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How Do I Know if My Film Is 8mm or 16mm?

By Dillon Wallace

Whether you’ve actually watched old film reels firsthand or not, you probably at least know it comes (more like came) in several different formats –– 65mm, 75mm, 35mm, 16mm, and of course, 8mm, just to name a few.


However, even if you know about all the formats, do you really know how to identify them? If your grandpa dropped a box of old film reels in front of you, could you easily point out which format was which? Chances are, probably not, and that’s okay. In fact, that’s why we’re here to help you “Know if My Film is 8mm or 16mm,” since those are the two most popular film formats around. They’re also the two film formats we can help you digitize!


16mm Film

The easiest way to identify any film format would be to simply measure the width of the film, but let’s say you don’t have a ruler handy. How else can you identify which film format you’ve got between the two? Well, for starters, if you’ve got a box with both formats, then the fatter film is obviously going to be 16mm, since it’s literally twice the width of 8mm. Invented in 1923, 16mm film was marketed as a cheaper alternative to 35mm film, particularly for amateur film makers. While it was appreciated as a more affordable alternative to 35mm, 16mm is often referred to as sub-standard film by the industry. However, that didn’t stop two critically acclaimed movies from being filmed on the “sub-standard” format as both the cult classic, This Is Spinal Tap and the six-time, Academy Award-winning The Hurt Locker were both filmed using 16mm film.


It’s easy to identify 16mm film because unlike it’s 8mm counterpart, it may have sprockets on both sides of the film. If it does, then it’s 16mm and it’s a silent reel. However, 16mm film can have sound, which is best noted by the rust-colored magnetic strip running along the edge of the reel. Unlike standard 8mm film, this sound strip is on the opposite side of the holes. 16mm film was produced by a variety of manufacturers back in the day, including Kodak, Agfa, Fuji and several others. The format is still used today by some professional film makers for its raw and authentic appeal.


8mm Film

If you have a collection of film reels at home, or your grandparents do, chances are extremely high that the film is standard 8mm or Super 8mm, the latter iteration of standard 8mm film.


The Cine Kodak Eight was a camera released in 1932 by Eastman Kodak, and it was the first camera to use regular (standard) 8mm film. The best way to identify 8mm film is to take note that it only has sprocket holes on one side of the strip.


As for identifying Super 8mm film, the sprocket holes were made even narrower, which allowed the frame size of the film to be larger, increasing image quality and sharpness. If your 8mm film has sound, you’ll be able to tell by the brown magnetic stripe that runs the length of the film strip on one or both sides. And if that still doesn’t determine it for you, then check out the reels themselves. Super 8mm reels will have a significantly larger center hole in the reel than standard 8mm.


Whether you’ve got 16mm or a version of 8mm film, the important thing to know is that we can help you preserve them through our trusted and professional digitizing service. It’s the only way to ensure that your memories stay with you for generations to come!

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