Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Tale of Four Projectors

I'm an admitted AV Geek Wannabe.  Is there anything lower than that?  I never belonged to the AV club in high school and never got to wheel around or operate the 16mm projectors that would grant brief respite from the daily school lesson in favor of a film.  Any film was better than a lecture.  While I had a fascination with the films in school, it wasn't until many years later that I developed an interest in the equipment.  Over the years I've acquired a number of 16mm, 8mm, and Super 8 projectors and a variety of film.  This is the story of four garage sale finds.

First up is the Kodak MovieDeck 455.  This is kind of an odd duck.  As opposed to the traditional projectors where the film reels are upright, this one has the film reel laying flat with the film winding an obstacle course of glides into the belly of the beast and winding on a pickup reel laying flat in the bottom.  I bought this at a garage sale Summer of 2010 thinking it was a slide projector.  The projector and screen were $7.  This projector is a dual 8 projector, handling both Standard 8mm and Super 8mm film with the flip of a switch.  For those not in the know, the difference between 8mm and Super 8mm film, from a projection standpoint, is the size of spacing of the sprocket holes on the film. 

 The cool feature of this projector is the self-contained projection screen. You can project onto a traditional screen, or with the flip of the lens, redirect the image onto a small display.

The downside of the Kodak MovieDeck is its reputation for scratching films.  Since the film glides around guides and not rollers, it's constantly rubbing the film against a surface that while smooth could contain dust and other abrasives.

Next is another Kodak projector, the Ektasound 245B.  This Super 8 sound projector is another odd design. When I first saw it at an estate sale last September, I initially thought it was a reel to reel tape recorder.  I bought it for $6.

The projection lens on this model also flips to allow you to either project out the front or rear of the case.

I sold both of these projectors on eBay since I already had a pretty decent Elmo ST-600M Super 8 projector and I had no Standard 8mm films.  About a week after I sold the dual 8 Kodak MovieDeck, I found a case of standard 8mm home movies at an estate sale.  

So the hunt began for another Standard 8mm projector.  It was a long hunt.  I finally found one at an estate sale a couple weeks back.  This is a Bell and Howell model 256AB.  Bell and Howells are the workhorse of the projector world and are a dime a dozen.  I had already bought one of these years back before I knew what to look for.  The bulbs for these are outrageously expensive (actually, most projector bulbs are) coming in at anywhere from $35 to $50.  But the bulb in this projector worked, so I bought it.  It was $6 (okay, not quite a dime a dozen). 

When I got it home and tested it, it seemed to work fine, if a little noisy,  until I loaded a film.  Once the pickup reel was under tension, the reel began slipping and allowed the film to go slack.  I did some research online and determined that it was most likely due to a worn out belt.  I took the projector apart, greased and oiled all of the gears and removed the old belt.  A new belt on eBay was $5 with shipping.  Once that arrived, I replaced the old belt and loaded up the first film.  It ran like a charm.  However, on the second film, the pickup reel began slipping again.  Looking closer, I found that the pickup spindle itself was now slipping.  Taking that apart, I found a complex system of gears and slip washers that allow the pickup reel to give when needed as the speed required to pick up the film varies as the film on the spool grows.  The gear that is sandwiched between the slip washers was slipping too easily.  I tried placing sandpaper between the washers and the gear thinking this might aid in grabbing, but that didn't work.  Next I tried tightening the screw that held the spindle to the reel arm.  I ended up snapping the head off.  (Insert sad trombone music). 

But, as I've noted in the past, in the garage sale world, it always seems like it never rains, but pours.  At an estate sale in Oakville yesterday, I found this Keystone model 2500 dual 8 projector for $2.50.  It came with the adaptors for running Super 8 film and the original instructions.

While a little dirty, it cleaned up nicely.  This project feels a little lightweight and, I'll be honest, cheap.  However, it is made in Japan and apparently is the same as a Chinon 2500.  It runs very quiet and smoothly, however, once the film is loaded, you're in for the long haul -- there's no easy way to remove the film once it has been threaded without playing the entire film.  It's also a bit of black box in that sense as you can't see the film inside and you run the risk of crimping the and accordioning the film inside without knowing it.

I ran a film through and it worked perfectly.  The exceptional feature of this projector is the variable speed adjustments.  Most projects run at fixed speeds of either 18 fps (frames per second) or 24 fps.  When you see the old films and everyone is moving around too quickly, it's because they're showing an 18 fps film at 24 fps.  What is nice about the variable frame rate is the film can be adjusted to match the frame rate of a video camera when transferring thus elminating the visible flicker on transfer.  Another nice thing about this projector is the bulbs are fairly inexpensive, running about $16 each.

Of course, this projector isn't without it flaws either.  It seems if it encounters a bad splice, it looses the loop (the slack piece of film before it passes into the projection gate (shutter).  Once this happens, the film chatters and no amount of pressing the loop former resolves the issue and you're stuck watching the stuttering film for the remainder.  Fortunately, I've only enountered that on a couple of the films I've been reviewing.  Also, the bulb while inexpensive is also fairly dim at 50 watts.  But I've also read this is a benefit when transferring films to videotape as the dimness prevents glare.

I'll be showcasing some of the films which document an annual trip to Florida for a young couple from 1963 to the 1970's at a later date.


  1. uh oh, your collection is growing.... DANGER, DANGER!

    and how did i never know you were a seekrit AV club geek? it makes sense in retrospect, but at the time i would have to say i never noticed you were into projectors, films, and the like.

  2. Well, I never was into clubs, but as I said, I did enjoy when they'd show a movie in the classroom. My collection actually began as a hunt for the 16mm movie "Paddle to the Sea" which they showed every year in grade school. If you don't recall it, you can see it here:

  3. the screws (mine were plastic) in the spindles are a strange metric size...I discovered they are the same screws that hold the bottom on a dell d600 laptop (which are metal)!

    1. Thanks for the tip. Maybe I'll dig that projector back out. I have a couple Dell pcs I could check over for matching screws.


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