The history of cine film
The invention of cinematography at the end of the 19th century paved the way for the culture we are all familiar with today. A culture where moving images are ingrained in our everyday lives, from Hollywood productions, television and more recently the images captured digitally on smartphones. For more than a century, people have been enchanted by capturing moments on screen.
Without a doubt, the most enchanting and beautiful memories were captured on cine film. From the early 1900s through to the 1960s, film and cameras became more readily available to the masses. Through 16mm cine film, 8mm cine film and 9.5mm cine film, people were first able to record special moments and share them with their friends and families. Many of these films still exist today and are a poignant memory of times past – often hidden in attics or basements, they contain a rare glimpse into the everyday lives of our ancestors.
The early days of cine film
The early days of film were an exciting time, but the technology was really only available to the more affluent masses, who were keen to try this new technology. Away from the big screens and silent movies, wealthy families across Britain, Europe and the USA were beginning to record their own home movies.
Through the memories captured on these early films, we are able to appreciate the glitz and glamour of the roaring twenties.
Here at Rutland Productions we only use high quality, German manufactured Flashscan machines for transferring cine film to DVD, Blu-Ray and a digital format.
16mm cine film
One of the early and most important pioneers in cinematography was the Kodak Company, founded by George Eastman, during World War One. 16mm cine cameras were first used by the US army during the Great War. The Kodak Company took this technology and produced 16mm cine film, allowing budding amateur cinematographer to create their own home movies. 16mm film was seen as a cheap alternative to the 35mm film that was used for big screen cinema. It was also much less expensive and unlike 35mm film, it did not contain any flammable nitrate.
In 1928, Kodak once again revolutionised the home movies industry when they started marketing their ‘Kodacolor’ 16mm cine film – the world’s first colour film. Enthusiasts could also purchase a camera known as the ‘Cine Kodak’ Camera and the Kodascope Projector. This camera was nothing like people had seen before. It weighed around seven pounds and had to be hand-cranked at two turns per second during filming. The package included a tripod to help keep the images steady. Over the next few years, new models were introduced with new improvements.
Much like any new technology, the 16mm camera was not a cheap innovation. To put the cost into perspective, it would have cost £200, while a brand new Ford car would have cost £350.
Initially aimed at the home film enthusiast, by the 1930s they were used as educational tools and for filming documentaries. They were used extensively during World War Two and the market got much bigger in the post-war years. Governments, businesses, medical and manufacturing industries created their own films. Being much cheaper that the traditional 35mm film, it was also used for television productions.
Our 16mm Flashscan system can transfer 16mm cine film to DVD, Blu-Ray and a digital format, including optical and magnetic soundtracks.
The 8mm cine film revolution – Standard 8mm
By the 1930s, America was in the depth of the Great Depression. The Eastman Kodak company developed standard 8mm as a less expensive home movies alternative to the 16mm cine film format. It was released on the market in 1932 as the ‘Cine Kodak Eight’.
8mm cine film was created by using a special 16mm film which had double the number of perforations on both sides. The film worked in much the same way as a cassette tape.
The benefit of the 8mm cine film was that it was one-quarter the size of the 16mm film. The amount of film needed to give a four minute film was much reduced. After development, the laboratory would slit the film lengthwise down the centre and splice one end to the other – yielding fifty feet of finished 8mm movies.
The 8mm film format had almost instant success. 16mm cine film continued to be used by professional film makers. Over the next twenty years, the 8mm film format became more and more common, and was in its hay-day recording special events and family gatherings throughout the 1950s.
Super 8mm cine film
The next big innovation in cine film came in the mid-1960s, when research began on developing an improved system of home movie making. Again, it was Kodak who were ahead of the trend. The new Super 8mm cine film retained the concept of cartridge-loading as the 16mm film, but instead of metal which could jam and had to be handmade, they were manufactured in plastic. The 8mm size was retained, but many improvements were made. For example, people could now load the cartridge without having to thread the film. Furthermore, no flipping of the film load was required as the entire 50ft cartridge could now be shot without interruption. The perforations were reduced, allowing people to take a wider image area (50% larger than standard 8mm film). This concept originated from the Pathé company in France, and will be discussed later in this article. Most Super 8mm cine film cameras had battery powered motors, eliminating the need for people to wind the film.
Overall, Super 8mm cine film was much more easy to use and the quality of the resulting images were much better. Super 8mm was the most popular film within the Kodak repertoire. They continued to be sold in the 1990s, and it is still possible to buy the film in some independent film shops today.
Our German manufactured Flashscan8 machine can scan and transfer both Standard 8mm cine film and Super 8mm cine film to DVD, Blu-Ray and a digital format.
9.5mm cine film
In 1922 Pathé Frères, of the French company Pathé, developed a new product as part of the Pathé Baby amateur film system – the 9.5mm film. It was initially intended to be an inexpensive format to provide copies of commercially made films to home users. A simple camera was released shortly afterwards. 9.5mm cine film used single perforations between each frame, rather than perforations along each side like the 8mm format. This allowed more of the film to be used for the image, so the 9.5mm was almost the same image area as the 16mm cine film frame.
The 9.5mm was hugely popular in Europe, with around 300,000 projectors being produced and sold in France and England. In the run up to the Second World War, it was mainly used by home film enthusiasts, who wanted to record their own films and also play commercial films at home. Pathéscope released home versions of popular films such as Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop. After the war, competition from the Kodak 8mm film hurt sales. Despite the lesser resolution of the 8mm, its popularity spread due to high levels of commercialisation and the much lower cost. In 1938, the company released optical sound, but this was interrupted by the war and was never made mainstream.
Pathéscope Ltd was bought out by its workers in 1959. In England, a new company was founded – Pathéscope (Great Britain) Ltd. The company made a new Prince camera and the Princess projector, but unfortunately they were already doomed.
Rutland Productions’ 9.5mm Flashscan will not damage your cine film when transferring it. We have already transferred hundreds of hours of 9.5mm cine film to DVD, Blu-Ray and a digital format.
Through the technological innovations by the Kodak Company and Pathéscope, we are left with a rare glimpse into the lives of our relatives over the last 100 years. From the early days of film, we have access to some of the most rich and interesting people of that time. If you are lucky enough to find old cine film footage of your family or friends stored away in your attic or hidden away anywhere in your house, we’d love to transfer it for you.
Our German manufactured 8mm, 9.5mm and 16mm Flashscan units are used specifically for the “frame-by-frame” transfer of cine film to DVD, Blu-Ray and a digital format. This eliminates the standard trademark ‘flicker’ that usually occurs when copying directly from a cine-projector and instead produces an extremely high quality film transfer. We would be delighted to talk to you about your cine film transfer project or to answer any questions you may have – please feel free to call us on 0208 397 5444 or e-mail us on – firstname.lastname@example.org.