Last Updated 00/09/06 1200PDT
8mm Film Gauges
by Martin W. Baumgarten
Super8 (1x8) - normal super8:
Super 8mm, as it normally is packaged now, is single width 8mm film with Super 8mm perforations, and comes in 50ft(15m) lengths in a plastic Kodak cartridge.
Double Super8 (2x8) - 16mm with super8 perforations, must be split:
Double Super 8mm was introduced shortly after Super 8mm appeared in the mid 1960's. It was thought by many that this viable film format would do for Super 8mm what Double 8mm did for Regular 8mm film. However....the Kodak Instapak or Instamatic Super 8mm cartridge design did more for the format than Double Super 8mm could. Very few cameras were made for the DS8 format, and useage never even exceeded the use of Double Regular 8mm which still continues to be popular today. Some of the cameras made for the DS8 format were:
* BOLEX H-8 and H-8 Reflex cameras using 25ft, 50ft and 100ft spools (these were/are converted to the DS8 format by Swiss Professional Equipment, JK Camera Engineering; now MERITEX Inc., Muster Film & Fernsehtechnik (Ruedi Muster) Selsach, Switzerland, and a couple other repair shops in Germany and the USA.
* ELMO C-300 TriFilmatic, electrically driven, 3:1 zoom range reflex camera, which accepts a 100ft motor driven magazine for DS8 (and also accepts invidual magazines for: 25ft Double 8mm, 50ft Super 8mm cartridge, and 50ft FUJI Single-8 films.
* CANON DS8 100ft load electrically driven reflex camera with a fixed mount 6:1 zoom lens.
* Russian made QUARZ clockwork cameras with or without reflex viewing (depending on the model type...about 4 were made) accepting only the 25ft spools.
* PATHE Pathex Weboflex DS8 camera, of which two were made...a clockwork version accepting 100ft spools and an electrically driven version which also accepts a 400ft magazine. Styled after their 16mm professional cameras and with similar features.
Single8 - normal Fuji single8 (the film is equal to the super8 standard-size/perf. except for the cartridge):
[This] film is identical to Kodak's Super 8mm film in its dimensions and will project and record the same way (their sound film also had two audio tracks and if you request the post process sound striping service at the time of processing FUJI will add the main & balance sound stripes to your film). The film differs in two major ways: the cartridge design is smaller and slimmer (sort of similar to the design of an audio cassette), thus not interuseable in any Super 8mm camera...ONLY in FUJI Single-8 cameras (and a few others which used their design: Konica Single-8, Elmo C-200 & C-300 cameras, possibly one made by Ricoh etc), and secondly the film is on a clear polyester film base, which is brighter and transmits perhaps a 20% to 30% brighter screen image at similar projection distances compared directly to Kodak's gray-based triacetate structured films. FUJI still make their Single-8 films, now only in silent cartridges: R25 Daylight and RT200 Tungsten high speed film. They used to offer R25 & RT200 in a prestriped film in silent cartridges, also sound cartridge versions for their own sound camera line, and also two stocks of FUJIPAN R50 and R200 Black & White Reversal films (long discontinued now).
Standard/Regular/Double8 (2x8) - the original 8mm format. 16mm with smaller perforations:
Double 8mm, called such because the film is 16mm's wide, with perforations that are identical in size and pitch to that of 16mm film....although with an extra perforation which is required since the 8mm frame is 1/4th that of a 16mm frame. The film is exposed for one run down the first half length of the film, then it is reloaded and exposed down the second half width of the film to complete the film. After processing, the film is slit down the middle yielding two lengths of 8mm width movie film, which are spliced together in their order of the first half in front, yielding a total length of projection footage in either 50ft(from 25ft spools), 100ft(from 50ft spools...now long discontinued in use), and 200ft (from 100ft spools). This film gauge was referred to as Standard 8mm or 8mm for many years until Super 8mm came along in 1964, which after it was referred to as Regular 8mm here in the USA to separate it from Super 8mm. It is commonly referred to as Double 8mm, when you are speaking of unexposed rawstock, since that is the format it is made in. Processed film is referred to commonly as: 8mm, Standard 8mm, Regular 8mm, or Normal 8mm.....again, often depending on which country you live in.
Also....long before Super 8mm, there was also a Regular 8mm filmgauge called Straight 8 or Single 8, depending which company was making it. Straight 8mm film is film that is single width Regular 8mm film and was offered on tiny 30ft(7,5m) spools such as the UNIVEX from the Universal Camera Company, and in Magazines such as the AGFA Movex cameras using a reloadable magazine similar to those of the 9.5mm Pathex magazines, and another magazine design from Russia for the Lomo Comany's EKRAN Straight 8mm cameras. The Straight 8mm film format had a hard time keeping users since when Kodachrome was introduced in the mid 1930's....Kodak opted NOT to make it in Straight 8mm, ONLY in Double 8mm. Straight 8mm continued to lose users and it's use dwindled here in the USA. However....AGFA made their own color reversal film, as did Svema in Russia, so those magazine formats flourished a bit longer in Europe and within the former Iron Curtain countries. But Double 8mm film was much more popular, since it was always quite economical to use in the small 25ft spool sizes.
By the late 1930's Eastman Kodak realized that not all potential users of their 8mm format were that keen on manual threading the small 25ft film spools and many customers complained of fogged film and threading problems due to their own ineptitude...nothing to do with the film itself. So Kodak designed the Double 8mm Magazine film format. These small metal magazines about 2 inches by 3 inches in size and about 3/4 inch thick, used Double 8mm film wound emulsion out on tiny film cores. The film was notched so that it would stop once one side had been completed exposed in the camera. The user would remove the magazine..and then reinsert it with the SIDE 2 showing up...and then proceed to film on the second half. Once it was done, it was removed and sent off for processing.
Magazine film was sold with a 50 cents deposit on it (which was deducted off the cost of processing when sent to Kodak or a Kodak authorized laboratory). The film in magazine format typically sold for 25% to 40% more depending on where purchased. It definitely made using 8mm film much much easier...but due to the higher cost....most budget minded customers continued to prefer spool film. Kodak discontinued making Magazine Double 8mm film by 1984, and then officially stopped making Double 8mm movie film by 1991. Kodak now only manufacture Double 8mm on special order to film specialist dealers who spool and package the film under private label.
Also...being sensitive to the higher cost of Double 8mm Magazine film...Kodak came out in the early 1960's with a user loadable plastic Double 8mm magazine which fit only their special Kodak Electric 8 Automatic cameras. This allowed the use of economical 25ft spool loading film, but once loaded by the customer or their film dealer, into the Kodak Double 8mm plastic magazine...it allowed a similar convenience to that of the Double 8mm Magazine films. Only the plastic magazine had to be turned over to expose the second side. Once completely exposed...the customer removed the film from the magazine and returned it to the small metal can to send it out for processing. Kodak sold extra magazines for those that wanted to keep a couple loaded with other film stock or for a rapid film load if in a hurry.
Bell & Howell also came out with their own version of a similar plastic Double 8mm magazine for their 8mm autoload cameras in the early 1960's. Unfortunately...the Kodak and B & H magazines were not interchangeable with each other. These two systems attempted to make 8mm filmmaking easier and more attractive to newcomers. However....both methods did not do very well, and spool film and Kodak's metal Double 8mm Magazines did much better. It wasn't until Super 8mm was introduced in late 1964 and officially on the market for 1965 that simple drop in loading without the need to have to expose a second side of the film, came onto the scene and changed drastically the entire 8mm filmmaking movement.
There were also a couple of other unique Regular 8mm formats......the ESTES CineRoc 8 which used a short length load of Straight 8mm film in an ultra tiny rubberband powered 8mm movie camera which fit into their model rocket line. And in the 1950's there was the BOLSEY 8, a very tiny 8mm movie camera that used Straight 8mm film in special tiny cassettes, and allowed the user to either take many single snapshots or moving images with a camera slightly larger than the size of cigarette packs back then. There were also a few other similar specialist versions of Straight 8mm film, however I can't think of any others at the moment and would have to research it further. ESTES Rockets by the way, also later came out with a Super CineRoc camera which exposed up to 10ft of Super 8mm movie film in tiny cassettes to fit this tiny camera for their model rockets. Film in these short lengths were purchased directly from Estes Rockets....and also could be special ordered from either Superior Bulk Film Company in Chicago or ESO-S Pictures in Kansas City, Missouri. Both companies also supplied Straight 8mm film to fit a variety of cameras, also color reversal film stocks as well as B & W and offered processing services.
Before Super 8mm as we know it came about....various versions of an 8mm gauge to replace Double (Standard) 8mm were experimented with about 1955 and later. One was the Half-Sixteen gauge, which used conventional double perforated 16mm movie film which was filmed on sideways to yield a film frame that was exactly half the width of a conventional 16mm movie frame. The film was exposed down both sides (as with Double 8mm film) and then was split down the middle to yield twice the spool footage, but with film now 8mm's wide. A dove prism was used on front of the projector lens to rotate the image optically so it could be projected and view normal. The projectors were modified 16mm projectors which used 8mm film reels which 16mm square keyed centers and a masked gate to project the new format. This allowed the projector to also be used easily for showing of conventional 16mm films. It was widely used for a brief time period by various enthusiasts, but never caught on.
Some other specialized WIDESCREEN formats flirting with 8mm were Span 8mm and Span 16mm, and later Span DS8. The Span formats made use the entire width of the Double 8mm or Double Super 8mm or 16mm film width. The 8mm and DS8mm formats have a film frame that is double-frame width. These have to be projected on specially modified 16mm projectors since the film remains in it's 16mm width.....only having and using either the Regular 8mm or DS8mm perforations. In Span 16....the normal double perforated 16mm film is used....however the cameras are masked and modified to yield an image that runs nearly the full width of the 16mm film.....using the space between the sprocket holes...thus the frame height is smaller than a conventional 16mm frame...but much wider. There are some dedicated users today still using some of these formats...and Muster Film & Television Inc. in Switzerland have been advocating the use of the Span DS8mm format for years. It could very well make use of magnetic and optical sound as well as yield a WIDESCREEN non-anamorphic format, and the potential is phenominal. However...since non of these are industry accepted standards...and any processing, printing and releasing services are minimal to non-existant.....their use is limited to those few enthusiasts that love these formats. I would say, safely here...that their use is even smaller than those that film in the 9.5mm format, which is another story for another time and discussion thread.
One last item here......Muster Film & Television Inc in Switzerland have also advocated a new Super 8mm format which they call Super 8-B. The B stands for the word Breitwand, or WIDESCREEN in english. This format is filmed with specially modified BOLEX Double Super 8mm cameras in which the area normally used for the main magnetic or optical sound track is an expaned image area.....similar to that of the Super 16mm format. The new aspect ratio would allow minimal loss of image area upon optical enlargement to 16mm and 35mm, and would match closely the frame aspect ratio of Super 16mm. Use is highly limited to those few experimenters interested in trying it out, and it does offer more feasible possibilities to those wishing to work with DS8mm, however...with a format whereby less image area loss exits upon enlargment to another larger and professional release format.
Hope I haven't bored you all to tears!
Martin W. Baumgarten
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