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A Guide to Cine Film Formats

Cine film sizes vary, over the years there have been a number of  film gauges. Form the diminutive 8 mm right up to 70 mm film. Each with its benefits and drawbacks.

Some gauges have stood the test of time such as 35 mm used in cinema right up until the present day. 16mm the original home movie format and also the standard for news gathering prior to the introduction of video recording. 8mm was used for home movies and today it is even used for pop music videos due to its unique look.

If you’ve discovered a reel of film in your attic and are not sure what format it is, there are certain ways you can identify them.

8 mm, Standard 8 mm and Super 8 mm

This is the most commonly used cine film format and was first developed by the Eastman Kodak Company in the era of the Great Depression and was officially released into the market in 1932. The reason behind its creation was to provide a format that could be used at home but was less expensive than the 16mm. The 3 inch diameter reel would be approximately 3.5 minutes long in duration, this would be a 50 ft reel. These were then subsequently spliced by the owner onto larger spools so could end up typically anywhere from 100 ft to 400 ft in length (a 7 inch diameter reel).

Super 8mm with sound would typically have a magnetic stripe running along the side and was a later development of this format.

16 mm Cine Film

The 16mm was introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1923 as a cheaper alternative to the 35mm which was a popular format at the time. In the 1930s, an optical sound track was added to the film which made it popular among the masses. Its popularity was also attributed to its high quality images. The 16mm was a common format used for documentation during the World War II era. The 16mm would be typically available in a 4 inch width which spanned over 100 ft. It had a single spindle hole in the keyway and perforations on both sides of the film. Film with perforations only down one side would contain either an optical or a magnetic oxide sound track. This development however was made in its later years.

9.5 mm Cine Film

This amateur film format was introduced by Pathe Freres in the 1990s. This format, which was part of the Pathe Baby amateur film system, was initially intended as a cheaper format which would provide home users with access to commercially made films. A simple camera however, was released shortly after this.

This format saw popularity mainly in Europe in the following decades and is still used by many vintage film enthusiasts today. Most of the 300,000 projectors that were produced were sold in England and France. The film reel offered better quality than the 8mm and was at par with that of the 16mm. The reel looks similar to a 16mm reel with a single keyway in the spindle. The sprocket holes or perforations however run directly through the center of the film.