Welcome to the Vintage Home Movies site, a sister site to found-film.co.uk.
Aim of Vintage Home Movies
The aim of the vintage home movies site is to provide an online home for 8mm (predominantly) vintage home movies which were taken by amateur photographers and cinematographers as family records of holidays and major events in their lives. These films were taken in their millions between the 1930s and the 1980s until they were replaced by, initially video tape and latterly by the smart phone in everyone’s pocket.
Because they form a vast library of social history, and also because I’ve been collecting these films for the last couple of years, I’ve decided to digitise them and where appropriate publish them on this site.
Why collect Vintage Home Movies?
So what is the appeal in collecting and publishing these old films? Well, for me there are several attractions to collecting 8mm vintage home movies.
First there is the possibility of finding something rare and historically important. Since these films were taken by amature photographers and film stock was expensive, the films tend to be of events which were important to the people involved. These days we can all take video clips at anytime on our phones, but 50 years ago taking a cine film was an important investment of time and money so most people weren’t shooting film every weekend.
Although it is unlikely that a film will turn up as important as the Zapruder film, it’s not impossible that something will emerge which shows some event in history from a different angle or throws some new light on a subject.
Interestingly I’ve found a few films in the content on this site which meet this criteria; far more in proportion to the content than I’ve found on Found Film (which covers still photos). I suspect the increased cost of movie film meant that people really did only use it for particularly special events.
Another real attraction for me is the detective work involved in trying to place films geographically and in their correct time frame. These days digital images and video are time stamped so we normally know exactly when they were taken and are often geo tagged as well, giving a precise location. With vintage films this isn’t the case and the only clues which point to the age and location are either notes written on the box or the actual content of the film itself.
Quite often the notes on the box or reel, if there are any, are not very helpful in locating the places shown in the film. Remember, the notes were written to help the photographer locate a particular film when they had their projectionist hat on. The most common form of note is one which says, ‘Mary and Alex Wedding’, which easily fulfils the requirements of the owner, but doesn’t help us locate the church where the wedding took place.
However, I find it fascinating to try to find out as much information as I can about a reel of film which is otherwise unknown. Normally, this means scanning the film for any landmarks which could be found with a google image search, or looking at street names etc. This is not helped at the moment by the poor quality of the scanner I’m using, but I hope to enhance this soon which should help.
Of course the easiest way to locate landmarks in the films is by recognition, and this is a way any viewer of the site can also help – if you see something in a film that you recognise, or anything that gives you clues as to the location or event which is taking place please use the comments box below the film to let me know. The other way to assist is to share posts on social media and on any site which may be relevant – the more eyes that see the films the better the historical data we can build up. So if you can help in this way please do – this site is meant to be participatory.
Regarding the date a film was taken, unless there is a date written on the film box, it is really a question of observing the fashions the people are wearing, the style of the cars and other vehicles and looking at other objects in the film to try to form an opinion as to when the film was shot. Sometimes there are items of technology which can put a lower bound to the date – for example in one film I watched recently a man was using a 110 format camera. Now 110 film was introduced in 1972, so I know the film was shot on of after that date.
Another reason I find vintage home movies so fascinating is the social history angle; It is interesting and nostalgic to look back on normal day-to-day life as it happened all those years ago and contrast it to life today.
At the time they were taken the events shown in the films on this site would have been important only to the people who took them but now they could well also be interesting to other people after the passage of 50 odd years.
It also for me conjures up the thought, ‘I wonder how the people shown in these films would react to the idea of being seen by a potential audience of millions, 50 years after they appeared in their home movies’? I suspect it would have been unimaginable for them to understand that thought in the same way that it would be impossible for us to understand the technology that will be available in 50 years from now.
Film Quality and Length
Just a note about the quality and length of the films on the site.
Because they were taken on a variety of different cine cameras and by amateur photographers of differing technical ability, the quality of the images varies quite widely. Some films are extraordinarily good and could have been taken by professional cinematographers, others are poorly exposed and poorly composed.
The other factor when it comes to the quality of the films is, of course, how well they have been stored over the last 50 years. Many of the films will not have been shown for perhaps 40 years and if they have been kept in damp conditions the emulsion can deteriorate quite a lot.
Most of the films on vintage home movies are quite short in length by modern standards.
This is because a standard reel of film was 50 ft long which lasted about 4 minutes and was fairly expensive. Although some keen amateurs would shoot longer films using several reel, for most home movie makers a single reel was probably all they could afford to shoot.
I remember my father would only ever be able to afford a single reel which he would use over the course of a trip to the beach or on holiday for example.
Which vintage films are published?
The basic criteria for whether films are published or not is how interesting I believe them to be to either myself, or to anyone else who might watch the films on the site.
There are films which are taken in famous places or interesting tourist attractions and these films are quite often interesting because they highlight the changes that have taken place since the films were shot. An exception to this would possibly be films which concentrate highly on just scenery; much of this would look very similar if shot today.
There are other films which just show normal daily life – the social history films mentioned above. Although these would probably not have been very interesting to anyone other than the people who featured in them at the time they were taken, they can now be immensely interesting because of the contrast with the way we lead our lives nowadays.
Who is vintage home movies’ audience ?
After the films are digitised and converted to video clips they are posted to the site to be available to anyone who wants to see them. Who is that likely to be?
Well I can imagine several groups who may be interested.
For a start there are social historians or anyone researching an historical topic which involves a social history element. It sounds pretentious to say at the moment that the site will become historically important, but eventually, with enough content that will be the natural result.
Then there are the nostalgists amongst us, and I count myself in that group. It’s a fact of life that once you reach a certain age you tend to look back fondly on memories and watching these sort of films, especially if your family used to produce 8mm films, can bring those memories back.
Then there will be a group of people who will be interested in a particular film because it covers a subject they are interested in. For example, a few days ago I published a film of the Tiger Club, which is a vintage airplane flying group. Anyone interested in biplanes would probably be interested in that post.
How is content organised?
With more content being added all the time you may wonder how you can find any particular film which might interest you?
The films are shown on the front page in the order they are added to the site with the latest films first so the Home link in the menu will always take you to the latest films. There is also currently a latest films widget which displays the latest 5 posts at the top of every page.
As well as the browsable front page, all content when it is added to the site is assigned a value for each of four categories. These cover
- the format of the film – i.e. Standard 8, Super 8 etc
- the decade the film was shot if known, or my best guess if not
- the manufacturer of the film
- the general location the film was shot in i.e. the country
As more content is added some of these categories will expand. For example the location may narrow down to individual cities or regions when there becomes enough content to make that worthwhile.
Each of these categories are represented in the main menu at the top of the site. Any selection from these menus will present an archive of all the material on the site in that particular category for browsing.
At the moment, with the limited amount of content on the site, the front page and the menus are adequate to find most content. As I add more films (and at the moment I’m adding a film every day), the search function will become more important. Although the site style is not yet finalised, and will almost certainly change over the next few weeks, there will always be a search widget in the sidebar which will allow you to find films which cover a particular subject.
Finally, when there is a large archive of film and I’ve seen patterns of particular subject matter repeat, I’ll start tagging films which will also lead to an archive which covers a particular subject or topic.
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