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How to Put Memories on the Wall

Human memory is a funny thing, often brought back into focus by home movies and videos. For decades, people created those memories on eight-millimeter film.

What's Eight Millimeter Film?

When people talk about 8 mm film they're actually talking about two separate formats. Both Super 8 and 8 mm film are 8 mm across and feature only a single row of sprocket holes along one edge of the film stock, but after that they diverge significantly.

  • Eight Millimeter: Notable by the very large sprocket holes and small 0.130 by 0.177-inch frames, this film comes on loose reels. The sprocket holes go between the individual frames. Most films are silent although some do have sound.
  • Super 8: Normally released in cartridge format, this film increased the frame size to 0.158 by 0.228 inches, increasing the frame area by about half again. The sprocket holes are about half the size and are lined up with the middle of the frame. While some films are silent, the number of sound films is much greater than for its predecessor.

How Do You Watch It?

In order to watch 8 mm movies, you need a projector and screen. You can project onto a sufficiently clean wall, but for most situations you'll be better off with a proper screen for your Elmo film projector. Another factor you need to verify is whether the projector is compatible with the film stock. Just because the reel is wide enough doesn't mean that the model of projector will work with all films. To play both formats you need a variable speed sound projector due to the following constraints:

  • Eight Millimeter: This film plays at 16.67 feet per second, and the reel features a fairly large hole in the center. 
  • Super-8: This film, which you use in the Elmo GS-800 stereo projector, features a smaller hole in the center of the reel and runs at a higher speed. Most Super 8 was shot at 18 feet per second, while a minority of films were produced at 24 feet per second. 

Using a Film Projector

The first thing to do before putting a film on your projector is to check the condition of the machine. Always start with the belts and lamp. Lamps can burn out if they overheat, and belts can wear out if not properly tensioned. You also want to be sure that the lens is clean, so you get a good image on your screen.  It's a little more work than using a video camera, but the results can be worth it. Projectors create a specific experience that cannot quite be duplicated by other formats.

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