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.