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A 250V-16A electrical wire on a reel
An irrigation reel with travelling sprinkler

A reel is an object around which lengths of another material (usually long and flexible) are wound for storage. Generally a reel has a cylindrical core and walls on the sides to retain the material wound around the core. In some cases the core is hollow, although other items may be mounted on it, and grips may exist for mechanically turning the reel.

The size of the core is dependent on several factors. A smaller core will obviously allow more material to be stored in a given space. However, there is a limit to how tightly the stored material can be wound without damaging it and this limits how small the core can be.

Other issues affecting the core size include:--

  • Mechanical strength of the core (especially with large reels)
  • Acceptable turning speed (for a given rate of material moving on or off the reel a smaller core will mean that an almost empty reel has to turn faster)
  • any functional requirements of the core e.g.
    • For a reel that must be mechanically turned the size of the grips that mount it on the mechanical turning device.
    • The size of the mountings needed to support the core during unwinding.
    • Anything mounted on the cores (e.g. the sockets on an extension reel)

With material such as photographic film that is flat and long but is relatively wide, the material generally is stored in successive single layers. In cases where the material is more uniform in cross-section (for example, a cable), the material may be safely wound around a reel that is wider than its width. In this case, several windings are needed to create a layer on the reel.



A badge reel
  • A fishing reel is used on a fishing rod to wind the fishing line up.
  • Kite lines frequently are operated from reels.
  • Specialized reels for holding tow line for hang glider, glider, and sailplane launching
  • Laying of communications table use giant reels
  • Winches wind cables on reels
  • Webbing barriers that allow mobile post positions collect tensionally excess webbing.
  • Tow trucks hold steel cable on reels.
  • Garden hoses reeled solve hose kink problems.
  • Rope, wire and cable is often supplied on reels.
  • Badge reels are used to hold badges, ski passes and the like.
  • A cave diving reel is safety equipment used for running a guideline.[1]
35mm film reels and boxes

Motion picture terminology

It is traditional to discuss the length of theatrical motion pictures in terms of "reels." The standard length of a 35 mm motion picture reel is 1,000 feet (300 m). This length runs approximately 11 minutes at sound speed (24 frames per second) and slightly longer at silent movie speed (which may vary from approximately 16 to 18 frames per second). Most films have visible cues which mark the end of the reel. This allows projectionists running reel-to-reel to change-over to the next reel on the other projector.

A so-called "two-reeler" would have run about 20–24 minutes since the actual short film shipped to a movie theater for exhibition may have had slightly less (but rarely more) than 1000ft (about 305m) on it. Most projectionists today use the term "reel" when referring to a 2,000-foot (610 m) "two-reeler," as modern films are rarely shipped by single 1,000-foot (300 m) reels. A standard Hollywood movie averages about five 2,000-foot (610 m) reels in length.

The "reel" was established as a standard measurement because of considerations in printing motion picture film at a film laboratory, for shipping (especially the film case sizes) and for the size of the physical film magazine attached to the motion picture projector. Had it not been standardized (at 1,000 feet (300 m) of 35 mm film) there would have been many difficulties in the manufacture of the related equipment. A 16 mm "reel" is 400 feet (120 m). It runs, at sound speed, approximately the same amount of time (11–12 minutes) as a 1000-foot 35 mm reel.

A split reel is a motion picture film reel in two halves that, when assembled, hold a specific length of motion picture film that has been wound on a plastic core. Using a split reel allows film to be shipped or handled in a lighter and smaller form than film would on a "fixed" reel. In silent film terminology, two films on one reel.


Demo reels

A demo reel, or show reel, is the motion picture or video equivalent of an artist's portfolio. It is typically used as a tool to promote the artist's skill, talent, and experience in a selected field, such as acting, directing, cinematography, editing, special effects, animation, or video games and other graphics. The demo reel is frequently submitted with a résumé to a prospective employer. When a reel contains scenes from actual productions, a shot list or credit list may also be submitted to describe the artist's specific involvement in each portion of the reel. While the usage of video excerpts on such showreels can be regarded as a breach of copyright, it is generally accepted in the film industry to do so, as it is the only tool of an artist to actually self-promote his/her work.


  1. ^ Devos, Fred; Le Maillot, Chris; Riordan, Daniel (2004). "Introduction to Guideline Procedures Part 1: Equipment". DIRquest (Global Underwater Explorers) 5 (3). Retrieved 2009-04-05. 

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

'REEL (O.E.' hreol, glossed by the Med. Lat. alibrum in Aelfric's Glossary, c. 1050; the word is of unknown origin; it does not appear in cognate languages, and Celtic forms such as Gaelic ruidhil are from English), a cylinder or apparatus of cylindrical shape on which a thread or line can be wound; e.g. the small wooden cylinder with projecting rims at either end on which sewing cotton or silk is wound for immediate use, the revolving "click-reel" attached to a fishing-rod, and the open revolving framework on which thread is wound as it is spun. The name of the Scottish dance (Gaelic righil, ruithil) is probably the same word (see Dance). In architecture, an ornamental moulding consisting of spherical-shaped bodies alternating with flat reel-shaped disks placed on edge is known as a "bead and reel" moulding.

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