Super 8 mm Film History

In the spring of 1965, a revolutionary new movie film format was introduced and the world of movie-making hasn’t been the same since. Home movies suddenly became accessible to the masses much the same way that the Brownie camera made still photography available. Here’s how it all started:

1923
This is when the story of practical "home movies" really began. 35mm film was the standard for theatrical releases but it was cumbersome, expensive, and dangerous due to its flammable nature. The 16mm "Cine Kodak" Camera, used by advanced amateurs, weighed about 7 pounds, had to be hand cranked at two turns per second during filming, and was cost prohibitive.

1932
"Cine Kodak Eight" format was introduced. Utilizing a special 16mm film, which had double the number of perforations on both sides, the filmmaker had to run the film through the camera in one direction then open the camera and reload and expose the other side of the film. After processing, the lab slit the film lengthwise down the center and spliced one end to the other yielding 50 feet of finished 8mm movie film.

1950s
Despite the challenges, 8mm home movie cameras were becoming a common sight on vacations and at family parties and special events.

1965
Kodak introduced the Super 8mm format, which included film, cameras and projectors. Cheaper and more convenient than previous formats, this is what really brought movie-making to the masses. Cartridge loading eliminated threading the film and was virtually foolproof. Made out of plastic, it meant no more jamming, which was a common issue with the 16mm Cine-Kodak magazine. And the entire 50-foot cartridge could be shot without interruption.

The cartridge itself provided information to the camera about the speed (ASA) of the film as well as filter information for black-and-white products. Precision notches were set at specific points on the edge of the cartridge, activating mechanical or electronic switches in most Super 8 Cameras, most of which were built with battery-powered motors, eliminating the need to wind a spring-driven transport.

1973
In 1973, Super 8 film was made with a magnetic full coat strip on the side of the film that made it possible to record sound along with the image.

It’s fair to say Super 8mm film revolutionized amateur filmmaking. With its unique aesthetic quality, it continues to be used in the film community for short films, commercials and music videos. You might even say that all those home movies were just precursors to the picture-taking millennials of today!