What you need to know… About shooting with Super 8mm

For a few years, I was a regular blogger for In[Focus] Video Events which is an educational community devoted to event filmmaking. Much of what I wrote in 2011 and 2012 has become redundant, but after a resurgence in interest from couples about commissioning wedding films in Super 8mm I revisited a few of those “What you need to know” posts and found, pretty much everything (in regards to filming with Super 8mm) still applies! Although these posts and videologs were created for event filmmakers, I think our couples who love the look and feel of real film may find them interesting and helpful.

Part One – Getting Started

Part Two – Film Stock

In part one of “What you need to know… About filming with Super 8”, I shared advice from industry peeps on what every event filmmaker needs to know about filming with Super 8mm. In part two we’re delving deeper and taking a look at what film stocks are available, what our peers favorite stocks are, and who they love (and hate) for processing and transfer.

First of all, it’s important to remember this is film, so there is a vocabulary which you may be familiar with, but not truly understand if you’ve never filmed with a Super 8mm, 8mm, or 16mm. When you hear event filmmakers mention specific film stock, they tend to use the shorthand version of the name… i.e. 100D instead of EKTACHROME 100D ColorReversal Film 7285.  For some of us, I think this is a hangover from film school or the days when we shot 35mm film still photography with SLR cameras. The “100” is the key term here because it is referring to the film speed. As in photography, the ISO gives you an indication of film’s sensitivity to light. Here’s the scoop – the higher the number, the better it preforms in low light situations. Other key terms include Tungsten Balanced (film that it balanced to reproduce colors faithfully when exposed under artificial tungsten light sources), Reversal Film (a film that produces a positive image on a transparent base – again, think back to SLR photography and slide film), and Negative Film (the colors are reverse of those in the scene and when printed, the negative becomes “positive”).

There are currently four film stocks available from Kodak  for Super 8mm filming. These are:

  • EKTACHROME 100D Color Reversal Film 7294
  • VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 7219
  • VISION3 200T Color Negative Film 7213
  • TRI-X Reversal Film 7266

 

It’s always best to go direct to the source for information, so I asked Matthew Stoffel, the Manager of New Media for the Eastman Kodak Company (ed. note Matt is no longer with the company) to give us the rundown on what the various stocks are designed to do. Here’s what he had to say:

“Kodak offers a range of film stocks designed to perform well for general situations. For example, if you find yourself shooting low light interiors, we offer KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 7219 for reduced grain in shadows, so you can push the boundaries of exposure further.  The film’s extended highlight latitude gives you greater flexibility when lighting extreme situations and let’s you pull even more detail out of the highlights.

Of course, KODAK EKTACHROME 100D Color Reversal Film 7294 is a frequent choice for those wanting to capture that intensely saturated color we all instantly recognize. As it is daylight balanced and 100 speed, it’s a great choice for producing sharp images with accurate skin tones in daytime exteriors and interiors with windowlight.

A relatively new addition to the Super 8 lineup, KODAK VISION3 200T Color Negative Film 7213 performs superbly in both controlled interiors and in challenging high-contrast exteriors. With the image structure of a 100 speed film and the versatility of a 200 speed product, it’s kind of like having two for one! Couple it with an 85 daylight balancing filter outdoors, or shoot away in a well lit interior!

And last, but certainly not least, is KODAK TRI-X Reversal Film 7266. Rich blacks and excellent contrast are its hallmark. As a 160 speed (tungsten), an antihalation undercoat makes this film suitable for both artificially lit interiors and daylight.

These suggested uses are just that, suggestions and by no means represent the applicability of any film for artistic or specific purposes. We encourage you to explore the possibilities that Kodak offers Super 8mm cinematographers. Learn more at http://motion.kodak.com/motion/Products/Production/Spotlight_on_Super_8/Super_8mm_Products/index.htm. Enjoy and happy filming!”

We don’t have a huge selection, but everyone still seems to have at least one “go to” stock and, as Matthew mentioned, there are still plenty of ways to tweak them to get the “look” you want to achieve using filters. Because the majority of our weddings are on the beach or outdoors, my favorite is the EKTACHROME 100D Color Reversal Film 7285. I love the saturation and vibrancy, and I find it works really well with Canon 5Diii footage we  capture at events, so blending it into the final wedding film feels natural. Here’s what our peers who shoot Super 8mm on a regular basis have to say on the subject:

Do you have a favorite film stock and why is it your favorite?

Vanessa McKellar, Vanessa McKellar Productions

My favorite film stock is VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 7219 simply because it continually surprises me how well it does in low light.  After always hearing how badly Super 8 performs in low light, then filming a getaway in the dark turn that turned out beautifully, it definitely endears me to this stock. (Of course, we always use off-camera lighting in the dark, but I’m still impressed.)

I used to really like EKTACHROME 100D Color Reversal Film 7294 because it gives a lot intensity and saturation to the colors, but I found it was too hard to match it to the Color Negative 500T footage, so I stopped using it in favor of VISION3 200T Color Negative Film 7213, which intercuts seamlessly with the 500T. However if I’m doing a short outdoor shoot where I know I won’t be using any fast stocks I will use the 100D.

Steve Moses, Vantage Point Productions

Kodak 200T and 500T are what I use the most. For black and white TRI-X Reversal Film 7266 looks great. I like to keep it simple on the day and might start shooting it all in 500T. The 500T has a wide exposure range and latitude, plus it can handle really low light or sunshine. Changing film in the field is confusing and could cause you to load in a short roll and accidentally reach the end of the roll during an important moment.

Celia Hilton, Momentus Films

For indoor shooting (such as for bridal prep), I like Kodak TRI-X Reversal Film 7266, which is a black and white stock. When light is compromised, black and white film just looks better, and you can catch beautiful silhouettes. For outdoors, we like VISION3 200T Color Negative Film 7213. One of my favorite shots for Super 8 is the newlywed’s triumphant exit from the ceremony (the only shot I have from my own parent’s wedding). Some scenes, like the exit, just lend themselves to the vintage feel of Super 8 and the 200T captures it beautifully.

Bryan Coward, Lucky Lemon Films

One of the coolest things about Super 8 is that the film is cut from 35mm. So if you read American Cinematographer, or are just fascinated by film and movies, then you know what stocks of film are being used by the big DP’s. I have found Kodak’s Vision 3 that way and just love it. I use the 500T the 200T for Super 8 filming. There is so much latitude in these stocks for being under or over exposed. I really like the look and feel of it, and with today’s HD Scanning, the film looks just brilliant! It really is unbelievable how good our Super 8 can look today compared to just a few short years ago.

Megan Hill, Hello Super 8

My favorite stocks for weddings are the Kodak Vision 3 200T and 500T. It’s a softer look than the reversal stocks. Skin tones look lovely and the latitude is really great for low light conditions.

Matt Buckman, I Do Films

My favorite film stock is one of Kodak’s newer Super 8 stocks.  The film stock is EKTACHROME 100D Color Reversal Film 7294.  It’s great for shooting outdoors (it’s a daylight film), and has much richer color than most other stocks.  So if you’re looking for vibrant colors, this one really shines.  I use this stock the most, followed by Kodak TRI-X Reversal Film 7266 for black and white.

Part 3 – Buying Cameras

Want to see one of our Super 8 weddings? Check out Rachael + Robert’s beautiful Carillon Weddings event – https://sixpencestudios.co/2012/12/09/a-carillon-wedding-coming-soon-racheal-robert/.