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Author Topic: 16mm reel sizes
Daniel Macarone
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 220
From: Summit NJ, USA
Registered: Nov 2015


 - posted August 27, 2016 01:25 PM      Profile for Daniel Macarone   Author's Homepage   Email Daniel Macarone   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I am still new to the format and have sadly never watched a feature on 16mm yet. I'm curious what size reels 16mm features would usually come on and if the cue marks are the same as on the negative source. I am familiar with Super 8 400' reels having the same run time as 35mm 2000' reels and hence you will see the same cue marks, but with 16mm, is there a corresponding reel size? I know that a common size is 1600', but is this compiled from smaller reels?

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Nigel Higgins
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 531
From: Saffron walden.united kingdom
Registered: Jun 2014


 - posted August 27, 2016 02:00 PM      Profile for Nigel Higgins   Email Nigel Higgins   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi,Daniel
16mm feature films normaly come on 2 x2200ft , 2x 1600ft ,3x 1600ft ,4x1600ft etc depending on the length of the film .
I hope that helps

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Maurice Leakey
Film God

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From: Bristol. United Kingdom
Registered: Oct 2007


 - posted August 27, 2016 02:05 PM      Profile for Maurice Leakey   Email Maurice Leakey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Spool sizes for 16mm sound films are:-
400ft (11mins), 800ft (22mins), 1200ft (33mins), 1600ft (44mins), 2000ft (55mins) and 2200' (60mins).
Shorts are mounted on an appropriate sized spool and feature films are mounted on 1600ft spools.
The 2200ft size is relatively new being introduced for hour long television films.

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Maurice

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Maurice Leakey
Film God

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From: Bristol. United Kingdom
Registered: Oct 2007


 - posted August 28, 2016 02:06 AM      Profile for Maurice Leakey   Email Maurice Leakey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I forgot to mention above that there are other sizes of 16mm spools but they may be more rare.
600ft plastic, and 1800ft metal. These latter by Debrie of France.

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Maurice

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Daniel Macarone
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 220
From: Summit NJ, USA
Registered: Nov 2015


 - posted August 28, 2016 12:24 PM      Profile for Daniel Macarone   Author's Homepage   Email Daniel Macarone   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Thanks for your answers and I'm also wondering if 16mm film strips would be printed only 400' at a time.

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Maurice Leakey
Film God

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From: Bristol. United Kingdom
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 - posted August 28, 2016 02:11 PM      Profile for Maurice Leakey   Email Maurice Leakey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have never heard of 16mm film strips, but I assume you mean the printing length of a 16mm film in a laboratory. I regret that I do not have a definitive answer to that.
35mm film strips were used for education and some times for home entertainment. Often the strips were issued as 2" x 2" lantern slides.

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Maurice

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Adrian Winchester
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From: Croydon, London, UK
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 - posted August 29, 2016 09:35 AM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I can add, although it's not relevant to features, that other common 16mm spool sizes are 50', 100' and 200'. If anyone's surprised by 50', they were commonly used in the USA for TV advertisements of up to one minute.

Daniel - I imagine you ask about 400' lengths to check if 16mm is the equivalent of a 35mm feature comprising 'one reel' lengths? I believe it was the norm for 16mm Technicolor features to be compiled from 400' sections, but that otherwise isn't the case. I'm sure I have relatively modern features that don't have a single splice during a full 1600' spool. That might be more the case with polyester prints.

Regarding features on 2000' or 2200' spools, I think you're bound to find at least one splice as it's probably a collector that has spooled them that way, in order to reduce the reel changes. I've never come across a feature that a distributor has put on spools larger than 1600', I think because certain older projectors won't take a larger size.

As for cue marks, they can vary. You can find ones printed from negatives, ones punched through using a special punch and even (if you're unlucky) ones that someone has added by scraping the emulsion with something sharp! If the feature is on 2000 spools, marks may well be in the wrong places.

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Adrian Winchester

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Joe McAllister
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 177
From: London England
Registered: May 2007


 - posted August 29, 2016 10:33 AM      Profile for Joe McAllister   Email Joe McAllister   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Labs printed 16mm in various lengths. Older Technicolor prints were sometimes printed on 400' ft lengths but 800' was more common. Eastmancolour (and other similar type films were printed on anything up to 1200' lengths.
Post Nitrate 35mm reel lengths for features were usual 2000' so 800' of 16mm.
Some older B&W prints I have are in 400' lengths having been printed from the original 1000' 35mm nitrate negs.

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Always interested in privately produced amateur and home movies.

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Daniel Macarone
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From: Summit NJ, USA
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 - posted August 29, 2016 01:28 PM      Profile for Daniel Macarone   Author's Homepage   Email Daniel Macarone   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Very glad to learn about these things, thanks. Speaking of distributors, that is another thing I'm curious about- Were 16mm films available to the average consumer? Of course they were used in libraries, ARMY, etc., but would they be released for the public to purchase, the same as 8mm?

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Maurice Leakey
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From: Bristol. United Kingdom
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 - posted August 29, 2016 02:57 PM      Profile for Maurice Leakey   Email Maurice Leakey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
16mm feature films were never available to purchase in the UK, only for hire. Some film libraries offered reduced rates for "home use" of their older titles, most of which had already been shown by mobile operators in various village halls around the country, myself included.

When the Bell & Howell 601 projector was introduced in 1947 the GB (Gaumont British) Film Library issued "Movie Paks" for outright sale. These were 400ft spooled in attractive cardboard cases to "fit on your bookshelf", they were mainly titles from the US Castle Films, although a few came from the GB film library. They were priced at £7.10s.0d (£7.50).

In the succeeding years many 16mm shorts were offered for sale by various distributors but never any features.

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Maurice

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Adrian Winchester
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From: Croydon, London, UK
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 - posted August 29, 2016 10:42 PM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Some of the USA companies not linked to major distributors offered some 16mm features for sale - e.g. I currently have both the Super 8 and 16mm versions of one sold by Blackhawk. But surprisingly, some of the relatively easy to find features on 16mm are NOT ones that were officially offered for sale. I suppose the high price of new features tended to mean that the numbers sold were not enormous.

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Adrian Winchester

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Mitchell Dvoskin
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From: West Milford, NJ
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 - posted September 01, 2016 10:35 AM      Profile for Mitchell Dvoskin   Email Mitchell Dvoskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The common 16mm reel sizes here in the USA are:

400ft
800ft
1200ft
1600ft
2000ft
2200ft (same size as 2000 with a smaller center hub)

Features usually came on 1600 or 2000 foot reels.

At one time, there were numerous companies (plus a lot of bootleggers) who sold 16mm films to the public. Companies like Blackhawk, Niles, Castle, etc. There were also 16mm rental companies such as Modern Motion Picture, Films Inc., Swank, Union County Film Exchange (NJ local). The only studio's that briefly sold a limited number of titles direct to the public were Universal and Warner Brothers back in the 1970's.

Further, many public libraries here in New Jersey would loan out 16mm prints. I have fond memories of the early 1980's when I would check out features such as Yellow Submarine from the Bergenfield Public Library.

All gone now, except for Swank which now is mostly video rentals licensed for public showing in non theatrical venues.

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Steve Withnell
Junior
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From: Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, UK
Registered: Jul 2016


 - posted September 03, 2016 07:11 AM      Profile for Steve Withnell   Email Steve Withnell   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The background on the 50Ft reels was interesting - the run time is shorter than the time taken for me to thread the film!

Also my projector handbook warns that 50ft reels are not to be used with my machine. (B&H 644)

Why would that be? It will handle 2200ft reels and could understand a size limit at the top end of reel sizes, but can't figure out why a restriction at the small reel end.

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Novice maintainer of a Bell & Howell 644...

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Paul Mason
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 537
From: Aldershot, Hampshire, UK
Registered: Nov 2013


 - posted September 03, 2016 08:13 AM      Profile for Paul Mason     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Steve,
I believe the 641/642/643/644 series are only suitable for 400 ft spools and larger. The reason was not stated by Bell & Howell but is presumably the hub size of the smaller reels snatching the film off the top sprocket and losing the top loop.

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Paul.

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Steve Withnell
Junior
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From: Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, UK
Registered: Jul 2016


 - posted September 04, 2016 07:10 AM      Profile for Steve Withnell   Email Steve Withnell   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi Paul,

I think you are probably right, the bigger reels have much bigger centres than the smaller ones so turn more slowly and the film loop is much calmer(?!) than if I run a 200ft spool. Haven't tried anything less to see what happens. I have some junk film to play with, but not a small reel to try it out on.

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Novice maintainer of a Bell & Howell 644...

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Paul Mason
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 537
From: Aldershot, Hampshire, UK
Registered: Nov 2013


 - posted September 04, 2016 07:28 AM      Profile for Paul Mason     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi Steve,
In the instructions Bell & Howell say "the use of small film reels (50 or 100 ft capacity) is not recommended....short lengths of film..should be first wound on to the standard 400 ft reels before threading."
This leaves 200 ft reels in doubt. [Smile]
Oddly enough this warning was not repeated for later auto threading machines.

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Paul.

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