super 8 film spread.

The Super 8 film was contained in a compact plastic cartridge that virtually eliminated the threading risk and had an easy-to-use wind mechanism. Besides that, you could shoot an entire 50 feet of the film without interruptions.

8mm and Super 8 Side By Side – What Are The Differences?

super 8 compared with 8mm film

There are a few key differences that we are going to mention and explain between both film types to help you identify the type of film you have.

Center Hole On The Film Reel

The easiest and fastest way to determine your film type is by checking the center hole on the reel on which the film is wound. If your finger fits in the hole, then you have Super 8. This is because the hole is approximately 13mm wide, whereas the 8mm film has about an 8mm hole.

Frame Size

The size difference between 8mm and Super 8 films is quite significant. The Super 8 has a 50% larger frame than 8mm, moving from 4.5 to 5.79mm to take a sharper image.

Film Socket Holes

The easiest way to distinguish Super 8mm from 8mm is by looking at both films’ right sides of sprocket holes. Standard 8mm film has square holes versus elongated, rectangular ones on Super 8. Also, on 8mm film, these sprocket holes are closer to the edge of each frame, whereas the Super 8 sprocket holes are placed in the middle of the frame.

Image Quality

As we mentioned earlier, Super 8 has better image quality because of the bigger frame size and the widescreen aspect ratio. The 8mm film was often underexposed because it needed so much light to expose a frame properly. But Super 8 offers an ISO up to 500, which made shooting in low-light situations more possible and successful.

Does 8mm and Super 8 Film Have Sound?

16mm, 8mm, and Super 8 could record sound, but it was less common with the 8mm film. If the film has gold magnetic strips on the top or bottom, it has audio, so its good to check if your film has a thin gold or rust-colored strip.

After recording a film, if you see a rust-colored or yellow stripe running along the reel, that indicates that your film has recorded sound. Super 8 films started coming with a sound strip in 1973 and a thicker stripe along the film’s side.

Film Decaying and the Importance of Preserving Film

film decaying

We never take the longevity of our favorite things for granted, and this goes for old films too. The 8mm reels and Super 8 film were not as popular in the 80s because of their lower quality. Instead, VHS tapes gained popularity thanks to an improved picture that was clearer than what you could get from these older film formats. 

The truth is, old films like 8mm and Super 8 are not very durable, and most people don’t realize that some of their older movies might already be damaged.

What Could Impact Film Durability?

Various factors can seriously compromise the durability of a film like: 

  • How often was film played through a projector?
  • Is the movie paused in one frame? (can cause burning of the film frame)
  • Where was the film stored, and was it humid there?
  • Was the film kept sealed, or did it come into contact with dirt and grime?
  • Was it exposed to the sun, and for how long?

If the film was not stored correctly, it’s probably been damaged by most of the above factors.

The plastic base of film formats such as 8mm, Super 8, and other films may suffer from acetate or nitrate base degradation, also known as “Vinegar Syndrome.” Over time when the plastic film starts to deteriorate, it releases a vinegar-like odor which can lead to curling, shrinkage, loss of detail, warping, desaturation, and brittleness.

How to Properly Store Old Films:

  • Keep in a cool and dry place.
  • Avoid sunlight
  • Don’t store them in airtight containers and plastic bags (the film needs small airflow).
  • Remove all excessive items such as rubber bands and plastic that could cause further deterioration of the film.
  • If you label films, do it carefully by using acid-free paper and sticking it outside the film box/can. Also, don’t store any papers alongside the film.


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Preserving 8mm and Super 8 Films By Digitizing Process

8mm family films digital transfer

It’s hard to find an 8mm projector these days, let alone one in a working state, so that you can watch your old films. A better, much more affordable alternative is a film transfer by professional companies. These companies use the process of digitization to turn the analog film into a digital file, which makes them playable on any modern device. With the new digital format of 8mm or Super 8 video, storage and playback are much easier, and most importantly, they are preserved without worries of getting degraded over time. 

Another important thing is to act before it’s too late to save your films. Plenty of professional companies offer services with professional gear and experienced staff that could preserve your film in a matter of days. Your only job is to make an online order through their site from the comforts of your home, send your media via their shipping kit box (depending on service), and choose what digital copy you want to get back.

The good part of using a service like this is that they enhance your film and other media to make them even better. Media enhancement could be free of charge or additionally charged depending on service.

These are just a few benefits of digitizing and preserving your old 8mm and Super films with service. You can learn more about professional digitizing services on our site and find out which one is best for your needs.

Written by Abdo

Abdo is a Zoopy writer who loves spending his free time outdoors, camping, and enjoying the peace that nature brings. He also enjoys fixing things - he's particularly good with electronics. His favorite movie is I Am Legend, and he's fascinated by survival gear and safety.

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