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8mm and Super 8 Movie Reels

Because they were sold separately, purchasing 8mm movie reels is an important part of using any 8mm or Super 8 projector.

8mm movie reels are used both for storing 8mm films and for catching 8mm films as they are being watched. They come in a wide variety of types and materials, and which you wish to use will depend on the type of film that you are watching and the purposes to which you wish to put the reel. In general, there are three types of reels that you might wish to purchase:

  • Spools: When watching a film, your entire movie will move from the main film reel to what is called a spool. Once the film is finished, you will then “rewind” the film back onto your original reel. As a result, you only need one spool for your projector. However, most film projectors do not include a spool, largely to cut down on packaging, so you will need to purchase one separately.
  • Film Reels: If you are making your own 8mm films, you may need to have a film reel for storing and playing the film. Some film types, like Super 8, function as their own reel once printed, but other cameras, like standard 8, will require that you place the film on a separate reel once the film has been printed. These reels are good for both playing and for storing reels inside of cans.
  • Printed Reels: Usually, films that you purchase that are pre-printed are also called “reels”. These can include a number of commercially available movies, shorts and cartoons. Often, printed reels will include many reels, if you wish to watch a feature film, but might be as short as a single reel if you wish to watch a short animated feature.

To watch a movie, you will need at least two reels: the reel that holds the film and the reel that catches the film. You will also want to have a reel to store each film when you are not watching it, though these are included when you purchase printed reels.

Choosing Reels:

Depending on your needs, there are a number of different things to consider when purchasing your reels. In general, there are four different issues to consider:

  • Material: Reels come in two different materials, metal and plastic. Metal reels last longer and are more difficult to break, while plastic reels are cheaper (though they are becoming closer in price as more plastic reels break and are less affordable). If you wish to watch a movie multiple times, you should consider a metal reel for it, though if you are only planning to watch a movie a few times, a plastic reel may be sufficient. Your spool should always be metal, or it will break rather quickly.
  • Color: Color is a purely aesthetic issue, but if you are a collector, aesthetics are important. Basically, you will want to have reels that match the color of your projector in order to make your projector look attractive. If you are using an unpainted metal projector, you will want to have reels that are metal to match. However, if you are using a black or other colored projector, you can either have plastic reels made in that color or metal reels painted to that color.
  • Film Type: 8mm and Super 8 reels are different, and the same reel cannot be used for both of them. As a result, you will need to make sure that you have reels that match the type of film that you intend to use. Further, this means that if you are using a dual-format projector that can play both 8mm and Super 8, you will need to have at least two spools, one for each format of film.
  • Projector Compatibility: For the most part, reels are generic, able to be used on every projector, at least for the reel that holds the film. There are, however, exceptions, especially with older projectors. Before purchasing a projector, make sure that it is compatible with most standard 8 reels, or you may not be able to watch them. Before purchasing a reel, make sure that it is compatible with the projector that you have. This can especially be a concern with spools, as they are less likely to be compatible with multiple projectors than film reels. There are no hard-and-fast rules here, so you will just need to ask the seller about compatibility.


8mm and Super 8 film reels are usually generic, but there are differences in quality. Compatibility can also be an issue, especially with film spools.

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