When film first came onto the scene in the late 1800s, audio could not be recorded along film strips. Charlie Chaplin and other famous actors in the early 20th century relied upon their body language and between-scene title slides to infer dialogue to film audiences. In fact, movies were totally silent until 1927!
Today, thanks to digital recording, we can record sound and video at the same time easily. This practice is still pretty new, however, and millions of folks still record on film or have film reels from the past, and it isn’t always clear whether the film has audio or not.
So, how can you tell if you’ve got sound on a 16mm, 8mm, or Super8 film reel?
In general, 16mm films of the past were shot without audio. However, there are some exceptions, and if you have 16mm film reels at home, here’s how you can tell if your reel has sound or not:
- Does the film have sprockets on each side? If so, you’ve got a silent film.
- Does the film have sprockets on one side and a yellow or rust-colored strip on the other? You just might have sound!
Although most 16mm may be silent, it is still important to check and make sure if your film has this colored strip or not. This is the magnetic strip where audio is stored, so double check and see if your film has it. You may get lucky!
8mm film is basically the same thing as 16mm film except for its significantly smaller size, and its magnetic strip is on the same side as the sprockets. For 8mm film strips (also known as Regular 8), you can tell they have audio by whether they have a yellow or rust-colored strip running along the reel next to the sprockets. This colored strip is the audio strip, just like in 16mm film.
When Super 8 film came into the picture, image quality increased significantly due to the narrower sprockets along the edges of the film which allowed for larger frames. Larger frames = better image quality. In Super 8 films, the magnetic strip is along the edge of the reel next to the sprockets, with a thicker strip is on the other side of the reel.
With Super 8 film, a reel that only has sprockets is silent. If the reel has a thin yellow or rust-colored strip alongside the reel next to the sprockets and a thicker yellow-colored strip on the other edge of the reel, then congrats! You’ve got a film with sound.
Having sound on film can make it all the more special, especially with home movies. But even if your film is silent, it can still represent a precious memory or moment from the past and hold nostalgia!
Whether it has sound or its silent, it's important to preserve these films, and the best way to do so is to get them digitized. Kodak Digitizing offers easy to choose from digitizing packages that can accommodate all of your film digitization needs. Give digitization a try with the brand that has been trusted by millions since 1888 - it’s the only way to ensure your memories will be preserved over time and can make watching and sharing your films as easy as pie.