How to Edit and Play Super 8 Film

Super 8 was a popular format for home movies throughout the sixties and seventies, and even today it has its supporters. While it was shot in cartridge format, Super 8 projectors all used standard film reels.

How to Edit Film

One thing you have to remember when looking at all your 8 mm reels holding Super 8 is that no one ever shot production film in order. Film editing has been part of the industry ever since it began, and it's something you can do to your own home movies as well. There are three main approaches to editing film.

  • In Camera: In camera editing is the most limited because it has to be done in order and before developing. Not only can you advance the film frame by frame for stop-motion, but you can also do a lap dissolve with 8 mm stock where the camera fades to black and then rewinds the film so that your next shot fades in as the previous one fades out.
  • On Film: Once your footage is developed and on the reel, you can also splice it to either connect multiple shorter pieces onto a single 400-foot reel or to re-order your shots. All you need is a splicer to cut the film and some press tapes to attach them. Always put tape on both sides so that it will join the two pieces securely.
  • Digitally: The third option is to transfer your Super 8 film to digital and then edit that way.

Playing Super 8 Reels

While Super 8 is the same width as 8 mm and can often fit on the same reels, there are differences to consider. Super 8 has a different sized hole in the reel, a larger frame size, and smaller sprocket holes. Luckily, the steps involved in playing a film aren't that difficult to follow. Just remember that you always need a leader so that you have room to load the system before you get to your film:

  • Preparation: Set up the projector and put on cotton gloves. This keeps fingerprint oil off the stock and keeps the picture looking clean.
  • Mounting: Mount the source reel on the front spindle. You may need a reel adapter if the projector is also for 8 mm.
  • Threading: Thread your stock in through the film gate and up between the lamp and the lens. Follow the specific instructions for your system.
  • Take-Up: Run the leader out and onto the take-up reel. Carefully insert the end in the slot in the center of the reel and then wind it until it's taut.
  • Play: Once you have everything else done, point your lens at the screen and turn it on.