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Splicing Small Movie Film Reels to Make One Big Reel


May 4, 2011 by admin

There are some 8mm home movie conversion and transfer service providers who will splice their clients’ 3″ diameter reels (each holding 50 feet) onto the much larger 7″ reels (each holding 400 feet) saying it is a free service they provide. The advantage to the client is mainly that instead of a shoebox full of fifty-eight 3″ diameter reels the shoebox will only have to hold seven 7″ reels.

We do not splice customer home movie films onto larger reels.  It gains no efficiency. By the time a person can load eight 50′ reels in reverse order onto a new 7″ four hundred foot home movie reel, he could have had those same customer’s movie films at least halfway or more completed to video by then.  Every time we touch the customer’s home movie reels more than once, our profit margin is decreased.

The advantage to some home movie transfer service providers in combining smaller reels onto a single larger reel is that it makes it possible to leave the projector run unattended.  The operator is then free to do other things such as rewind film, prepare paperwork, etc. For transfer processes where a simple camera is pointed at a projection image there is also the ever present risk that something will be knocked out of alignment when the film is changed. Larger reels minimize reel changes for such a home movie film transfer service provider. Our process, however, requires literal baby sitting of film as it is being transferred. Leaving the transfer process unattended would make it impossible to effect real time changes in the settings to accommodate ever changing movie film conditions.

Combining home movie film reels has the natural result that a large documentation element is lost. Many camera men & women (Dads & Moms, Grandmas & Grandpas) hand wrote notes on the film leaders, the sides of reels, and the original boxes (which sometimes have post marks on them to help us in dating the home movies. This is valuable family historical information that we would be needlessly discarding.

Our customer’s enjoy the fact that these separated movie film reels are duplicated individually, each with a 4 second reel marker number page to announce it before each film starts, and each DVD has a “movie reel chapter menu button,” in addition to the “Play All” button, with thumbnail scenes of the first frame of each reel, numbered, for their interactive selection convenience.

Back in the 1930s to 1970s when the photo developing places were offering this service as a customer convenience for their home projections it made sense then but not now.  We are only going to project these home movie films for what we believe will be the last time, and the customer will most likely never project these films again. Most don’t have projectors anyway. Splicing for convenience or seemingly simplified film storage just doesn’t make sense today, financial or other wise. We have to sit down and baby-sit every inch of film during the transfer process anyway, due to all the manual video camera functions that need to be made to keep up with, and match, the ever changing white balance and exposure levels of each 50 foot reel of film. Those transfer businesses that just set up a video camera on full auto, load a 400′ reel, and walk away from it for 28 minutes are not doing professional work and it shows in the delivered product.


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