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The Struggle for Standardization
One hundred years of cinema is also due to acceptance of one standard gauge.

Whereas film equipment has undergone drastic changes in the course of a century it is a little miracle that 35mm has remained the universally accepted film size.

If film had followed the same course as video, with its continuing change of systems, the development might have been delayed considerably.

In May 1889 Thomas Edison (right) had ordered a Kodak camera from the Eastman Company and was apparently fascinated by the 70mm roll of film used.
 
     
Thereupon W.K.L.Dickson of his laboratory ordered a roll of film of 1 3/8"(ca. 35 mm) width from Eastman. This was half the film size used in Eastman Kodak cameras.

It was to be used in a new type of Kinetoscope for moving images on a strip of celluloid film, which could be viewed by one person at the time. Lumière film The Lumière brothers introduced in March 1895 their Cinématographe for 35mm film, which was also used at their first public show of 28 December of that year.

Their strip of film had only one round hole per image, whereas Edison (below right) used four rectangular perforations per frame.

Lumière Film
 
Even at that time there was already a variety of widths:

54mm (2 1/8") (Friese-Greene in 1887) 54mm paperfilm (2 1/8") (Le Prince, 1888), 54mm (Skladanowsky, 1895 ),

see also Skladanowsky filmclip Skladanowski film 60mm (see right) (Prestwich, Demeney, 1893-96) Demeny Phonoscope 1893 Gaumont-Demeny Chronophotographe, 1896 38mm (Casimir Sivan/E.Dalphin, Geneva, 1896); Lee & Turner colour film, 1902 63mm (Veriscope, 1897). 65mm (Hughes Moto-Photoscope, 1897)

Also for 3" wide film 68mm (Biograph 1897 camera) 70mm unperforated experimental film, Birt Acres 1894

 

Early Filmsizes
The abovementioned William Dickson, after leaving Edison, used 2 3/4" (70 mm) for his Mutoscope & Biograph Company' productions to avert Edison's patent rights. Cameramen of this company travelled all over Europe to produce documentaries of a remarkable image quality. Widescreen also proved excellently suitable for other subjects.click for image 70mm film Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight In 1897 more than 10.000 feet of 63mm film was shot of the then famous box match between Corbett and Fitzsimmons.

One of the problems to be dealt with was the strength of the film base. Because film is pulled through the filmgate in short strokes it comes under high tension. Therefore perforations were torn time and again. Eastman overcame this weakness by doubling the thickness of the nitrate base, which was normally used for film packs from 1896 onward. (right: Skladanowski Film)
By the turn of the century film appeared to become big business. the struggle for the monopoly of the patents intensified. To avoid lengthy court cases the nine major producers of the time decided to pool their rights in the Motion Pictures Patents Company in 1909. This consortium threatened to outlaw outsiders from further film production. Despite the general outcry one favourable effect was that 35mm became standardized to Bell & Howell specifications. It was adopted a.o. by the Congrès International des Editeurs de Films in Paris in the same year. It was named standard-size stock, in Germany Normalfilm and in France pélicule format standard.

Eastman Kodak became the chief film supplier. This does not imply that no further attempts were being made to introduce other gauges. The standard size was besieged continuously for reasons of economy, projection quality or aesthetic design.

Amateur Film Sizes
A fierce competition raged in the amateur market. Economy and dimensions were the chief ingredients. The public had to be won over by relative inexpensiveness. Amateur film was usually cut from 35 mm professional raw stock , that was produced in large quantities and therefore economical to buy. The film was cut in two or three lengths - the substandard size, or "Schmalfilm" in Germany.

The first attempt was demonstrated in England by Birt Acres in 1898. His camera, projector at the same time, the Birtac, used 17½ mm size with perforations on one side. Right: The Birtac.The Biokam A few months later in 1899 followed by the Biokam (see photo and filmframe) (for £ 6.6/-), also in 17½mm
It was not a success, a.o. because of the proficiency needed to produce acceptable results. In the same year J.A.Prestwich introduced 13mm equipment, but little was heard of it since.

Ernemann Kino II More succesful was Heinrich Ernemann, who introduced in 1903 the Kino I. It used the same film as the Biokam. This apparatus could also be used for both taking and projecting pictures - a combination which has been experimented with for years without much success, lately by the American Wittnauer Cine-Twin 8mm set. In 1900 Gaumont-Demeny ventured with an unusual size: 15mm, with center perforation. The Chrono de Poche did not make it either. Nowadays it is a rarity. In the same year another French firm introduced the Mirograph which used an equally odd size: 20 mm. It had on one side notches instead of perforations. I have yet to see one single specimen.

In the United States the first projector using non-standard film appeared around 1902. This home cinema used a carbide lamp. It was called the Vitak and used 17,5mm film. A few years later another projector appeared with a similar appearance. It was the Ikonograph, using 17,5mm film with a large center perforation. In 1923 11,5mm was re-introduced in the USA with the Duplex projector.

Safety Film
In 1897 a fierce fire destroyed the cinema pavillion of a charity bazar in Paris, which took the lives of 124 people. It is no surprise that an immediate search was opened for a replacement of the highly inflammable cellulose nitrate stock. In 1908 the first non-flam acetate film was marketed. It took decennia of perfection before it could supplant the old stock. Only in 1950 the tri-acetate film could be considered equal to nitrate film.

However, for amateur films it was employed right after its invention.

In 1912 Edison introduced the Home Kinetoscope for safety film. It employed yet another size: 22mm. It had three rows of images sized 4 x 6mm, separated by two rows of perforations. Right: 22 mm Home Kinetoscope
One column of images was cranked foreward, the middle row backward, and the third row forward again. A camera was never produced. Films from 10 to 15 meter lengths in special containers were for rent from Edison depots or by mail. Home Kinetoscope show (click) 22mm Ozaphane film Ten years later in 1922 Sté Gallus introduced a projector, the Cinebloc, using the same size of film in a different manner. It used double-sided perforated 22mm Ozaphan cellophane film. Of the Cinebloc little was heard of either since. (Left: Ediframe)

28 mm
Pathé Kok In 1912 Pathé introduced with far more success a 28mm size for safety film. The width deviated in order to prevent flammable normal sized film be used for the projector, the Pathé Kok (see image). 28 mm film In France the film had on the left side three perforations per frame and on the right side one (see image). The single right side perforation was to make framing unnecessary.

New Premier Pathescope When during WW1 imports from France into the U.S.A. came to a halt Victor introduced their Safety and Home Cinema projectors for 28mm films perforated with three perforations per frame on both sides. Victor 28mm projector Pathé's distributor W.B.Cook designed a completely new motorized projector, the New Premier Pathescope.

Not many were sold, however. Keystone and other manufacturers also introduced a 28mm projector, but reverted soon again to the 35mm size. The Pathé Kok projector
(The name was taken from from the newly patented logo of a cock) was equipped usually with a dynamo. So it could be used on the not yet electrified countryside. At the same time 28mm cameras were marketed. The emphasis was on showing theatrical films copied from the large film library of Pathé, however. Initially the new size seemed to do well and was accepted as a standard size for the home cinema.

By 1918 10.000 projectors were sold. The projector enjoyed quite some popularity. In the United States 28mm was accepted as a standard size for portable film projectors by the Society of Motion Picture Engineers. 935 Titles were for rent.

Later developments made the format decline in popularity. Yet the Kok projectors are a showpiece in a collection nowadays, especially so because of its splendid design resembling a robust old-time sewing machine.

Glass and Semi-Gramophone Records
Besides emulsion on film base experiments were carried out with celluloid and glass plates. There was still a fierce competition between the magic lantern with its non-inflammable glass slides and the vulnerable film stock. As early as 1890 Rudge projected moving images from glass plates for the Bath Photographic Society.

In 1892 Demeny followed with an apparatus named, the Phonoscope, with which a glass plate with 18 photographs of a man saying "je vous aime" could be projected.
In 1897 E.&H.T. Anthony in troduced their Spiral camera projector exposing 200 images on a glass plate. (Above Left) In the same year the Bettini Brothers introduced their 'Plattenkinematograph' recording 576 images on a glass plate.

In 1898 Leo Kamm used for his Kammatograph a round glass plate of 30 cm width on which 350 to 550 images were registered in spiral form. Bettini plattenkamera Germany, around 1900, 576 images on photographic plate.

The Cinéphot of Huet & Cie. introduced in 1904 used a double magazine with 2 x 24 frames on a disc of 6". The French Olikos of 1912 employed a rectangular 9,5 x 9cm glass plate on which 12 rows of 7 images each were registered. A similar apparatus was the French Le Seul using a glass negative of 9 x 12 cm The American Urban Spirograph of 1915, apparently inspired by the popular gramophone, used a celluloid disc with 1200 frames.

Each disc had a projection time of two minutes. A disc library with hundreds of titles was to be made available. It is doubtful whether it ever came that far, because nothing was heard more of the venture after some time. The Polish inventor Kazimierz Proszynski devised around 1915 an amateur camera/projector, the Oko, for 12cm film. Miniature images were arranged horizontally in rows of fifteen. The film was projected from left to right, providing a 20 minutes film show from 3 feet of film. All these curious attempts make a fine hunting field for the collector nowadays.

Other Formats
In 1915 the Duplex Corporation proposed an economical use of the 35mm film size, by splitting the frame up in two halves and copying existing 35mm films on to 35mm stock without splitting the film up. Special Duplex projector lenses were to be made available to project the 10 x 19mm half frame onto the screen.

Neuf-Cinq (nine-five)
After thirty years of experimentation with different widths in 1922 one was marketed which stood a better chance. In December 1922 Pathé introduced its home cinema, Le Cinéma chez soi, called the Pathé Baby. Unspliced 9,5mm film Between the perforations of 35mm film three rows of 9,5mm were slit (see image).

The projector came first. Its transportation mechanism was almost identical to the Lumière Cinématograph of 1895. The apparatus projected a steady image of amazing clarity considering the lamp of 6 Watt. Cassettes with lengths of 9 or 15 meter 9,5mm film could be bought or rented from depots. These films stood out by their great definition.

They were reduced from Pathé's considerable 35mm archive. Subjects included newsreels, documentaries, comedies and feature films. Some were colored by a stencil imprint method. An ingenuous system was used to prolong the projection time.
Right: Pathe Baby Set

By means of notches in the film a mechanism was set into motion in the projector by which certain images - titles or close-ups -
could be frozen for a few seconds. Pathé Baby set In 1923 a camera with hand crank was marketed. It being small in size, handy and economical, made it popular in a short time. It was for the first time that amateur film gained a wider acceptance.

It is estimated that some 300.000 projectors were sold. What happened to all of them is another matter. They are not that often being offered for sale nowadays. As a result of later developments the size never became popular in the U.S.A. In Europe it was.

Even in Japan imitations of 9,5mm movie cameras and projectors were manufactured before the war (Cine Rola). In 1938 9,5mm sound film was introduced with the Pathé Vox sound-projector. It may come as a surprise to some but 9,5 mm still has a following.
Cameras and projectors are still manufactured, or more precisely, modern equipment is being converted to this size. Films are still re-perforated by some firms and developing facilities are available, given enough patience. Internationally 9,5mm fans form a closely knit community holding yearly global gatherings. The best nine-five films of that year are projected then.
Left: Unspliced 9.5mm Film

Sixteen Millimetre
Kodak could not lag behind Pathé. John Capstaff of the Kodak laboratories had already been experimenting with another size. They had come to the conclusion that 10mm was the minimum image width for acceptable quality. Perforations on both sides would occupy another 6mm, making a total of 16mm. This gauge had the additional advantage that flammable 35mm stock could not not be slit in half for amateur use. In 1923 16mm was introduced.

In the battle for the amateur market Pathé boasted that its size was cheaper because of its economical use of the film width. Its prices suited all(?) purses. In their sales' slogans Pathé boasted that 9,5mm had almost the same frame size of 16mm at the price of 8mm.

Kodak opposed that middle perforations could cause stripes over the image. Moreover if the projector claw failed to hit the perforation accurately the images could easily be damaged. The grain quality of 16mm was better. Kodak introduced with 16mm a reversal developing process with variable second exposure.

It did away with the procedure followed so far to have negative film copied onto positive stock. As a result the costs were reduced to only 1/6 of the negative/positive process. In later years a sound track was added on one side of the film, sacrificing one row of perforations. It was accepted as an SMPE standard in 1932.

17.5 Millimetre

Split 35mm had always been popular as an alternative gauge. The American Sinemat camera/projector used it with perforations on one side in 1915.

Two years later the Movette camera (Right) and projector appeared for non-flammable 17,5mm stock. It had round perforations on each side. In the twenties Pathé, when considering a new size of film for projectors used for shows in places in the country where no cinema was operating, also opted for 17,5mm. An optimum use of the film width was obtained by expanding the image and reducing the size of the perforations on both sides.
Rural 17,5 mm The Pathé Rural was obtainable from 1926. Pathescope, Great Britain, followed with the Pathé Rex projector only in 1932. At the same time a film library was made available with well-known films of that era. In 1932 sound film was introduced - the sound track replacing one row of perforations as in 16mm.
Although 17,5mm en joyed some popularity before the war - it was used in 4823 cinema's in France - it disappeared in Great Britain in 1939. In France in the first war years as the German occupation power did not permit off-gauge films be shown for censorship reasons. 8mm bootlace Kemco camera In 1930 Kodel pioneered in the United States with the idea to reduce film costs drastically by a yet more economical use of the 16mm width with an ingenuous mechanism they succeeded in inserting 4 images on the surface of one 16mm frame.

Besides the Kemco Home Movie camera a dual size projector was introduced for 16mm and 1/4x16mm. The death blow was given to this attempt when Kodak introduced 8mm film in 1932. 16 Mm was given twice the number of perforations. First one half of the film was exposed. Thereafter the reel was turned and the other half was shot.
After processing the film was slit in the middle and the two 8mm halfs spliced together.
In this way as many frames were available on the 25ft small reel as on 100 ft 16mm film. Because changing reels in the middle proved to be cumbersome a number of manufacturers introduced straight 8mm wound on 50 ft reels (Univex, Bell & Howell), or in cassettes (Agfa). Because of the lack of uniformity resulting in limited availability straight 8mm did not catch on. (Right: Movette Film)

Standard 8/Super/Single 8/Super 16
1932 marked the introduction year by Eastman Kodak of the revolutionary 8mm film gauge, known as Double Run 8mm or Double 8mm movie film (also as Double Regular 8mm, Regular 8mm, Standard 8mm or Normal 8mm). This film gauge was clearly based on its 16mm big brother, and had an additional sprocket hole added, with a frame size 1/4th that of 16mm film. The film was exposed on one half its width, and then turned over for a second exposure pass on the remaining side. After processsing, Double 8mm film was slit and spliced together to yield double the length of film that you started out with, now 8mm wide. 25ft Spools were the normal standard size which yielded 50ft of film approximately after processing. Eight millimetre also underwent a transformation in 1965. The frame image was enlarged by 50% by using smaller vertical perforations. The so called super 8 film was supplied in 50' 8mm cassettes (having a striking resemblance to Meopta cassettes introduced years before).

As from 1973 with magnetic sound stripe. Fuji attempted to introduce a far better conceived single 8 mm system but could not compete with Kodak.

Right: Double Super 8mm & Super 16mm Film

For semi-professional use double super 8 was supplied in the manner of standard 8mm on 16mm 100 ft. reels. It gave far better results because the film passed through the precision film gate of the camera instead of that of the magazine. In addition to the larger frame size and the improved emulsion super 8 compared well with 16mm of the fifties. 8mm film was also briefly available as Straight or Single 8mm film on tiny 30ft spools, but this wasn't as popular. Later magazine film and cameras were made which also used the 16mm width principle but in an easier to use magazine. Some cameras such as the BOLEX H-8, allow use of 25ft, 50ft, or 100ft film spools yielding double those lengths after processing. This made home movies affordable for practically anyone compared to operating 16mm cameras. 1965 was the introduction year by Eastman Kodak of the newest film gauge known as SUPER 8mm. This new film is also 8mm wide, but has smaller sprocket holes and thus an approximately 25% larger image area over Regular or Normal or Standard 8mm film. (Left: Elmo Super 8 Camera)

[It was claimed to be 50% larger, but this is based on projector gate cropping standards, not actual image size on the film]. Also the film is a full 50ft in length as is loaded into a simple loading plastic cartridge for easy use by anyone. Super 8 has always been identified by it's simple to use 50ft cartridge, but it was also available from 1975 to recently in a special 200ft cartridge for longer filming times to be used in certain specially made Super 8 cameras accepting this larger cartridge. Also, another similar format known as Double Super 8mm uses a principle similar to that of Double Regular 8mm, that is, film that is 16mm wide but with the Super 8 perforations and run thru the camera exposing each half, then to be slit and joined after processing.

1966 was approximately the time frame that FUJI Photofilm Corporation in Japan introduced their own Super 8mm type format, called SINGLE- 8mm. This film is dimensionally identical to that of Kodak's Super 8mm, but on a polyester/mylar base versus Kodak(& others that made Super 8mm film) use of Triacetate filmbase. The film, taking up much less space due to its 1/3rd less bulk, is made in a B-shaped Single-8 cartridge, which is incompatible with Super 8 cameras. Their design uses a camera pressure plate compared to Kodak's Super 8 which uses a built-into-the-cartridge pressure plate. FUJI was the main maker of Single-8 cameras, but a couple others did produce limited runs of Single-8 using cameras: ELMO DUAL-FILMATIC C-200(used both Super 8 and Single-8 if you had both special magazines), ELMO TRI-FILMATIC C-300(used Super 8, Single-8, Double Regular 8mm, and Double Super 8mm if you had all four special magazines), Konica and perhaps a couple others(?). Single-8 film will run in a Super 8 projector and vice-versa....although smaller diameter take up spools were made. This film is only made in 50ft cartridges, only in silent (Fuji discontinued sound film as of 1 Mar 99) cartridges. Available only in two Color Emulsions: R25(ASA 25 Daylight) and RT200(ASA200 Tungsten/ASA 130 Daylight w/85 Filter).

The 16mm used by professionals was given a boost by the introduction of super 16 mm in 1971. The 16mm image was enlarged by using also the space normally taken up by the sound track. This film size is excellently suitable to be blown up to 35mm. Because of its widescreen dimensions it lends itself perfectly for modern televion systems, like Pal Plus. There are suggestions to enlarge the image size even further by introducing vertical perforations similar to those used in super 8mm. In spite of its advantages nine-five lost field. Kodak had acquired Pathé in the late twenties. It had no interest in pushing that size actively. The supremacy of 8 and 16mm lasted for a considerable number of years. Pathé made a last attempt to hook on to the popularity of widescreen in the fifties by introducing a duplex and monoplex format in 1955. 9,5Mm was double perforated and split in the middle to a 4 3/4mm size which was to be projected horizontally in widescreen. It was an ill-conceived idea. The public showed no interest at all. Few cameras and projectors were sold. The venture was abandoned soon and forgotten in no time.



Frame of 'Oklahoma' in Todd-AO - 65mm wide negative printed onto 70mm color positive.
Widescreen
As stated before, widescreen became popular in the fifties. However, it was proceeded by various attempts in the past, even in the nineteenth century as we have seen before, followed by:
1900 - 75mm Wide Film of Lumière
1900 - 70mm Cinéorama of Raoul Grimoin-Sanson
1914 - 70mm Panoramica (of Filoteo Alberini)
1926 - 63,5mm Natural Vision, R.K.O.
1929 - 70mm Grandeur of Twentieth Century Fox
1930 - 56mm Magnafilm Paramount
1930 - 70mm Realife, M.G.M.
1930 - 65mm Vitascope Warner Bros.
All these ventures did not last for much longer than a year. In the fifties another series of attempts were made to introduce large film sizes for widescreen. To name a few:

1954 - 65mm Todd-AO click for picture of camera
1955 - 55,625mm Cinemascope-55
1956 - 65mm Super Panavision

70 mm film In the seventies followed IMAX (1970), OMNIMAX (1973), Cinema 180 and others with horizontal position of frames on 65mm negative film. Special theatres were built to accomodate the projectors and ultra wide screen.

Specially built projectors were needed because the film could not be pulled through anymore by claw. In the Imax system it is transported by a wave motion. Thanks to the air pressure gate precision projection on a 180º 100 ft. width screen have become possible.

This article was published originally in Dutch in the quarterly of the Fotografica Society, Netherlands, in 1996.
 

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