Here are some suggestions if you find you have 8mm or Super 8 home movies or little film gems from family or friends in need of attention. We tell how to handle, care for and preserve the equipment and the films.
View Film as Film
Supplies needed before starting
Restoring a Viewer
Restoring Movie Rewinds
Restoring a Splicer
About Take Up Reels
Restoring a Movie Projector
Testing the Restored Projector
Cautionary Tips to View Film as Film
We suggest you view your film at least once for the purpose of discovering its condition, its contents and then making a plan for its future. You'll need to be able to handle and view film as film as gently as possible. So, you'll need to find or borrow a movie film viewer, rewinds, and a film splicer for each gauge of film you're likely to be dealing with. Virtually every piece of equipment you'll find will have seen years of use or been sitting in a closet a long time.
We do NOT recommend viewing film in a movie projector except under certain extraordinary circumstances (like the last request of an aged filmmaker) and then only AFTER you have examined its condition and found it to be excellent. Projecting film that is shrunken or deteriorated will damage the sprocket holes and make it hard for any lab to do good work later. For this reason the instructions on restoring a projector come last.
SUPPLIES: Before you start restoring old hardware
The equipment may be grimy, corroded and bruised and have a power cord with cracked and peeling rubber. To restore the equipment you will need these things from a supermarket or hardware store:
To Restore a Movie Viewer
Wipe it with alcohol (It won't harm plastic or painted metal or the plastic or glass optical prism or condenser lens or screen) on a Bounty towel (the right size and little lint). Next scrub the rollers and sprocket with cotton swabs, until clean.
Now lubricate the rollers and swab the film path by applying Lemon Pledge generously with a swab. Be very careful not to get any Lemon Pledge on the prism or condenser lens. It is o.k. to wipe the viewing screen and case with Lemon Pledge on a Bounty towel to fill in fine scratches.
If the sprocket is not free-running try to work it free with an 18" length of film. Thread the film in the viewer and move it back and forth as you might a towel to dry your shoulders. It the sprocket still doesn't turn freely, put 3-in-1 oil on the head of a pin or fine sewing needle and apply it as close to the sprocket shaft as you can get. The less oil the better. Do not spray Dry Lubricant as this will leave a film on the adjacent prism. If you get too much oil on the sprocket shaft and it works its way onto the prism, clean it off with alcohol.
Fancy movie viewers use rare and expensive bulbs, most of which are still available. We find them through Wagon Photo (617-884-3738). Remove the bulb if you can. If you can't, apply some 3-in-1 Oil and wait a day. Clean the socket with alcohol, rub some Vaseline (generic is petroleum jelly is fine) into your thumb and forefinger, then wipe the bulb and replace it. If you get too much lubricant on the bulb base, it will stink when heated.
The bulb in modern design Super 8 and 8mm viewers is usually a 6 volt, 10 watt bayonnet based affair, similar to an automobile lamp (which are usually 12 volts and do not have a precisely aligned filament.) To adjust or replace this bulb you will need a fine point Phillips screwdriver and a 1" square of cardboard (cut it from the back of a paper pad). On the upper right side of the bulb is the locking screw. To adjust or replace the bulb plug in the viewer and turn on the lamp. Hold the cardboard over the bulb with your left thumb (it gets hot fast) while you loosen the locking screw. The bulb will want to pop out. Adjust a bulb by moving it in and out until the viewer screen is brightly and evenly illuminated, then tighten the locking screw. It may take a little practice as tightening the screw changes the position of the bulb.
Motor drive? If it works, you're lucky. If it doesn't it might be repairable.Or just get along without the motor drive.
Sound? Since sound film is no longer manufactured except for the Fuji system, you probably won't need the sound function. Since the film must pass over it, be sure to clean it with Lemon Pledge (it won't hurt the sound quality and may prevent your film from being scratched)
Sound recording? We have only used the Goko sound recording function, and it adds hum. Users beware. Don't spend money having it repaired.
To Restore Movie Rewinds
Some film viewers have attached film rewind arms. 8mm and Super 8 mm viewers often have plastic arms which need special care. Douse them with Lemon Pledge and let it dry. This will lubricate the plastic gears and shafts and leave a protective coating on the reel spindles.
If the rewinds are metal, use 3-in-1 Oil to the above purpose, except use Lemon Pledge on the reel spindles and their spring-loaded reel-locking pins.
Really large rewinds often have a tensioning screw. Remove the screw and squeeze as much white lithium grease (from an auto supply store) as you can into the hole. Replace the screw and wipe away the residue. Crank away, then wipe off any grease that begins to ooz out along shafts.
To Restore a Film Splicer
A fearsome topic. But the word for today is virtually any splicer can be made to work well! We mean it. What is important is that you have a splicer for each gauge of film you are working with. A 16mm splicer will do for 8mm film but not for Super 8. Clean the splicer and keep it clean. Make sure the pins fit the film you are working on. This means that if you are working with shrunken film, find a splicer, like the Minette, with pins you can adjust or bend to fit the sprocket distance.
Splicing tape may be difficult to find. If you have a tape splicer you must use mylar or polyester tape in it; office tape can be easily torn and the gum will bleed out onto adjacent wraps of film. Kodak Presstapes, Fuji, Guillotine or Ciro splicing tape are all strong. For cement splicers Kodak Film Cement is easy to obtain.
Kodak Presstapes are excellent in 16mm, but unsightly (on the screen) in 8mm and Super 8 because they tend not to end on a frameline. You can trim them down; it's labor intensive. Apply them just to the film base (the inside on a reel in normal projection position). which prevents them from buckling at the loop during projection. After application rub them down on the film with a rounded implement pressing on a clean, hard surface.
About Take-up Reels
Regular 8mm and Super 8mm is best stored on 400' plastic reels. Super 8 projectors can take larger ones, but 400' is a convenient size. They come with a plastic center insert to make them usable on the smaller regular 8mm projector and viewer splindles. We like the Gepe self threading reels. They come in "library" plastic boxes with flip-down doors that shap shut and don't lose their snap as years go by (as the more expensive Bonum reel boxes do).
To Restore a Movie Projector
Remove the lens and any other optical parts, noting how you extracted them (don't laugh, the drive pin on Super 8 projector lenses can present a challenge). Set them aside carefully protected. Spray Lemon PledgeTM furniture polish (carnauba wax) on a paper towel and wipe away the grime. A few minutes later the whole projector should look better (this is for your morale, you'll need it). The only place that Pledge should not touch is the bulb and lens. Spray some dry lubricant on all friction points, like spindles, motor shafts and belts (unscrew the covers and clean inside).
Try moving the sprocket snubbers. Use more Dry Lubricant or a little 3-in-1 Oil. Some of the oldest projectors have oiling points (little holes, sometimes with spring caps) into which you should put 6 drops of 3-in-1 Oil. If the projector has belts on the reel arms, spray Dry Lubricant on them, too.
Clean the optical parts with lens tissue or a lint-free paper towel, moistening the glass with your breath. Always wipe in circular motions as you clean any lens. Repair any power cord cracks with electrical tape. You can replace worn electrical cord later if the projector passes initial muster (be sure to use the same gauge wire).
Now run the projector for fifteen minutes without film. This is the least stressful way to let it and its belts get back into shape. Turn the lamp on and off a few times. Try focussing the aperture outline on the wall. If it isn't smooth around the edges, break the end off a cotton swab, moisten the cardboard stick with Lemon Pledge, turn the projector off and try to rub it clean of grime.
Use as many cotton swabs lightly moistened with the Pledge to clean the entire film path, with special diligence at the gate area. Throw swabs away as they come out soiled. You are looking to roust out dirt, and grime, broken film or splice bits and smoke from prior screenings throughout the film path. beware using projectors that do not let you have access to the film path, as that is inevitably where the film gets pleated. Pledge the hubs that accept the film reels, too, as it seems to ease up the constant on and off action.
About Projector Lamps
Lamps used in movie projectors and viewers usually have a letter code designation. Try to find it and write it down before turning on the lamp. If the projector has instructions with it, the code may be noted. Order a spare or two through any specialty wholesale bulb and battery supplier you use. Do not go into your screening without a spare bulb or you will need one.
With the projector running, turn the lamp on with the clean lens in place. Focus the white outline of the frame on a white card, wall or screen. Is the light even? If not, there may be adjustments of the lamp to make it even. Same with a film viewer.
Testing the restored projector
After cleaning, lubricating and letting the projector run for a while empty, you are ready to run film as a test. Choose the film carefully. It should be a film in good shape that is not important in content, what we refer to as a sacrificial roll. Happily, both Super 8 and 8mm film is still available so you can make your own test films if you have access to a camera. We expose film in each gauge and make our own test film with good images to test focus and steadiness. I cannot emphasize using newer, less important film for the initial test, as precious or shrunken film is sure to bring troubles. Test the multiple frame rates on the projector and if sound, you need to test that, too.
Many 8mm projectors are �Dual 8�, which means there is a way to change gate and sprockets to accommodate 8mm or Super 8 film. It�s terribly obvious to state, but in your excitement, be sure you have the projector set up for the gauge of the film in hand, otherwise you are sure to damage perfs.
Check the white leader to make sure it is in good shape and clip its head end to conform to the shape the projector prefers to be fed. Most projectors have a leader clipper on the side or in the case for this. If the clip is skipped, projectors baulk and will pleat the leader.
Project your test film twice. The first time listen for chatter, make adjustments of framing and focus and and watch the image for sharpness and steadiness. (Focus on the film grain and the image should be in focus. ) Rewind the film. Project it a second time. This time watch for scratches that were not there the first time. If scratches show up, you must clean the projector again until you find the grundge that caused the scratches. We recommend cleaning at least every two hours of projection. Or clean between each filmmaker, in a continuous projection with a variety of films.
Between shows, pull the projector out, clean it, test it and use it once a month to keep it running reliably.
Here is your link to careful handling of the films or LittleFilm.org homepage.
Tech tips by Bob Brodsky, Toni Treadway © 2004, 2003, 2001, 2000, ©1999, ©1982