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Does my Film have Sound?

By Dillon Wallace

One of the biggest questions surrounding old film reels – besides wondering what bygone era footage is on them in the first place – is whether or not they have any sound. It’s a common question that surrounds the likes of vintage reels, like 16mm, 8mm and Super 8 film, largely because cameras back in the day weren’t always equipped with audio recording ability.

As a result, the chances of your old film reels having sound is probably unlikely, but enough with the guessing game, here’s a quick and easy way to determine if your old film has sound.

16mm Film

The majority of classic 16mm film was shot without sound. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t double check. If your 16mm film has sprockets on both sides of the reel, it’s a silent film. However, if your 16mm film has a sprocket on one side and a yellowish or rust colored strip along the other edge of the reel, then chances are high you’ve got audio. Why? Because this strip denotes the magnetic portion where the audio is stored, running along the reel. For 16mm film, this magnetic strip is located on the opposite side of the sprockets.

8mm Film

After 16mm film, came the reign of 8mm – a smaller and more affordable film option. The film was eerily similar to 16mm in a lot of ways, but of course, it was only 8mm wide and its magnetic strip was on the same side of the sprockets.

To check whether or not your 8mm film contains audio, look for a yellow or rust colored magnetic strip that runs along the edge of the reel on the sprocket side from top to bottom.

Super 8

If 8mm was the more affordable alternative to 16mm, then Super 8 was the film responsible for putting cameras in the hands of the masses. It was so accessible and easy to use that Kodak even marketed it with the slogan “So easy a kid can use it.” But that doesn’t help you with knowing whether your film has sound or not, so let’s get into that.

As film evolved over the years, audio for Super 8 film could be attributed to a thin yellow or rust colored strip running along the edge of the reel next to the sprocket holes and a thicker yellow strip that ran along the other edge. If your Super 8 reels only have the sprockets and no thin yellow strip next to them, then unfortunately you’ve got a silent film.

Look, everybody wants sound with their old film, it just adds more to the nostalgia of the footage. But, if your old reels are silent, you can still cherish the amazing memories they hold without disappointment. And there’s no better way to do so than by preserving their legacy with Southtree digitization. Check it out!
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