|This page will help you determine which film format you have, and whether or not your
film has a soundtrack. Unwind a few inches of the film (past the leader) from the reel in order
to figure out what kind it is. Don't worry, you won't damage it by doing so!
16mm or 8mm?
16mm film is about 5/8 of an inch wide, or about the width of a penny. Often it will
have sprocket holes along both edges, though prints, sound film, and more recently
shot film will often have sprocket holes along only one edge.
|16mm Film with
Sound or Silent?
Though the vast majority of film is silent, there are several types
of film that include a soundtrack.
16mm film may have either an optical or a magnetic soundtrack.
In either case, the film will have sprocket holes along only one
edge, and the soundtrack will be along the opposite edge.
Optical sound looks like a white waveform that is part of the film.
Magnetic sound looks like a solid brown stripe that has been
glued to the surface of the film.
There is a third type of 16mm sound film called Full Coat, though
it is used only by professional filmmakers. Unlike the first two
formats, full coat 16mm film is a sound-only format, with no
images on the film. It usually accompanies a reel of silent 16mm
film. It looks like single-perforated 16mm film, except the surface
will be solid brown instead of a series of image frames.
Super 8mm film shot after August 1973 may have a magnetic
soundtrack. If so, there will be a brown stripe glued to the
surface of the film on the edge opposite the sprocket holes.
In extremely rare cases, Regular 8mm film may have a magnetic
soundtrack. If so, there will be a brown stripe glued to the surface
of the film on the edge with the sprocket holes.
|8mm film is about a quarter of an inch wide, or about the width of a pencil.
It has sprocket holes along only one edge. Super 8mm film was introduced
in May 1965, and has smaller sprocket holes than Regular 8mm film, which
fall in line with the frames rather than between them. Don't worry if you
can't tell them apart though - both 8mm formats are priced the same!
|16mm Film with
35mm film is more than an inch wide, and is
uncommon outside of professional
filmmaking. It has sprocket holes along both
edges. The example shown here includes an
optical soundtrack, though 35mm film can
also be silent or include a magnetic
16mm Full Coat
"The memories that
we had virtually
rushing back with
laughter and tears."
- Ken J.