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Fisher-Price Movie Viewers
If you have kids, chances are you may want to introduce them to filmmaking. One way to do it is to give them a rare and expensive super 8 camera and have them go out and film something. But that gets expensive fast. Another way is to introduce them to a Fisher-Price Movie Viewer Theater. In my case, I am using Model Number 463.There are other models including a handheld unit that looks very much like a super 8 camera. My movie viewer offers a very poor quality image on the built in screen but also allows you to bypass the viewer and project it on the wall from a distance of about 10 inches. This kids just love it, depsite it's poor image. In their eyes, it's just perfect.
The downside to this conversion is that you will have to sacrifice camera original material unless you have a way of making duplicates. I recommend getting your kids out there doing something like bike riding or playing and film a solid three minutes of footage. Obviously, you will need to use reversal film and as usual, Kodachrome works best (but is basically non-existant as of this writing). I was tempted to use Fujichrome but I do not have a decent tape splicer for Fuji's polyester-based filmstock. I used Kodachrome and made a solid cement splice using my Bolex splicer.
At the heart of the operation is the cartridge. Be careful when prying it open. The plastic is brittle but will bend up to a point. I used a screwdriver to pry along the edges and then basically ripped it open thinking I could use a second cartridge if I did serious damage. I did not. In the above image, you will notice three pins in the middle - two of mine broke but one made it through intact.
At this point, you will want to insert your own film into the cartridge and then insert the half-open cartridge in the viewer to check for the image. You want to make sure the image is normal and not reversed or backwards (or upsidedown).
The film you see in the picture is my own super 8 film. The cartridge came with about 12 feet of film in it originally. I inserted 18 feet but after doing so, I realize I could have inserted much more film, possibly the full 50 feet. The film is wound on the removable "half-spool" backwards, and counterclockwise, against the grain so to speak of the film. In other words, when you wind on the film, you are going against the normal curl of film. Notice also the sprocket holes are up, not down. Lastly, you need to make the cement splice only once the film is completely wound on the spool. Use masking tape to prevent the film from unwinding.
Most importantly, you need to break a little tab that for some reason limits the load to only about 12 feet. You can see the tab I am speaking about in the next image.
Once you spend about 30 minutes getting frustrated loading your film on the spool (and kudos to you if you have no problems), you are ready to splice. The hardest part is making sure the film is not twisted after completing the splice. I had to cut my film after my first splice once I saw the mistake. Remember, all sprocket holes should be face up.
Once you have your film loaded, it's a simple matter of threading the sprocket, leaving a loop on each side and inserting the film in the pressure plate. While you are at it, you may want to polish up the little silver reflector in the cartridge too.
If you are lucky, you should be able to simply place the top back on the cartridge and gently press it into place. I would not recommend gluing it as you may want to get to the film at a later date.
This picture shows the film loops. The red rollers are on wire that provides the appropriate tension when winding or rewinding.
And that's about it. It's very simple and brings new life to old toys. I highly recommend you give it a try. It's almost as cool as having your film play on a PSP but not quite!