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How to Use a Vintage Projector

Even with digital options available, there is something about the experience of film that puts you in a certain frame of mind. Unlike with video, the flickering image of 16 mm film creates a clear delineation between the past and the present.

What About Sound?

Not all 16 mm film has sound and neither does every projector. This means that if sound is important, you have to make sure the vintage Victor projector you are looking for has that feature. There are a few things to look for:

  • Sound Projector: While silent projectors are common, there are a number of Victor projectors that can configure to work with or without audio. On some models, the speaker attaches to the case for travel and can mount separately or beside the machine.
  • Sound Film: 16 mm sound film differs from silent film in that it only has one row of sprocket holes. The audio data is encoded optically on the film itself along the side that would take up the second sprocket.

What Should You Consider?

The first thing to consider when you're looking at older projectors is whether you want to use it immediately or are you thinking more along the terms of a restoration project as this can narrow your choices. As with anything else, both condition and completeness matter. You not only need all the parts but they all have to be in good enough condition to work. There are a couple of points you need to look into:

  • Belts: Some of these projectors use belts that are made of spring steel. Anyone wanting to use the projector needs to make sure that they are both present and in good working order.
  • Instructions: Many projectors thread from the back reel to the front, and it's always a good idea to have a clear set of instructions that can show you exactly how to thread your 16 mm projector. Be careful not to reverse the film as 16 mm silent film can project with the images reversed since there are guide holes on both sides of the film.

Using a 16 mm Projector

Many projectors are both loud and hot while in use. The 750-watt bulb throws off a lot of heat so you cannot run the film projector in an enclosed space for any length of time as it may overheat. At the same time, you may want to put the movie projector some distance away from the audience as it can be quite loud. Some people have found success by projecting movies through a hole cut in the wall.

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