The History of the Film Reel:
The history of film dates back to at least the 1890’s. There isn’t an exact defined date that film reels were invented. Movies were just a single scene and only about a minute long. Most movies were silent films unless there was a live band accompaniment.
In 1897 the pan shot was first invented. Before, cameras were stationary, so you had to move the entire camera and tripod to get any kind of movement. This is where the word pan comes from – panorama is the name of a shot made with a panning camera.
Technical Specifications for Film Reels:
The number of lines of resolution on a film reel determines how detailed and defined the film is. For example, a standard video may have a horizontal resolution of 480 lines, while a high-definition video has 1080 lines. An 8mm film reel has a maximum horizontal resolution of around 900 lines. This resolution is very good, considering the age of most 8mm films. When you get your film digitized, the resolution and quality will be preserved by the technicians handling the film, and you will receive digital copies of the film that retain or improve the quality of the original.
Conversion Options for Film Reels:
Film can, in fact, be transferred to DVD through digitization. You can digitize your film at home using a film-to-video converter, or you can hire a digitization service. At-home converters capture a projected film on camera and convert the projected film into a digital video file, which is then saved to a memory card. Film-to-video converters are costly, and unless the wall which you are projecting your film onto is pristinely clean, your digitized video will be dull and have poor contrast. Even if the conditions are just right, these at-home converters usually produce a digital version of lesser quality than the original film.
The better option, which is to hire a digitization service, allows you to give the entire process over to a team of professionals with the expertise to digitize your film to the highest-quality possible. These digitization companies, such as Legacybox, have specialists who handle film every day and who are equipped to take care of delicate film and produce a great digital copy. Legacybox can digitize 8mm and 16mm film to digital video or DVD or both, depending on your preferences.
FAQ's for Film Reels:
Q: Does 8mm film have sound?
A: 8mm film was invented shortly after the first movie with sound, The Jazz Singer, was produced. Because of this, 8mm film does not usually have sound. Very rarely, an 8mm film strip will have sound, and there is a very easy way to tell if your 8mm film is one of these rarities. If your 8mm film has sound, it will have a yellowish or rust-colored magnetic strip on the top or the bottom of the film. This is the audio strip, running alongside the reel next to the sprockets.
16mm film also rarely has sound, and if it does, its rust-colored audio strip will be found on the opposite side of the sprockets. If a Super8 film strip has sound, it will have a thick yellowish audio strip on one side of the film and a thinner yellowish strip on the other side.
Q: How long does 8mm film last?
A: Under ideal storage conditions, 8mm film can generally be expected to have a lifespan of around 70 years. Ideal storage conditions differ depending upon the type of film. According to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, the best temperature for storing modern polyester black and white films is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. For black and white acetate-based film, the ideal temperature for storage is 35 degrees Fahrenheit. All color films should be stored at 35 degrees Fahrenheit to slow down the fading process. The ideal relative humidity for storing all types of film is 35% +/- 5%.
If you do not have access to storage conditions such as this, films can typically survive for decades in stable environments that are not too hot or cold, or too dry or wet.
The absolute best way to preserve film, however, is to have it digitized by a service like Legacybox. With digitization, you need not worry about film lifespan or storage conditions.
Q: How many feet is an 8mm film reel?
A: Depending on the size of the reel, the length of an 8mm film reel will change. This table provides an easy cheat sheet for 8mm reel length.
3” reel (50 feet)
4” reel (100 feet)
5” reel (200 feet)
6” reel (300 feet)
7” reel (400 feet)
At Legacybox, we can fit up to 1500 feet of film onto a DVD, which is about two hours of playback. That’s quite a bit of film on just one DVD!
If you’re looking to digitize your film but your film is fairly lengthy, you need not worry. Unlike some other digitization services, Legacybox does not charge by foot for digitization. Instead, we charge by reel, which saves you money.
How to Store Film Reels:
Film reels are different in the fact that they preserve better if you can refrigerate or freeze them! Not in the same refrigerator or freezer that your dinner is in (seriously), but a refrigerator or freezer in the garage with nothing else in it would be a great place. Make sure they’re secure in their cans before freezing. Be sure to allow 24 hours at room temperature before trying to play your film.
Some humidity is actually good for film reels. Somewhere between 30 and 50 percent is ideal.
Certified protective cases should be used when possible. Anything to prevent dust and other debris from landing on the film. Film reels can’t be stored air-tight containers either.
Fun Facts About Film Reels:
We thought would dig up 10 fun facts about the history of film.
1. 1890S: FILM INVENTED
This is how far back motion pictures go. The first moving picture cameras were invented towards the late 1800s, and movies were boring. They were a single scene, about a minute long, and they were silent. Except...
2. SOMETIMES BANDS ACCOMPANIED THESE MOVING PICTURES
What fun would it be sitting in a theatre while some random, everyday scenes scrolled by silently on a screen? Awkward. To make up for the lack of sound in the film, a band would play live music while the movie ran.
3. 1897: PAN SHOT DEVELOPED
This is the year that the pan shot was first invented. Before, cameras were stationary, so you had to move the entire camera and tripod to get any kind of movement. This is where the word pan comes from – panorama is the name of a shot made with a panning camera.
4. 16 FRAMES PER SECOND
This is the speed that early cameras filmed. By today’s standards it’s pretty slow. For perspective, modern 35mm cameras film at 25 FPS. If you want your mind blown, some modern video games are played at 250 FPS.
5. 13 FRAMES PER SECOND
The minimum speed that the human brain needs in order to process consecutive images as movement. Anything less than that, the human brain will process each frame as a separate picture. 16 is pretty close to 13, which is why old movies look so choppy and unnatural.
6. 1906: FIRST FEATURE LENGTH FILM
The Australian film The Story of the Kelly Gang was the first feature length film in history. It was over an hour long, and the reel length was about 4,000 feet. It was almost lost forever, but a few pieces of the film surfaced in 1975 which helped preserve some of the history-making movie.
7. 1907: FIRST MOVIE THEATERS OPENED
Before 1907, most movies were shown in traditional theaters or in carnivals. With the advent of movie theaters, the films became an attraction in themselves.
8. 11 MINUTES
A standard reel of film that runs at 25 FPS is 1,000 feet long. This 1,000 feet of film will produce about 11 minutes of footage. That means that projectionists had to change reels many times during a single movie to keep it going uninterrupted. Ask Tyler Durden what you can do with that information.