Start Shooting Super 8 Movie Film!

Blog by Michael Raso

Over the past three years we have been asked many, many, many times to please cover Super 8 filmmaking on The Film Photography Podcast. Well friends, that day has come! Throughout this year and beyond we’ll be reporting on how you can start shooting Super 8 (and later 16mm) film. So let’s get started!

What is Super 8? Before we get started you might be asking..."what the heck is Super 8 film?"  Super 8 was launched in 1965 by Eastman Kodak as cartridge 8mm film to make home movies and project them at home on a screen. (There's also the older Standard 8 format and 16mm film format) More about Super 8 at Wiki.

above: Family wathching home movies circa 1946. Source: Flickr Commons - https://www.flickr.com/commons

Get a Super 8mm Camera!
Now is a great time to start shooting Super 8 home movies! Before purchasing a vintage camera, check with your parents, grandparents, aunt or uncle and see if a working camera is lying around in a closet or attic. If not, head over to the FPP Movie Film section, local garage sales or log onto e-bay.com.

When buying a vintage camera always ask or contact the seller and ask a few simple questions. Is the camera working? Is the battery compartment corroded? Any cracked plastic. Remember, even a camera that’s running may have some quirks or issues. It’s super important to do a camera test with one roll of film before shooting a special event or your backyard epic! 

Film Types
Today there are lots of film types to choose from. Color negative films like the Kodak Vision 3 (50 Daylight - 200 Tungsten - 500 Tungsten) are negative films that are perfect for transferring to digital for editing. Color transparency films like AgfaChrome 200D, Kodak Ektachrome 200D or Kodak Tri-X Reversal are the perfect films to project through a vintage movie projector. These films can also be transferred to a digital file! The FPP has assembled a store right here to carry all available Super 8 films at the best prices on the globe!


Start shooting!
Shooting home movies on Super 8 is just like using your phone camera or video camera except you only have three+ minutes per Super 8 cartridge. This is plenty of time to tell a story be it a birthday party, anniversary or cook out.  Google search "Tips for shooting home movies" for lots of articles on-line!

Processing your Film! If you're shooting color negative film that's part of the kit (pictured above), all you do is mail your film in the pre-paid envelope included. You will receive the digital transfer via e-mail and your original film via standard mail delivery. If you have color negative film not part of the kit or some Ektachrome or AgfaChrome, you'll need to reach out to a lab in order to get your film processed (and transferred, if you desire). Some recommended labs are Dwayne's Photo, Yale Film & Video and CineLab.

Edit your Film!
Today, almost ALL computers come packaged with a basic movie-editing program. You can edit, add music and sound effects and output your finished file.

It’s Show Time!
Here’s my very first film test using the Canon 514 XL Camera. I shot a roll of the Kodak 500t Super 8 Kit this past Father’s Day.

As you can see, shot it ambient light, the film looks like it could have been shot in 1980! 

That’s it for this first blog. Hope this is enough info to get you started. You can always e-mail me a Michael@FilmPhotographyProject.com if you have any questions.

Comments

miklops's picture
I once made a quick and dirty, back-of-the-envelope, calculation of how much more expensive it is to shoot Super 8 than MiniDV, standard resolution digital video. I have a bad memory for figures, but it was something like 350 times more expensive shooting Super 8 than MiniDV, even if you don't reuse the tape! (your mileage may vary). I made that calculation because I was lucky to receive a fully working, near mint, Sankyo Super 8 camera and an Eumig 900 top of the line projector! I'd love to shoot some Super 8, but at this kind of prices that's completely out of the question. This is an area where I'll stay digital. However you can learn a lot from Super 8 discipline, namely short shots, no more than 3 or 5 seconds, and frugal zooming and panning. Lisbon recently hosted the Volvo Ocean Race, and I made the experiment with my 10 year old MiniDV camera to make shots 3 to 5 seconds long. And it works! The footage is immediately more engaging somehow, and people don't fall into a coma watching it, even despite me having yet to edit the bad/boring/longest shots! So keep up the good work and send the great tips for shooting Super 8. Those apply to video too!
Anonymous's picture
I made a super 8 movie last year. I bought a Minolta XL 601 super 8 camera on ebay for 25 dollars plus shipping. So that was maybe 35 dollars. Then I bought a roll of Tri-X reversal film for 22 dollars from B&H photo. Then I bought two new duracell batteries for the camera, which probably cost 4 bucks. Then I got the film developed by CineLab up in Massachussets, which cost (I think) 18 dollars plus shipping. So let's call that 25 dollars. Finally, I bought an old Eumig 610D projector for 40 dollars. Total expenditure to make the 3 minute 20 second movie was 126 dollars. Of that, 75 was for the fixed cost of the camera and projector, and 47 was the cost of buying and developing each roll of film. When I was finished, I was able to screen this very clever little film for family and friends. Viola. A perfect cinematic experience. If (as you claim) it costs 350 times more to shoot super 8 than digitally, then I assume that the formula $126/350 = 36 cents... means that it costs you 36 cents to make a movie digitally. This is utter nonsense, and surely you will have to argue that my example and your example are based on different considerations. Which is exactly my point here... that cost can only be understood in terms of what you "SPECIFICALLY" want to do. I had a specific project in mind, and my costs were super low. I think if people are honest about the consideration of film vs. digital, what they come up with is the realization that they approach the decision NOT with a specific project in mind, but with some broader view of what they MIGHT want to do in terms of capturing moving images. But shorn of any specifics, the issue becomes one of "cost per minute" of capturing images. And because there is no specific project in mind, the user is thinking mostly in terms of some unbounded image capture scenario, in which case digital always wins, because after a certain amount of footage, the cost of digital gets relatively less and less until it is essentially free… whereas the cost of film remains constant. And once something is conceived of as cheap or free… then admit it… all other concerns are out the freakin' window. And so if we price out the cost of film for a 10 minute project, it is not that expensive… but if we require of film that it support a process of indulging in constant image capture… where we simply squeezing the trigger while we walk down the street indiscriminately capturing stuff that "MIGHT" be useful to look at later… then film simply does not support that process. I believe it is this imagined "capability" of digital… the ability to capture endlessly at low cost… that attract people to it from this economic viability point of view. But consider this… what is missing in that scenario? What is missing is ANY SPECIFIC PROJECT. So at the very least, whether or not film is expensive vis-a-vis digital, requires a specific project. Shooting endless footage IS NOT A PROJECT… it is simply a fetishistic consideration of non-specific moments of image capture. As for process… the film process can only be learned by shooting film. Digital advocates often claim that they appreciate film because of it's process, and that they apply that to their digital work. But without the real limits of film… without the preciousness of that fixed-cost film stock… without it's absence of immediate feedback via digital playback… one must approach film with pre-visualization and an awareness of the photographic demands of the camera. This brings a far greater level of focus to the project. Whether one thinks it is "worth it" is besides the point. My point is that ONLY FILM exposes one to this process. The lessons learned might be carried back into the digital world… but the lessons fade there, because the digital medium does not require them. Digital thrives on a different process, and produces products consistent with that other process. So instead of looking at costs and projects in the abstract, we should look at specific projects and their specific costs. And whether one shoots film or digital should be based on what end-product will result from those different processes. But as long as the consideration of "What to shoot with" is done with both eyes fixed on imaged costs for infinite footage, the aesthetic issues are taking a back seat to money. Which is a corruption of the soul that hardly needs to be argued for… but which is so often present in these film/digital debates as to be self-same with that corruption.
Rhonda's picture
Love your film kit project! Excited to be able to support your followers with this nifty product!
Anonymous's picture
Ummmmmmmmm........you kinda of skipped a big part. You went from shooting to editing on your computer. Last time I checked, my laptop doesn't have a place to insert my Super 8 cartridge.
Michael Raso's picture

Good catch! Updated!

rybaczewski@ameritech.net's picture

Be VERY careful when getting/using Super 8mm cameras.  Lots of the internal parts are made of plastic and rubber which for some reason do not have the longevity of steel.  The camera will work for about 10 seconds, then break apart.  Kodak Super 8mm cameras are famous for this.

One other thing - the film cartridge is notched and most cameras are designed to work with either 40 speed or 160 speed film, and that notch tells the camera which speed the film is.  There is usually a separate battery for the camera's exposure control - make sure you have a working batteery for the meter and be sure to adjust the settings according to the new film speeds that are available.  Otherwise, a LOT of money will be wasted on improperly exposed Super 8mm film.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.