The Difference Between 8mm and Super 8

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The Difference a Sprocket Makes

To the naked eye the difference between 8 mm film and Super 8 mm are simply that the sprocket on Super 8 are smaller and square rather than rectangular. A common misconception is that Super 8 is actually a different size film than 8mm but this isn’t true; both film formats are both 8mm in width. By shrinking the sprocket size Super 8 film is able to accommodate a larger frame size within the same 8mm film width. This difference may seem like a small change but the sprocket size of 8mm film was limiting the possibilities for innovation.

Frame Size Improvements

The image quality of any given film format is determined primarily by the size of the film frame. The larger the frame the more information each frame can hold. Standard 8mm film could only accommodate a 4.5mm by 3.3mm frame because of the room taken up by the sprockets. Super 8 improved on the frame size by a great deal within the same overall film size. The super 8 frame size grew to 5.79mm by 4.01 which is a 26% increase in image area.

Super 8 Merges Audio With Video

In addition, Super 8 film incorporated a magnetic sound strip that could record audio similar to the way a tape machine does. This advancement made the Super 8 film an immediate favorite for family and hobbyists for many decades. Recovering the Super 8 audio is a tricky process that involves taking photos of the sound waves recorded to the magnetic strip and converting those waves into actual sound files. This technology is still very early in its development. Even after VHS tape cassettes had taken over the entry level camera market in the 80’s people still continued to use Super 8 film for the unique character that was innate in the film format.

From Feature Film to Home Video

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First Photography, Then Video

The story of film follows one central character and the company he started; George Eastman and the Eastman Kodak Company. Much like Henry Ford with the automobile, George Eastman didn’t invent the camera but he did invent a new form of photography that made it accessible to the masses. His 1888 invention of the Kodak camera presented the fundamental idea of roll film to the world and this same concept is what eventually brought us film video. With each release of a Kodak camera the world of photography became less and less about expensive chemicals, bulky equipment and years of training and more about an image making process that anyone could enjoy.

From 35mm to 16mm

As Photography entered the world and began improving upon itself, motions pictures were soon to follow. The first film video camera was invented in 1890 and technological advancements were being made soon after. Although motion pictures captivated the world, it was an art form that was not accessible to the common person at all. It was almost 40 years before sound would be put to video and during most of that time everything was shot on 35mm film reels. Shooting, Developing, Editing and Showing a video was a gigantic undertaking with 35mm film but in 1923 George Eastman once again revolutionized the industry by introducing 16mm film with the Cine Kodak camera. This camera was only 7 pounds and about 8 inches square but because it had to be hand cranked the operator still needed a tripod to use it. About a decade later he released the 8mm format which was again an improvement in affordability and usability.

8mm to Digital

Through the 1940’s and 50’s 8mm cameras were making there way into the family home of many Americans. By this point in time the cost had lowered to the point where the average middle class american could afford a camera, some rolls of film and a projector to watch them on. Most videos were recorded at family events or special occasions. 8mm video became the standard for many decades until digital inevitably took hold as the predominant means for recording home video.