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Martin Dew

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Home cinema was around long before VHS tapes hit the scene in the late seventies, and owning a personal screening room traces its origins back more than a century. Even during the era of Nickelodeon picture houses in the early 20th century, wealthy Hollywood execs could be found in their own darkened rooms, adjusting recliners, and kicking back for that special feature presentation. But in those early years, you would normally need to rely on expensive 35mm reel-to-reel projectors (as found in commercial cinemas) – as well as your own projectionist – to produce images in the home, so the private screening room was a rarity. Consequently, after The Great War, other more compact and manageable film formats started to emerge.
By the mid-1960s, a revolution took place in the form of Super 8mm film. Suddenly the act of beaming a favorite movie onto a living room wall was a luxury that the masses could now enjoy. The worldwide leading manufacturer of Super 8 projectors, Eumig of Austria...

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Rob W

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I was one of those Super 8 collectors back in the heyday and had full-length prints of Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Barbarella, and King Kong (1933) among others and they were all beautiful quality prints obviously printed from legitimate negatives. I drifted away from the hobby several years into VHS like so many others.

Back in the mid-2000's I was stunned to discover that the hobby had not died and Derann Films had a huge library of great titles they were still printing and selling. I got the itch back and hunted down a Eumig ST1200 in great shape and matched it with the scope lens I still had from my long gone projector. Derann were offering a scope reel of The Matrix with a major action scene as a 17 minute stand-alone (in scope) so I ordered it as my first "new" film in 20 years.

The quality was dreadful. It had been copied from a release print rather than a proper negative and was overly contrasty, minimal shadow detail and had far too many white flecks which were the result of black dirt and marks on the source print . That ended my reunion with film for good and I re-sold the projector and most of the few films I had left. I had a similar experience with a Bugs Bunny cartoon I ordered at the same time, although I can't remember if it was from Derann or not.

In fairness, Derann also released many of the Disney animated features and were provided with high-quality negatives from Disney so the final prints were from all reports superb. But the hit-and-miss issues with quality (combined with the high costs compared to DVD or blu) cured me of my Super 8 collecting itch for good.
 
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PianoPlayer

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Back in the day (early '80s), Blackhawk Films and other sellers were a gold mine (and a budget-buster) with their fun assortment of classic films and shorts.

I bought my favorite Star Trek episode ("The Menagerie," both parts) from one such seller. Cost me $250, and my family nearly had me certified nuts for such a wild purchase. But it sure was fun to watch it on the projector.
 

Worth

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How did they handle 'scope films on super-8 and 16mm? Were they squeezed, letterboxed or pan-and-scanned?
 

Martin Dew

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How did they handle 'scope films on super-8 and 16mm? Were they squeezed, letterboxed or pan-and-scanned?

If a title was sold as a Cinemascope print, it was extracted from the negative or positive squeezed master, but at 2x, so the final aspect ratio was 2.66:1. This meant that heads or feet could be lopped off on both Super 8 and 16mm! MGM also did an interesting thing on Super 8 called Cineavision which was 2.35:1 scope with black bars at the sides to prevent the head lop-off problem just mentioned.

Some releases were marketed as 'widescreen' which is what we know as letterboxed, so some scope titles were reduced to 1.85:1 or 2.0:1 with black bars top and bottom. Not sure if pan-and-scan was used but I suppose it must have been on scope titles presented as 1.33.
 

Josh Steinberg

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When I was a little kid in the mid-80s, no older than five, my parents would take me to the local public library for their story time events and they’d often show cartoon shorts and educational films in 16mm. I was fascinated by the projector and the librarians noticed, and soon taught me how to thread the film and operate it. Whenever I was there, they’d let me help. At home, I became obsessed with playing my grandparents’ home movie collections on silent 8mm film.

A few years ago, I looked into buying a 16mm projector and old prints, but I just couldn’t find a way to make it feasible given that I was living in a one bedroom apartment with pretty much every movie I’d ever want in high quality HD versions. I really wanted to find a way to justify it but I just couldn’t bring myself to go down that road - when a print of a movie could cost a hundred bucks and be of lower quality than a disc I got for five bucks, along with the extra storage space needed - but it was a reluctant sort of letting go. I felt a little better when more than one collector let me know that a lot of the 16mm things I was eyeballing were on the whole of lower quality than DVD versions made from good 35mm elements. Doesn’t make the mechanical aspect any less fun but made me feel a little better for the sanity check

If I win the lottery and could buy a house big enough to hold my dream collections, I’d love to re-evaluate.


If I were rich, I'd collect 16mm & 35mm prints, though I think even with unlimited funds, good prints are hard to come by these days.

That’s what I was led to believe in my research. There was a robust collector’s market for many years but the easy availability first of discs and then streaming in many ways made those collections mostly irrelevant to modern viewing. And not to be grim about it, but younger generations tend not to be as interested in this stuff so when some of the older collectors have passed, their heirs haven’t had the interest in continuing the hobby or the desire to sort through and sell what they’ve inherited. I can certainly understand it - if no one wants a DVD collection, what chance does an old 16mm collection have?


How did they handle 'scope films on super-8 and 16mm? Were they squeezed, letterboxed or pan-and-scanned?

All of the above, I think, depending on the title and the distributor.
 

Worth

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Five or six years ago, I spoke with a fellow who runs the local repertory theatre and tried to book 35mm prints whenever possible. Even then, he said it was becoming increasingly difficult. The distributors didn't even know what they had - they'd promise a print only to discover that they no longer had one or that it wasn't in good enough shape to run. Sometimes they'd say to just show the blu-ray.
 

Martin Dew

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I can certainly understand it - if no one wants a DVD collection, what chance does an old 16mm collection have?

I can only understand it to an extent. There is still no projected video technology that can replicate blacks and contrast like film, so there should be younger people taking interest in our old analogue world. Luckily, I do notice younger collectors coming onto the scene at the Super 8 conventions I go to.

While 4K UHD discs have gone a long way to replicate a professional Cinema DLP presentation with HDR and P3 color, as well as make catalogue titles look much more organic with more detailed grain structure (paradoxically), there is no substitute for blocking light completely to reproduce projected black on-screen. My friends at Dolby tell me they're always striving to reproduce that benchmark. Some of the Derann LPP Super 8 titles I have blow DVD - and sometimes even Blu-ray - out of the water, simply because you're viewing the entire color spectrum and contrast range. Same goes for 16mm - a premium print can be extraordinarily vivid after watching a diet of digital presentations. Small format film may not compete with BD on resolution, but it will compete on three-dimensionality and realism.

The hassles with film are the costs of film ownership, as you said, the time it takes to put on a show, wear, storage, and painstaking maintenance. If you can put up with all that, then it's just as fun a hobby as its digital cousin!
 

Worth

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If you have deep pockets, there are a large number of 16 & 35mm prints for sale on eBay.
 

3D Projectionist

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Some of us still haven't grown up! I'm still projecting reels of film in my home cinema on 8mm, 9.5mm, 16mm and Pathe 17.5mm sound. I retired my 35mm Kinoton projector just a couple of years ago after well over 50 year of reel film collecting.
In our home cinema film projection has the top spot and the 4K system sits underneath it :)

It's been a fascinating interest throughout my life including making my own films to project and perhaps the greatest thrill is projecting Star Wars full length, un molested in Scope using a Anamorphic lens and Stereo sound on the Elmo S8 projector still going strong since I took it out the box in 1983. I got into film collecting in the 1960's.

Reel film collecting is actually quite healthy with collecting events still taking place across the UK pre Karaoke Virus.
 
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OLDTIMER

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Up until around 15 years ago I projected 35mm movies at home using a 1928 model Kalee projector with a QI light source. Although ancient, the projector gave images as good as any cinema with good quality sound. I built a walled-off projection booth in a back room of the house yet was able to sit with my friends during a screening. Having only one projector meant a five-minute break every 20 minutes or so, but this gave me time to pour yet another drink for my enthusiastic audience.

In Melbourne, Australia at the time there was a group of like collectors who would share their films about. There were always plenty to run.
kalee.jpg
 

OLDTIMER

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I should have added in my posting above that my home-35mm years came after many years of collecting and projecting films since the late 1950s. This included 8mm, 16mm and even 9.5mm sound.

I was so keen that in the 1970s I moonlighted as a 35/70mm cinema projectionist. Real film projection (no pun intended) gets into your blood!
 
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