We have dedicated this area to our Film Services in Super 8, 16mm and 35mm, this section includes information on using fim through a series of useful articles devised from our workshops.
Film is not dead! Updated April 2013
Contrary to many recent articles with senational headlines I'd like to point out that FILM is not dead. A lot of people seem to think Film is dead and recently there have been a lot of articles stating that film is dead. In fact many people think film died years ago! Major companies like Panavision, Arri and Aaton have stopped making film cameras and are instead concentrating their efforts on surviving in this difficult economic period and are developing digital cameras. All this is encouraging many to assume that Film is now dead, but this is not the case film is alive and is being used well.
If we look at Super 8 film the format should have died in the 1980's. It was then that the most of the manufacturers of Super 8 cameras simply vanished, only a few were able to make a successful transition to video. The use of Super 8 as the chief format for home movies ended with the arrival of videotape, which offered ease and cheapness, quality wasn't a major issue. But Super 8 film survived and is still with us, its popularity amongst a new generation of filmmakers is continually growing. There are now more film stocks available in Super 8 than there were in the 'heyday' of Super 8 during the 1970's. In the long run Super 8 has survived the technology that pushed it out of the home movie arena. Second hand prices of good consumer video cameras from the 1980's are of no value, whereas a good Super 8 camera from the late 1970's and 1980's can go for a few hundred pounds and even fetch more than thousand pounds.
For over thirty years whenever a new system of image creating such as video and digital has been introduced there is always widespread speculation over the future fate of film. In the early 1970's the use of videotape grew throughout the broadcast industry. Then people were speculating the end of film with many saying that the use of film for motion pictures would diminish by the end of the 1970's, but this did not happen. Throughout the 1980's film was alive and used well, in spite of this from time to time people were still predicting the death of film throughout the decade. In the 1990's with the advent of digital editing systems the issue about the end of film was raised again, with some saying that film will not survive into the new millennium, despite this a lot of films and television dramas were still shot on film, while editing and post-production work gradually moved to digital largely due to ease, however film remained alive and was used well.
American television drama has always used a lot of 35mm film to originate drama, after 2007 many television drama productions started to be originated on digital. This trend towards digital acquisition is complex and is due to a range of issues such as cost, ease and cultural shifts. Major manufacturers ceasing manufacture of film cameras and the somewhat delicate nature of companies like Kodak and Fuji's ability to survive the recession has once again spawned widespread rumours and assumptions that film is dead. Despite this film is still being used widely on television and almost all feature films are still shot on film.
Copyright © 2011 Lightbreeze
Many people believe that these days all films and most of what they see on television is digitally shot, they are surprised that despite the digital tidal wave a lot of feature films and television drama are shot on film. Only a very small fraction of feature films are shot digitally. Some believe that since prices of Silver are getting higher this will mean that more and more films will be shot on digital rather than film, silver being the main ingredient in film. However throughout the twentieth century prices of silver were always going up and down and the cost of film was always remained pretty high.
I find it odd why so many people say that 'film is dead' or that it will die soon, it's interesting why some feel the need for film to die, I mean why should it die, I firmly believe that film can and should coexist with digital for many more years. In fact I believe that digital isn't killing film at all if anything it's making film look better. Digital is great and when used with film both mediums work well together.
I know that in many British colleges and universities where media studies is taught, it's common and convenient for tutors and lecturers to promote the myth that film died years ago and that everything shown on television is produced digitally and that equipment they have is what the professionals use. Of course this is far from the truth, but it's a known fact and somewhat worrying that many graduating from British institutions hoping to have careers in the film and television industries know very little about working with film.
For well over twenty years some within the global film and television industries have been predicating that all feature films will be acquired digitally, but interestingly this hasn't happened. There are many reasons why many digital hasn't become the chief medium to shoot films with. It's odd but many just like the feel of film, they like the workflow with film, which some believe that film can create a challenging and rewarding experience. For others it's simply the fact that film yields reality differently, some use colourful language like film has an 'organic texture which digital cannot match', while others say they prefer film because they like the colours and believe the colours and the looks that film produces are very different to digital.
If we turn our attention to television, a lot of people frequently ask why a lot American television dramas look very different to British television programmes. This is a very interesting and broad topic and of course there are many reasons why differences in programme 'looks' exist such as budgets, story, sound, lighting, setting etc, but it is a fact that even in today's digital climate a lot of American television drama is shot on 35mm film.
It seems that US television dramas such as Law and Order are shot on film while some of CSI's are too. It's also interesting that a lot of US dramas tend to shoot their last season or episodes on digital such as Scrubs, this drama was shot on Super 16 throughout its lifetime, however it's believed that the last show/s were shot digitally. This seems to be less about support or acceptance for digital but a case where the programme makers just want to try out digital knowing that their programme's life is about to end or their programme is going to be axed by the networks.
On British television a lot of film is used, though unlike US television a lot of Super 16 is used rather than 35mm film, though things are changing. Many prime time television dramas like Hustle, Waking the Dead and Ashes to Ashes were originally shot on Super 16.
In 2006 the BBC dropped a bombshell and said 'Drama on 16mm film has got to stop' especially for the BBC HD channel. Many were and are outraged as the BBC HD channel stated it would not accept material shot on Super 16 and the BBC claimed that the random film grain in Super 16 caused problems for their HD broadcasts. Dramas such as Hustle, Waking the Dead and Ashes to Ashes and many more have switched to shooting on digital. Some said that the BBC tried to bully programme makers to drop film and use digital for their HD channel, many did exactly this and as a result many dramas were and are now shot digitally. In the midst of this digital revolution film has not only survived but its use is gradually growing on British television as many programmes have continued to be shot on 16mm film, such as New Tricks, Merlin and Spooks, even newer projects are being shot on Super 16 film. It's also interesting that a lot of dramas have switched to shooting from Super 16mm to 35mm film instead of going digital such as Poirot and Sharpe. Since 2006 a lot has changed, as there have been great advances in Super 16mm film emulsions and film scanning technology thus making 16mm much attractive for HD broadcasts.
There's little mention of it, but there are dramas that went digital but have switched back to film. This shows that there seems to be a lot of choice where filmmakers tend to toggle between the film and digital worlds.
The cost of a drama is always cited as one of the most important factors when decided to shoot film or digital. In the professional world where people are being paid for their time, skills and talent, the stock used to shoot the drama is a very small fraction of the total production cost and people don't really worry about it too much. When people say that going digital will save them money, it definately isn't always true. Iff producers and production accountants are told that shooting material on digital will save them money then they are more likely to shoot digital. In Britain many television independents believed that by going digital their productions costs will be reduced even halved, but this hasn't happened as many report production costs going up every year. Many independents have had to bear the extra costs of going digital hoping that digital will mean their programmes are easily saleable abroad, but it's a known fact that few British dramas travel well abroad.
Digital but equipment is still developing and as such it is expensive, it's less robust than 16mm and becomes obsolete very quickly and therefore companies need to constantly update their equipment, which is very costly. Rental companies also complain that they make less money from digital because they always have to buy new gear.
Copyright © 2011 Lightbreeze
The amateur and the professional
Individuals, groups, clubs and societies carried out amateur filmmaking. Most commonly these filmmakers had other jobs and filmmaking was a hobby. Traditionally an amateur filmmaker is often referred to someone who is unpaid and making films as a social and recreational hobby, people from all walks of life enjoyed this activity. In some ways the accessibility of low cost digital video has changed the nature of amateur filmmaking making it easier and more affordable to the average person.
A fact that is less discussed is that since the beginning of the 1980's there has been huge social and cultural shifts in the modern western world, especially in England. Most significantly people's attitudes and approaches to their lifestyles have changed. Many see their work life as a 'career', something more than just clocking in and out and getting paid. We don't want simple jobs anymore, we have more choices and career plans to match, many of us want to be at the top as leaders and don't want to be at the bottom of the team instead we want to lead a team.
In a recent lecture every student raised their hands stating that they wouldn't settle for doing anything other than being at the top and being the director, some opted for other roles only if they couldn't make it as director such as DP, editor, production manager, line producer, assistant director and any department heads. Only these 'glamorous' roles were been chosen, no one wanted to do roles such as scouting for locations, grips, catering or driving. These days people want to enjoy their jobs and are much more career focused than ever before. This change in social mobility coupled with the greater will for aspiration towards materialism and individual gain and has prompted many to see filmmaking as a career, rather than a leisured persuit that used to be an activity just for fun for so many.
Both the cheapness of equipment and these cultural changes are responsible for the boundaries between amateur filmmaking and professional filmmaking in becoming increasingly blurred. These days many see the amateur filmmaker as someone not 'proper'. Many low budget and micro budget filmmakers who work in the same way as an amateur don't like to describe themselves as amateurs, probably because for many the end goal is to succeed and be employed as a professional filmmaker. This is evident from prospectuses of universities and colleges offering a plethora of film and media courses giving people the hope to realize their dreams for a rich career in the film industry. Few of them ever mention that the film world is actually a very competitive industry where at any one time 99% of qualified people are always unemployed and many end up working in less glamorous situations within the industry or outside. The word low budget filmmaker or micro budget filmmaker is seen as more trendy and appropriate.
These changes in the perception of 'amateur filmmaking' has led to many old film groups, clubs and societies simply to vanish and cease to exist as in the past each group, club and society may have had a small minority of their members wanting the top jobs, but in reality these groups can not function if everyone wants to direct. In many ways it seems that in England film group's clubs and societies really belong to an era before the 1980's since then such groups have been rapidly fading away. The few groups, clubs and societies that do exist and appear to flourish are because of their older members.
It seems obvious
that the amateur and professional worlds are colliding, it also seems
a shame that very few young people want to be part of amateur filmmaking
and treat it as a hobby and a fun past time. A more detailed study needs
to be carried out in relation to the amateur and professional worlds
of filmmaking to understand their similarities and differences. In particular
research needs to be done regarding social mobility and specific economic
and cultural changes that have occured within British society during
the latter half of the twentieth century.
Copyright © 2011 Lightbreeze
Simply put a film with a shooting ratio of 2:1 would have shot twice the amount of footage that was used in the film. This means that 120 minutes of footage would have been shot to produce a film of 60 minutes in length.
Copyright © 2011 Lightbreeze
Film and Audiences
Many believe that film is still the best looking thing to create motion images. Film still renders light in a way that video or digital photography still cannot embrace, with regards to full-range tonality, dimensionality within the frame and image signature. While digital video is known for producing ultra clean images, which are sometimes described as sterile and soulless, film sees and produces images the way the human eye sees things. Creating motion images with electronic digital doesn't have the same thrill, aesthetic, or creative possibilities as film. Film gives greater latitude, which is needed to shoot quickly and manipulate light for different looks.
An important question to consider is it fair to force digital to try and emulate film, which is what a lot of filmmakers tend to do with digital.
Most people feel that film is great for drama and even documentaries while digital video is fine when you want a clean, utilitarian, neutral and real time image for fast delivery like reality television and the news77. It's clear that in today's huge motion image creating world both film and digital have a crucial role to play, both are distinct and have their uses.
Another important question is whether audiences really care how the image for a film or television dramas is originated or projected? Do people watch things because they are shot on celluloid?
Many tend to assume that audiences don't care, in fact people sat that the general public don't care what format, what system was used to create their favourite movie ot television program. However, there are certain expectations that the general public have [many probably don't even realise them], audiences do expect a certain level of quality. If a film or a television program meets or exceeds this level - which it generally does, it's a not an issue. If, however it doesn't, it becomes an issue so the audience does care..
The trend is towards digital shooting, it's not always easy to understand trends, but film still has a more significant presence than many seem to currently believe. Despite the advances in digital technology film still rules as the 'gold' standard for creating motion images. Electronic digital imaging has yet to match all the wonderful qualities that film delivers. Over the years there have been several electronic formats, but the 'film look' remains the benchmark that all digital technology is trying to emulate and replicate. But despite the best efforts of large and small manufactures of digital camera equipment, the look, feel and range of film, is still difficult to match in every way. Some come close, but none without compromise. Film is still the king of dynamic range.
copyright © 2010 Lightbreeze
People often ask me what is the point of using film, especially if everything that is filmed will end up being digitised and edited on the computer. People often say those watching don't really care if the films and television programs they are watching are created by film or digital. My simple reasoning is that I enjoy using film, I feel film gives me far greater creative freedom when creating images, I like film colours and the film grain.
When using film one works differently, the whole approach to how a shot is planned and executed is poles apart from that of working with digital. I feel that there is a n indescribable 'buzz', an excitement on the set and everyone gives it their all and works harder, thus shoots are smoother and faster. I like the fact that when using film I am required to be more disciplined and have to think more carefully about every shot before pulling the trigger, so unlike digital I am not aimlessly filming everything just because I can. With film I end up with moving images that I want to keep and use rather than endless footage as is often the case with digital, most of which is often discarded.
In many ways it could be said that today's Super 8 like the new 16mm and gives the independent filmmaker a lot of choice and freedom. The Super 8 image is so much more versatile, so much can be done with Super 8 with the new range of film stocks and telecine and the equipment is very portable, thus less crew is required and less costly.
Using Super 8 is another way for telling stories, stories that have visual style, depth and texture. When using a professional methodology from capture to exhibition Super 8 images can look stunning and are worlds apart from the usual drudgery of digital images, which all too often look the same - very clear and often sterile and somewhat bland.
It seems that many people have just been swept up in the huge digital tidal wave and most of the independent films screened at film festivals tend to look pretty much the same. However, in the increasingly crowded world of independent filmmaking I feel it is more important now than ever before for independent filmmakers to stand out to ensure that they continue working in their chosen field. At the Lightbreeze group we are always saying that there is another way for emerging filmmakers to get noticed in these challenging times and that this other way is by using Super 8 to tell their stories combined with emerging digital technology.
It's not as expensive as many think and while Super 8 has been around for many years recent advances and choices in film emulsions mean Super 8 is amazingly better than ever before. More importantly using film can open a lot of doors of opportunity.
copyright © 2011 Lightbreeze
Film Makes Sense
Making films for a living is not easy, getting properly paid and earning a reasonable wage for making films is incredibly difficult. In Britain the film and television industry is almost impossible to get into, once in it's difficult to stay in and get regular employment in it. So many people want to make films and work in television, there are all sorts of reasons why people want to make films, some feel they have great stories to share, while others are attracted to the allure of fame and the glamour of the filmmaking industries. In recent years there has been a kind of 'digital revolution' as digital technology has improved dramatically and has become quite cheap, making it easier for more and more people to make their films.
Various institutions, universities and colleges are attracting a huge number of students to their ever-growing 'Media' courses. Almost every aspect of 'media' is covered, however rarely do they really look at how to survive in the cut and throat world of the 'media industries'. It's well known that most of these institutions see students merely as paying customers, as punters, people they want to attract and draw in. They often attract their students with the usual gimmickry that's associated with 'media' related courses, where students are given a taste of the latest technology that includes cameras, gadgets and computers and so on.
Many professionals are cynical of these institutions and often argue that there is little training and thought given to the importance of composition, editing and most importantly simple but effective story telling, which is what it's all about. Whilst far too much importance is given to technology, which attracts more students and thereby insitutions make more money. Many students buy into these easy sell and gimmicks and after leaving university whilst heavily in debt often waste more money on gear that is unnecessary. When all that is really needed is some talent, skill and good luck and most of all a clear understanding of how the film and television industry works.
Despite this most courses do make it possible for more and more people to enter the film and television industry, this does give them a platform to develop and showcase their talent. There's not much training into the reality that things are very tough and being part of the film and television industry is not easy. In Britain the industry is small and very conservative. Over 90 percent of the people in the British Film and television industry are unemployed, or work outside the industry to survive. Few are told how difficult the real working environment is and that most of the time they'll probably be working freelance, if at all.
So will all this so-called 'digital revolution' really make it easier for people? In a way 'yes' as it would appear that people can make their films cheaply and easily, but as more and more people make films, few are asking is there an audience that will watch all these films? In recent years there has been an incredible growth in film festivals and online websites such as Youtube and Vimeo; some say there's too much to watch. Film buyers and distributors are now routinely flooded with a huge choice of films to select for their exhibitors and television networks. The result - the industry is becoming increasingly competitive, fierce and ruthless with few really making it.
It is clear that with kind of growth and this competitiveness to succeed one needs to really stand out and needs go against the grain and do something that attracts attention. Everything from the narrative, the script, the filming style, the acting etc has to be unique. This is the main reason why so many filmmakers want to explore their creative story-telling talents by choosing the medium of Super 8. Many are realising that working with Super 8 is not expensive nor is it that difficult, but it is actually liberating as the medium is very flexible, where one can do a lot more with it. At Lightbreeze we have seen an explosion of new and young filmmakers who are very new to film and Super 8 and but are realising that there are many possibilities within Super 8 to enrich their filmmaking.
copyright © 2011 Lightbreeze
Frames Per Second
All Super 8 cameras can film at 18fps [frames per second]. Some cameras have the option of running at different speeds for slow or fast motion effects, while some can shoot at 24fps [frames per second]. The origins of frame rates are unclear, though many believe that 'film is reality at twenty four frames per second'. In the early days of movies there appears to be many speed rates varying from 10fps to 16fps. Filming with cameras at 16fps and the projecting the film at 16fps produced acceptable results, thus 16fps became a standard speed. Many early pioneers such as Thomas Edison experimented with higher speeds and argued that the16fps, while it gave an illusion of continued motion, films were jerky and motion was disjointed whereas higher filming and projecting speeds resulted in better motion.
The standard of 24fps emerged with the introduction of sound film in the 1920's. Filming and projecting at 24fps gave a more natural motion, but the main reason it became standard was because at the time the sound recording media had to run faster than the speed of 16fps to give acceptable sound. The standard speed for silent film remained 16fps while 24fps became the norm for sound films. 16fps also became the standard for amateur filming too since at the time most amateurs did not tend to record sound.
Things changed when the Super 8 format was developed in the 1960's a new speed of 18fps was introduced and soon this became the norm for silent and sound filming with Super 8. Many have questioned as to why 18fps was chosen, one can only conjecture and speculate, there are many rumours, the most popular being that 18fps gave a more natural feel of motion than 16fps and that it was more economical than 24fps. A Super 8 film cartridge consists of 50 feet of film and if it's filmed and projected at 18fps it will give 3 minutes and 20 seconds, whilst this 50 foot cartridge will give a mere 2 minutes and 30 seconds if it's filmed and projected at 24fps.
There is also evidence to suggest that Super 8 was thought of an audio-visual format right from the beginning, therefore the camera needed to run faster than 16fps to give acceptable sound quality. Filming at 24fps was [and is] the professional standard for sound films, but it was thought of as overkill for an amateur format and many believed that 24fps would just drive many amateurs away as this higher frame rate used up more film and it would be too expensive, thus 18fps was seen as more appropriate.
When buying a Super 8 camera many try and choose one that has the option for shooting at 24fps just because it's the professional standard without really understanding what difference there is between 18fps and 24fps. Filming and projecting at 24fps will give a more natural feel of motion and may be more suitable for filming fast paced; action and sports, 24fps was also easier to transfer to video. However things are changing and it shouldn't really matter whether one shoots at 18fps or 24fps especially with digital frame interpolation.
copyright © 2010 Lightbreeze
Sound with Super 8
Many believe that recording sound with Super 8 is far too problematic and don't try it and just see Super 8 as just a silent medium. Sound cartridges aren't really available anymore, but you can find people who can stripe some unexposed film and load it in a cartridge for you to film sound with a sound camera. While the sound will be in synchronisation with the images it will be of poorer quality, as it is limited to 70-10,000Hz.
Silent cameras and the absence of sound film cartridges does not meant silent films all the time. Many use various sound recording devices such as DAT's and mini disc recorders to capture high quality sound separately. Recording dialogue is easy with external sound recorders especially when used with high quality directional microphones [so that they do not capture the inherent camera noise]. This technique is not new nor is it uncommon and in the world of 16mm it is usually referred to as recording sound wild.
Digital sound recording devices run at very accurate speeds and their speed does not meander. People often talk about getting the camera crystal controlled so that it will run precisely at the selected speeds. It is true that without a crystal-controlled camera the camera's speed will drift. Most Super 8 cameras won't be running at exactly 18 or 24fps to begin with as they may be running at 23 ½ fps or 24 ½ and the speed will drift during the shot, hence a crystal controlled camera is ideal, but it's not essential.
With most cameras that are not crystal controlled, shots that are 20 seconds will stay in sync. Filmmakers often use a clapperboard to identify and merge image and sound in the edit. If the soiund and picture do not match perfectly then in the NLE the sound clips can be easily stretched, compressed, cut and pieced together. It sounds daunting, but it is quite easy to do, as most takes are shorter that 20 seconds anyway so merging sound and images isn't difficult at all, longer takes can be trickery. I have shot a film in one continuous take, all 3 minutes and 20 seconds with a camera which did not have a crystal controlled motor, with a bit of trickery in the edit I easily managed to maintain sync throughout the duration of the film. http:/www./vimeo.com/3175593
Copyright © 2011 Lightbreeze
Super 8 in the Digital world
I do find it somewhat tragic when people say they would have loved to shoot film but found it far too expensive. A quick Internet search about using film is not really enough; on the Internet mostly you'll find uninformed people shouting out unintelligent rants that 'film is dead'. Which some have been saying since 1975, the year that Kodak made the very first digital camera. There is more stuff about digital and its accessibility on the Internet than there is useful information about using film. In the late 1980's almost everyone in British broadcasting said film was dead and it seemed it was, until then most British television broadcasters had large film units and almost all their location work shot on 16mm. By the 1990's most broadcasters had scrapped their film units and many had designated film for use on special projects only. But still film lived on, even today a lot of film 35mm and 16mm is still used on British television.
What a lot of people should say is they want to shoot film, but it seems complicated. In many ways it's true, film is complicated and can take a lot of patience and practice to understand it. There's buying stock, processing it and then scanning it to digital and then there's always some idiot who will say '...if you're going to scan film to digital why use film to begin with?' Should I even attempt to answer this naïve and rather stupid question, a question that pops up frequently? Well film, whatever the format film gives a unique look to the image, for me it's about the colours and texture, I do use digital a lot, but film's colour coupled with its random and organic grain and texture cannot really be mimicked by digital no matter how hard one tries with software, having the final edited film on digital is fine as digitalcan perserve some of the captured quality of film, besides it's a lot easier.
With Super 8 there is the added advantage of the equipment being cheap bringing enormous portability that makes you very mobile. When used with professional equipment, processing and scanning today's Super 8 can easily be mistaken for 16mm. Most importantly film forces you to think carefully about every shot to be filmed, so you're not aimlessly filming everything.
The moving image world is a creative arena and this creativity is only enhanced with the various constraints that are placed on the filmmaker which are always present when using film. I know when I work with a camera operator who uses film [or has used film], they will be more enthusiastic, more focused and more disciplined and the quality of their work will be better, whereas in my experience someone who has only ever used digital is slightly limited and is often somewhat unsure, indecisive and often takes much longer to capture the right shot. In a professional set up time is money and independent producers need someone that works quickly. Very simply put film is fun and it's a very rewarding experience working with it, it's the same stuff that filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock to Steven Spielberg have used.
When budgeting for a film the cost of raw stock and filming equipment should be a very small percentage of the overall costs something like 5-10%. Other costs such as labour are much higher; this is something that many low budget filmmakers overlook. Since many low budget and micro budgets filmmakers work on a collaboration and deferred fee basis. Of course there are many moral and ethical issues with such working practices.
If you make a direct comparison; a typical blank Mini DV tape of 60 minutes running time will cost a few pounds, whereas 2½ minutes of Super 8 will cost about £10.00, so it's clear that as a direct comparison Super 8 works out far more expensive. A direct comparison however makes no sense in the professional world, if you have a 60 minute tape you are not going to use all of it, you will know what the final length of your film is and will devise a shooting plan/ratio. So for a film that will be 10 minutes you might work out a 3 to 1 ratio and shoot everything 3 times, thus you'll use 30 minutes, but realistically in most cases [especially on low budget and micro budget] you'll use about 25 minutes. With Super 8 your shooting ratio is slightly more restricted shooting 25 minutes will cost around £85.00 [excluding processing and scanning]. If you shoot 6 Super 8 reels at 18 frames per second, this will give you more time about 19 minutes. If you shoot 6 Super 8 reels at 24fps this will give you 15 minutes or you might shoot some scenes at 24fps and others at 18fps.
When people have high shooting ratios with film I always think something is wrong, in my experience working with film you tend to work faster and have a smaller shooting ratio. There is very little wastage as every shot is important and in the end working with Super 8 can work out much cheaper as well as being a challenging and a very enjoyable experience. Many don't take into consideration that Super 8 equipment is far cheaper to buy and it's much easier and quicker to use.
The costs increase with processing and scanning. Processing is much easier to deal with and many of today's emulsions can be processed quite easily at home using the easy to use processing kits that are available for traditional photography. Telecine or scanning is a little more complex; the simplest and easiest way is to film footage with a camcorder that is playing on a screen via a projector. This type of 'crude' transfer doesn't get the best out of the film, but it's cheap and fun, it's easy and many love this look for experimental work. Transferring film properly can be expensive and in my experience it is can be the most costly part of using film. Here the filmmaker needs to shop around to find the best deal to digitise their footage. Some decide to cut the film and transfer their final edit, this cuts costs dramatically, you will dirty and mark the film the more you handle it, but with Super 8 many like the scratches and blemishes on the film.
Copyright © 2011 Lightbreeze
Why we use Super 8
We started out as a group film makers that made short videos at low budgets for small organisations and companies, who wanted a video to promote themselves or their activities. Typically a video would be about ten minutes usually consisting of interviews interspersed with cutaways. These videos would normally be kept by the organisation who would give them out as DVD's to their clients. Originally we would shoot our videos using the latest digital equipment, but since we worked in a very competitive field we decided to spice up our imagery and started using Super 8 to film small parts of our interviews and cutaway scenes. We used Super 8 it for it's 'retro' look which added to the visual variety.
We soon discovered that the newer Super 8 film stocks looked increadibly good and when filming with well serviced high end cameras on tripods and using a professional approach the Super 8 image looked very different from the classic 'retro' look. Realising this we decided to make a video that was completely shot on Super 8 and now we shoot everything on Super 8 and find that the quality is very good, the images are beautiful and interestingly the videos cost less than digitally originated videos to produce. We also find that there is less equipment required, less people needed on the shoot and the shoots are over very quickly.
Using Super 8 has been fun and exciting, it has helped us get more work which has been very encouraging. Using Super 8 we can make our videos look very good at a very low costs, which is ideal when working with very small budgets. It has helped us get more work opportunities in the current economic climate where companies want more for less and in a feild where there seems to be a growing number of people making such videos for companies.
copyright © 2010 Lightbreeze
Using Super 8 in the digital age Part 1
In popular culture
today, we have been trained to view the VIDEO look as "real",
as in reality TV or talk shows or the news. These days filmmakers have
a lot of choice, there's an abundance of film formats and stocks and
alternatively there's increasingly improving digital technology, but
shooting on Super 8 film is special and can be more creative, the format
needs to be promoted so that more film makers use it to tell their stories.
Shooting on Super 8 is usually much quicker; the equipment is smaller and easy to set up. Less time is spent on set or location. On the other hand video shoots can take longer because setting up and lighting scenes can be difficult and time consuming, with video shoots there tends to be more equipment. With film; camera operators tend to be much more disciplined and shoot carefully, one thinks much more before pressing the trigger. As a result there's less exposed footage, meaning less time in the edit sifting through unnecessary material. Whereas when shooting with video, there is a tendency to over-shoot and far more material than required is captured, which can require lots of costly time in the edit to sort out. In a professional project where people are getting paid Super 8 can be quicker. The crew and other personnel also tend to be more focused and perform better. There aren't always a lot of re-takes and the shoot usually finishes early. Unlike video with film there is usually a buzz about.
An inexperienced camera operator may find it a little difficult and intimidating to work with Super 8 at first. The most difficult thing for most newcomers to deal with is that with Super 8 the results aren't immediate, there's no instant gratification. Super 8 needs to be processed and transferred to video. It can typically take between 10-15 days before you get to see what you've shot, there are faster ways, such as express processing services, but these can be expensive alternatively you can process the film yourself. Though once you see the results they are often truly stunning and worth the wait.
With the current economic climate being what it is - a global recession, it makes sense to shoot Super 8. It's more fun, it 's not really expensive and Super 8 cameras are incredibly cheap and easily available. Some Super 8 cameras tend to have great lenses and many come with their own wide angle lenses attachments and other accessories. Furthermore shooting Super 8 can add an extra dimension to your portfolio and give you a better chance of securing paid commissions, especially if you are producing informational, promotional or training films in what is an increasingly competitive environment.
A popular belief is that film is expensive, this not entirely true, it is too easy to simply dismiss film as expensive. If you directly compare the costs of film stock to video stock then obviously film is expensive. A typical example where a fifty-foot cartridge of Super 8 film, which will run for about 3 minutes or less will cost around £12.00 to purchase, maybe another £15.00 to process and more to transfer to video, whereas a Mini DV tape which will ruin for 60 minutes may cost around £10.00 and there will be no additional processing costs.
If one works with their friends and family where no body will get paid then video will definitely be cheaper to work with. However if you dig a bit deeper and try and understand the professional environment where the most expensive element in a production tends to be labour and time and not stock. So the argument that film is expensive doesn't always hold up.
copyright © 2010 Lightbreeze
Using Super 8 in the digital age Part 2
These days filmmakers are spoilt with choice when deciding what format to shoot their films. Many will choose to shoot on a digital format whether is be HD or SD video believing it to be cheaper and easier, few think of shooting celluloid, many think it's too expensive and difficult and when Super 8 is mentioned there are very few who actually understand what it is. Super 8 has evolved from a home movie medium into a specialist professional medium and is commonly used to create a distinct visual look. But Super 8 can offer much more than the gimmicky look it's become famous for, with modern film stocks and professional telecine Super 8 can look astonishing and better than most digital at a fraction of the costs.
Filmmakers are obsessed with costs, but in professional filmmaking most costly element tends to be labour and time rather than stock, so the argument that film is expensive doesn't always hold up. Shooting on film tend to be quicker thus resulting in less time spent on set or location, video shoots tend to take longer because of setting up and lighting With film the camera operators are much more disciplined and shoot carefully as a result there's less exposed footage, meaning less time in the edit sifting through material, usually shooting with video the camera operators tend to shoot far more material which require lots of time to sort out.
Buying film and getting it processed is fairly easy but the one main problem with Super 8 in the UK is getting affordable broadcast quality telecine. Professional transfer houses that use real-time telecine machines like the Rank, the Spirit etc are far too expensive, their operators rarely transfer contemporary Super 8 film and are more used to transferring 35mm and Super 16, if they transfer Super 8 it's usually for archive purposes only. This can be a problem for the contemporary filmmaker because the results may not be what they expect.
Most companies that specialise in transferring Super 8 film to digital tend to use a modified projector with a high quality video camera, the results can be extremely good depending on the individual set up. The system works best for reversal film, the colour and gamma of reversal film is easier for video cameras to handle and reversal film is designed to withstand wear and tear of projectors, projectors can be abrasive. Negative film is not really designed to be projected; its emulsion is very sensitive and the film be easily damaged, it's easy to telecine with real-time scanners.
However frame by frame scanning using a precision machine vision camera with a modified projector can be used to transfer negative film and great results can be achieved as long as the telecine operator knows how to get the best out of the negative. The projector needs to have a very simple film path, it is vital for the film to be thoroughly cleaned and prepared for telecine.
Our frame by frame telecine scanner is a unique transfer system combining the features of a broadcast facility and a projector, it is optimised for transferring Super 8 negative film. Unlike other frame by frame scanners ours is not a modyfied projector instead it's a new design and is built from scratch, it has a remarkably simple film path and is gentle with film, thus ensuring no harm to the film, The scanner has an intergrated macine vision camera.
Copyright © 2010 - 2013 Technique Films & SPS Film Technology by Lightbreze