The Regular 8mm and Super 8mm Film are the most used film format of all time. The Super 8mm is regarded as an easy but high quality alternative to the Regular 8mm. Frequently, Super 8 and 8mm are terms used interchangeably. However, there are key points that differentiate one from the other.
Eastman Kodak introduced the Regular 8mm in 1932 to the market as a cheaper alternative to the 16mm. Not long after, it became a popular format for home movies and low-cost film productions. More than three decades later, Kodak released the Super 8mm, which, as the name suggests is a hybrid of the Regular 8mm. It was able to record sound and provided improvements both for image quality and ease of use and thus, became the preferred low-cost format. In the 1980’s, with the advent of VHS and VCR tapes, both Super and Regular 8mm suffered significant reductions in terms of consumer preference.
Super 8mm have sprocket holes that only cover fifty percent of the width required by Regular 8mm films. Consequently, this allows Super 8mm film area to be larger than the Regular 8mm. This enables Super 8mm to capture more details. Physically, Regular 8 mm can be differentiated from Super 8mm films through the size of its sprocket holes. The sprocket holes of Regular 8mm are larger and run the top and bottom of each frame while Super 8mm have smaller sprocket holes that are aligned at center of each frame.
In terms of usage, Regular 8mm films are shot on 16mm films and run through the camera twice. It involves running the film through the camera once and exposing half of it, and then, the film is flipped and run through the camera again to expose the second half. Upon processing, the film is split at the center and attached at the ends which make a single roll of 8mm film that’s twice the length of the original 16mm roll. Using Super 8mm films is less tedious as they load easily into a camera and are sold in ready-to-use cartridges instead of reels which require threading. Super 8mm films only run through the camera once since it is originally an 8 millimeter film.
Transferring Regular or Super 8mm to DVD requires that you inspect them for scratches and lines as well as other defects. Some of these are repairable but others are not. Films stored in humid environments are more likely to have mold, mildew or fungus on them. Usually starting at the edges, it gradually works its way to the emulsion, damaging the film in the process. The damage can be stopped with chemicals especially if is contained in the outer edges. Damage in the emulsion can also be removed but it usually ruins the film irreversibly.
Another problem that arises with decades of time is shirnkage. You can manually test for it by comparing 100 strips of the film you want to test and 100 frames of a new film or a new white leader. A Shrinkage Gauge can be loaned from the Association of Moving Image Archivists but you need to be a member. Shrinkage of over 0.8% may damage the film if loaded on a projector. 2% shrinkage means that the film cannot be salvaged even by the most skilled professionals.
Most people transfer their Regular and Super 88mm films to DVD for better and more convenient viewing. If you are still hanging on to these decades-old media, don’t wait any longer. Memories are precious so it’s best to ensure that these once-in-a lifetime events are saved on a digital format that enables you to enjoy them to the fullest and will not degrade.