Home Movies

.tags History

Home movie (with professional narration) of Bonnie and Clyde death scene (1934).

The development of home movie-making has depended critically on availability of equipment and media formats (film, videotape, etc.) at prices affordable to consumers.

Development of film formats suitable for amateur hobbyists began early in the history of cinematography. For example, the 17.5 mm “Birtac” format was patented by Birt Acres in 1898. This format split the standard 35 mm film into two strips half as wide and was able to be loaded into the camera in daylight. Since the frames were also half the height of 35 mm frames, the Birtac format used only 25% of the amount of film stock used by 35 mm. Since the camera doubled as a printer and projector, equipment costs were also reduced.

Safety film and the 16 mm film format

Another breakthrough in making film practical for home users was the introduction of safety film in the 1920s. Earlier “nitrate film” required special handling and storage, even after it was exposed and developed, since it is extremely flammable and has even been known to spontaneously catch fire as it gets older.

Many competing film formats were introduced in the early decades until 16 mm safety film was introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1923 and became a standard in the non-professional market. Although 16 mm had the advantage of users not being tied to one equipment manufacturer and there were obvious cost advantages compared to standard 35 mm, it was never able to eliminate smaller formats and it eventually was relegated to professional users, particularly in the education market.

8 mm film format and color

Bell & Howell Zoomatic camera used by Abraham Zapruder that recorded the assassination of john F. Kennedy.

In 1932, Kodak introduced another new format, 8 mm (now known as “Regular 8” or “Straight 8”), by slitting 16 mm film in half, again reducing by 75% the amount of film stock used per frame. This was the point at which home movies finally came within reach of the average family, and the smaller format allowed for much smaller and more portable cameras and projectors.

The introduction of Kodachrome color reversal film for 16 mm in 1935, and for 8 mm in 1936, facilitated home color cinematography. The availability of reversal film (Kodachrome was not the first) was very important to the home movie-making market, since it avoided the expense of separate negatives and positive prints.

Super 8 and Single-8 film formats

Although developments in fine-grained film made Regular 8 mm film practical, it was largely superseded shortly after Kodak’s 1965 introduction of Super 8 film. The Super 8 format used the same film width as Regular 8, but the perforations were smaller, allowing for a larger frame size yielding frames with less grain. In addition, Super 8 film came in cartridges for easier loading into the camera. A competing format from Fujifilm (Single-8) was also introduced in 1965 and used similar film, but in a different type of cartridge.

Home video-making

The introduction of the Beta VCR in 1975 and VHS in 1976 heralded a revolution in the making of home movies. Videocassettes were extremely inexpensive compared to film and they could even be erased. It took a few years before home video cameras and portable VCRs were introduced, and later combined to create camcorders, but by that time, many consumers already had the playback equipment in their homes.

Omnipresence and controversy

Still images from home video of the beating of Rodney King by police.

Portability and small size of digital home movie equipment, such as camera phones and PDAs with video capabilities, has led to the banning of such devices from various places, due to privacy and security concerns.

Pornographic movies of celebrities have been rumoured to exist for many years, but the ease of creating home movies on video has resulted in several celebrity sex tapes becoming available to the public, often without the permission of participants. The honeymoon video of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee from 1998 was the first highly publicized example.

Portability of digital equipment helps fuel other controversies as well, such as the incident on November 17, 2006 in which comedian Michael Richards got into a racist war of words with an audience member during his comedy club act. Large parts of the incident were captured on the camera phone of another audience member and broadcast widely.

Home movies have played important roles in controversial police investigations, a prime example being the Zapruder film of the 1963 assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy shot using an 8 mm home movie camera on Kodachrome II 8 mm safety film. This film was published and broadcast extensively and became official evidence for the Warren Commission, which was established to investigate the assassination. November 22nd. 1963.

See also



Event videography

Wedding videography

Amateur film

Independent Pageant

v d e

Independent productions


Alternative comics  Fanzine  Amateur press association  Small press  Minicomic  Minicomic Co-ops  Djinshi


Independent music  Record label  Independent radio  Independent station (also TV)  Djin music



Home movies  Amateur film  Fan film


Independent film  Exploitation film  B movie (Golden Age  50s  60s70s  80sresent)  Z movie  Midnight movie  Double feature


Cracking   Scene   Demos (Demoscene)

Games (entertainment software)

(Independent video game  Homebrew)  Amateur adventure game  Djin soft

Other entertainment

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Food and drinks

Independent soda  Homebrewing


Indie design  DIY culture

Categories: Hobbies | Cinematography | Photography by genre | Film genresHidden categories: Articles lacking sources from June 2009 | All articles lacking sources