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A Quick Guide to Keystone 8mm Projectors and Screens

The first projector, crafted in 1879, used images painted on glass and a technology update by the Lumiere brothers brought in celluloid movie stocks in the late 1880s. The first digital projectors hit movie theaters in 1999. Although Keystone Camera Company no longer manufactures 8mm film projectors, you can pick up a vintage Keystone model for viewing reel-to-reel movies.

What types of screens work with this projector?

You can use one of three types of screens to view these movies:

  • A hanging screen
  • A portable tripod screen
  • A tabletop screen

You can use a larger sized screen to accommodate viewing multiple aspect ratios. Additionally, most screens provide a uniform grey or white surface, so the colors used in the movie remain true. The level of ambient light and luminosity of the projector influence the needed brightness of the screen. Screens may come flat or curved, with flat option more common. Front projection screens are more common.

What film stock sizes can you view with this projector?

Keystone vintage projectors display reel-to-reel movie prints in 8mm size only. Many people used 8mm stock to make home movies until the 1980s. 8mm uses a double sprocket 16mm motion picture stock that when run through a vintage camera exposes one side of the film. The filmmaker then removes the film, switches the feed and take-up reels, and film on the opposite side, exposing it. When processed, the developer splits the 16mm stock lengthwise, splicing the two pieces together to form a single movie.

How does a vintage movie projector work?

A film projector combines optical and mechanical parts that project images on celluloid onto a wall or screen using illumination. You begin by mounting the 8mm movie onto a supply reel. When you turn on the unit, an interior motor causes the supply reel to turn, feeding the movie through the gate, keeping it aligned using the sprockets on one side. In the gate opening, a light shines in onto the film, which moves from supply to uptake reel at about 24 frames per second. This light projects each frame's image onto the projection screen via a series of lenses. When the movie finishes playing, the projectionist can rewind the movie back onto the supply reel from the uptake reel.