When I first bought a cine camera, back in 1960,
I decided to buy the best camera I could and economise on the projector,
reasoning that I could always project my films through a better machine
when I could afford one but I could not shoot the films again when
I could afford a better camera.
Now I deal in cine equipment, I have had most of
my "dream-machines" pass through my hands at one time or another,
and I have kept a few of them too.
Buying a cine projector has never been an easy task,
and the choice available second-hand now, coupled with an almost total
lack of information, makes it even more difficult than it was in the
This brief guide to some of the features of 8 mm.
cine projectors will, I hope, fill in some of the gaps for the absolute
beginner. If it is of interest to experts as well, then that is a
A basic projector will show films at one speed only,
usually 16 or 18 frames per second (f.p.s.). A more complex machine
may also offer reverse projection and/or variable speed.
I believe reverse projection was little more than
a sales gimmick and, while it may be very funny to see Baby crawling
backwards, I do not see it as an essential feature. I know there are
other people who disagree with me.
Variable projection speeds can be useful sometimes,
and is probably essential if you are planning to copy your home movies
onto video tape yourself. I have also used it when I took a film with
a camera which was running slow; this has the effect of speeding up
motion on the screen, and variable speed allowed me to correct the
effect. I have to say that in over thirty years of filming, this has
only happened to me once, and I do not think it can be used as sole
justification for insisting on variable speed.
Films should ideally be shown so that the picture
fills the screen; choose a screen size to suit your room. A big screen
with a little picture in the middle of the screen, surrounded by acres
of white space is not ideal. The picture size you can obtain is dictated
by the distance between the projector and the screen and the focal
length of the lens.
A basic projector may have a fixed focal-length lens.
This will be adequate for most purposes, but it may be necessary to
move the projector to get a good-sized picture on the screen.
A better machine may have a better quality fixed
focal length lens, or it may have a zoom lens. Like a zoom lens on
a camera, a zoom projection lens allows the focal length to be changed,
making it possible to change the size of the picture on the screen
without moving the projector or the screen.
A zoom lens is also useful if the machine is to be
used in different venues, for example to give film shows to clubs.
Most people will find a 50 w. lamp is quite adequate
for their projection requirements. Anyone planning public shows should
consider a machine that takes a 100 w. lamp.
The most important thing to check about the lamp
though is not the wattage but the availability and replacement cost.
Some lamps (although not as many as many people think) are no longer
available, while others are made in very small quantities and therefore
are very expensive. Check the lamp price before you commit to a machine;
it could be the difference between £50 and £5.
To reduce the likelihood of your needing a new lamp
too often, never move the projector when the lamp is warm. Do not
jar the projector when the lamp is warm either. I always try to leave
the projector undisturbed for half an hour, to give it plenty of time
to cool right down (and I hardly ever have a lamp blow).
After a film has been projected, it must be rewound
onto the original reel (like rewinding a video tape). A few projectors
do not have powered rewind. This can be an advantage, I think, as
it means the rewind speed can be controlled, reducing the possibility
of damage to the film. I usually rewind my films as soon as I have
shown them, while I know some people prefer to show one film after
another and do all the rewinding later.
Most projectors have a maximum reel size of 400 ft.
This is adequate for most purposes. A 400 ft. film runs for about
30 minutes, at 18 f.p.s. Some package films may come on larger reels
though, and if you are interested in package films you may prefer
to find a machine which takes larger reels. However, I believe that
larger reels than 400 ft. produce much more scratching of the film
This is a controversial one. I do not think it makes
much difference, but I know there are people who believe that a camera
and a projector should be matched so that if the camera has a single
frame separating the claw (which advances the film) and the gate (where
the exposure is made), then the projector must also have a single
frame separation. The argument is that if this separation is not matched,
the picture may be less steady and therefore look less sharp. I have
rarely noticed any difference, and I use all sorts of different cameras
and projectors. Most manufacturers have a single frame separation
but a few - for example Zeiss Ikon - have two frames separation.
If you have sound films then you will need a sound
projector. Unless you are making sound films, you do not need a projector
with recording facilities. The main use of a sound projector is for
showing professionally-produced copies of Hollywood films, which are
Standard-8 films cannot be projected on a Super-8
machine and vice-versa. If you have films in both gauges, you could
get a dual gauge projector. Most dual-gauge projectors are engineered
to give better quality on Super-8 and, although quality is acceptable
for Standard-8, better quality is almost always obtainable from a
Single-8 has the same specification as Super-8; only
the cassette and film base are different. Super-8 machines will therefore
also project Single-8 films.
Some projectors require special parts to effect the
change from one gauge to another but most have a simple changeover
switch. If this matters to you, then check before you buy.
A TV-style projector has an integral back-projection
screen. The unit may be stood on a table and two or three people can
gather round to watch the film. The screen is usually about the size
of a small television screen, though the picture is not as bright
- subdued lighting helps.
I like using a TV-style projector for speed and convenience
but they do not give the big, bright picture obtainable with a conventional
projector and a beaded screen. TV-style projectors also tend to have
a more restricted maximum reel size, sometimes as little as 200 ft.
They are alright for viewing the 50 ft. film when it comes back from
being processed, but that's all. Illumination of the back-projection
screen seems even, but there will be found to be a central bright
spot if you try to use one for video copying.
It is unwise to try to get too large a picture in
the home. Many projectors will easily give a good six-foot-wide picture
in a really dark room, which is fine at a show for a large audience
in a hall, but with close proximity in the lounge, the limitations
of 8 mm. begin to show. Restrict your picture to 3 feet wide, and
you will have a sharp, bright, contrasty result.
The table below is for Standard-8 projectors.
Projector lens focal length
Screen size:- 40" x 30"
50" x 40"
60" x 45"
80" x 60"
The formula used is (picture width x focal length of projection lens)
divided by 0.172, plus focal length of projection lens.
There are many excellent Standard-8 machines around.
In my opinion the very best is the Paillard Bolex M8, but it is hot
and noisy, and lamps are expensive. There are several machines in
a slightly lower category: Bolex 18/5, Bauer, Noris, Zeiss Ikon, Bell
& Howell, etc., and the Eumig P8 models abound and give a bright
if slightly inferior picture.
For Super-8 or Single-8 some very high performance
machines were made in the 1970s, but these are rarely seen secondhand
today. Many popular brands emanate from the same factory, notably
Silma of Italy, and Chinon of Japan; they are usually competent projectors.
Many Eumig projectors will be seen, most of them still capable of
giving good service. My favourite Super-8 projectors (did you guess?)
were made by Paillard of Switzerland; production of these ceased about
1970 when Eumig took over Paillard. These old machines are now somewhat
unreliable, but give superb results when working.
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