Posts Tagged With: Elmo Super 8 Camera

Is Super 8 Green Enough?

Is Super 8 Green Enough?

Is Super 8 Green Enough?

In the great green debate, most people I talk to assume that digital video is much  greener than film.  Recently, we were  asked to make a donation to THE  GOING GREEN FILM FESTIVAL which is being held here in Los Angeles,  and the filmmaker was telling me that the festival director  wanted a spot shot on Super 8 film, but  was not sure how the idea would be received.  Was super 8 green enough?    Simply stated, we believe that film is greener than digital video.  Here are a few of our reasons, and we encourage you to  please add your own to this short list as you discuss this with friends and other filmmakers!

1. All super 8 cameras are at least 30 years old.   At Pro8mm we buy back cameras from people, on eBay, Craig’s list, Thrift Shops, etc. which reduces waste.

2. We rebuild the cameras in house to be modern filming tools  (no out sourcing).

3. This gives the cameras new purpose as they can now shoot 16 x 9 widescreen, and  can read modern film stocks due to correct notching of the cartridges and recalibration of the exposure system.

4. These cameras do not end up as “e waste”.

5. We recycle the film cartridges and the sides  that we cut off when we cut down the 35mm film to make Super 8 film out of it.

6.We do silver recovery from the processing of the film which is then used in other industrial applications.

7. Our lab adheres to strict standards including quarterly testing of the water  by the City of Burbank to make sure there is no run off and proper pick  up and disposing of the chemicals we use in the lab.

8. The cameras can run off AA batteries, so a  battery pack is optional.  We also provide rechargeable  nicad batteries with the cameras we sell.

9. Unlike video that requires the use external  lighting equipment, Super 8 film is predominately shot with available light.  The images are gorgeous, and the range of ASA’s from 50-500 are powerful to capture these images, even indoors  without  an external lighting source.

10.  While video digital cameras are constantly changing and creating enormous amount of e-waste, Super 8 film has been using the same cartridges and cameras for over 40 years, and the cameras themselves can be repurposed repeatedly.  At Pro8mm we focus on adapting modern applications and technology to the format so it remains a viable tool within the many options for image capture.

(c) Pro8mm ™  – Rhonda Vigeant 2009

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8 Tips for Shooting Modern Super 8 #7

#7    Shooting at 18 or 24 Frames  Per Second.

frame rate knob from Canon 814

frame rate knob from Canon 814

All super  8 cameras were designed to film at 18 frames per second.  While many  better cameras have  a variable  filming speed feature,  18 fps  was the norm, particularly in the day when Super 8 was used primarily for shooting home movies.    When you shoot the film cartridge at a slower speed, it will  last longer and thus,  saves on the cost of film stock.    When your camera is running at 18 fps , you get a little over 3 minutes of running time from a   super 8  cartridge.    The better super 8 cameras that have the option of filming at 24 frames per second will get a little over 2 minutes from a super 8 cartridge.  There are some good reasons for using either speed but you have to be aware of the consequences of what you are doing and what issues it will present in certain types of production.

Because Super 8 cameras were designed to work at 18 fps, they tend to work their  best at 18 fps.  18 frames looks completely professional when properly transferred to interlaced video in standard or high definition i.e.  (1080i)  Some filmmakers prefer the look of 18 frames per second super 8 film.   24 frames per second is the establish film speed of 16mm and 35 mm professional film, as well as  many high definition formats.  When you go to a movie theater, the film  is being shown   at 24 fps.   Because it is the established production  standard, there are many devices and procedures that revolve around images shot at 24.  In fact, many fundamental devices used every day in the professional film industry will just not work with film shot at 18 frames per second.  Simple things,  such as double system sync sound are not possible with film shot at 18 fps.    This means that if you originate something at 18  frames per second you will not be able to use certain tools of the professional film trade or easily insert your footage into a 24 frame project.   For example, if you shot something in Super 8  for a theatrically released feature film at 18 fps you have created a huge mess.  There is no easy or clever method that can create 24 frames of film from 18 frames of original for 24-frame projection.  There are ways of doing this, but they create artifacts in the image or motion.  I have been involved with major  feature film productions that loved the look of super 8 so much they shot hundreds  of rolls of it for their project and then dumped every frame because they did not want to deal with the artifacts and non-conforming problems of using an 18-frame original in a 24-frame project.

When you send super 8  film into a post facility to be scanned to digital, you have to tell the facility what speed you want the scanning done at.   In 16mm or 35 mm it is assumed you are working at 24 .   As we said, there are many good reasons to work at 18.  It has a great look when done in interlaced video and transferred at the proper speed.   However, there are strong technical issues to working in 24 that are critical to getting a good look for theatrical and HD projects working in 24 fps and 24P.  All it takes is a little awareness on your part as a filmmaker to make this a smooth use of the great aesthetic of super 8 or create a nightmare that makes professional productions reluctant to use the  super 8 format.   It is all up to you.

If you do have Super 8 shot at  at 18 fps or  Regular 8 shot at 18 or 16  fps  that you want in  a 24 P project  I suggest you scan it at 24 fps.   This will create a frame for frame relationship with digital and film .  You will have no interlacing problems because the scan is frame for frame, but the  motion wil be sped up.  Then you will have to evaluate each shot and use digital techniques to achieve  the slower speed  when needed  in the material.   Ever notice how often times older  small gauge film  looks sped up when used in new production?   It is because the production company  did not want to work this out and just used the footage at the wrong speed.

As more and more projects move to high definition, you as a filmmaker will have to decide if you want to shoot 18 fps or 24 fps.   You can use either 18 or 24 in   interlaced video projects  but can only use 24 when you are working towards 24P or projects that will go theatrical  (c) Pro8mm ™ Phil Vigeant 2009

This point bears repeating.  It you shoot at 18 fps and want real motion, you must scan in  “i”, not in “p” . Even though a roll shot at 18 fps will last longer in your camera, it will takes longer to transfer.  The longer scanning session will add to your overall production costs.  It is no longer much of  budget consideration to work at 18  and more of an aesthetic choice – Rhonda

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8 Tips For Shooting Modern Super 8 #5 Airport X-ray

#5  Airport X-ray

fogged film

(sample of 16mm Kodak Vision 320T Color Neg exposed to INVISION CTX-5500 baggage scanner)

Since 911, nothing has caused more grief to the use of film than airport X-ray. This is a great tragedy for film because with a little knowledge it is easily avoidable, and does not have to be the hassle it has become.   For 8 years now, I have taken 500 ASA film on every trip I have  taken.  I always run my film through the walk through X-ray without any special consideration.  I keep it in the original packaging, and I just put the film on the conveyor and let it go through.  That’s right!   If they want to rescan it, I tell them go for it.  On one trip, I clocked 10 scannings of my film.  I have never had a single frame with X-ray damage.  The X-rays do not build up on your film,  although you could, like the example above multiple x-ray hits if you put your film in your luggage.  The X-ray system  in the walk through are nowhere near as powerful as the luggage X-ray system.

What I never do is put my film in my luggage.    The CTX-5000 x-ray machines that are used to check baggage at most commercial aiports is a very powerful device that can fog film.  Not only is it much more powerful than  the machines at airport security check in areas, it may scan a bag several times from several different angles.  This WILL adversely affect your film whether it has been shot on not.   I have asked every customer that I have seen with X-ray damage to his or her film the same question.  Did they put their film through the luggage x-ray?   Without exception every filmmaker with an x-ray problem at one time or another put their film in their luggage.  So it is a simple  matter of carrying your film on the plane and not putting it in checked luggage.  To this point, do not use X-ray bags or lead lined bags and think that your film is safe in your luggage.  All the airport people do is turn up the  intensity of the  X-ray system to identify what is inside.

X-Ray damaged film is easy to diagnose because it has a very distinct stroking of just the blacks in the film.  It does not matter if the film was exposed when it was hit or not exposed. It does not even matter  what the ASA is,  as I have seen fogging even on Plus X black & white 100 ASA.

Because of the danger of x-ray, it is not a good idea to buy super 8 film from questionable sources.  In the film industry there is a lot of film that is resold because it was not used on a production.   This film, commonly called Recan in 16 and 35mm .  When handled by reputable companies, it  can be easily tested and then resold with full integrity.    With Super 8 film there is no way to do this type of testing.  Therefore, if you buy your super 8 from a short ends reseller you are taking a big risk because they cannot test it.  (c) Pro8mm ™ Phil Vigeant, 2009

Did you know that Pro8mm sends you a DO NOT X-RAY sticker when you buy film from us so you can stick it on the outside of the package when you send the film back in for processing?  Private carriers such as Fed-ex and UPS  use there own planes and do not X-ray there packages but it doesn’t hurt to use DO NOT X-RAY stickers .   In remote locations  sometimes these carrier will use commercial airplanes to fly there freight, in which case  your package could be X-Rayed. Check with the carrier and clearly mark the package – Rhonda

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8 Tips For Shooting Modern Super 8 #1 Brush Your Camera Gate

Ugh… there  is a hair  in the camera gate!  Nothing is more aggravating for  us and to you  when we  get absolutely gorgeous footage up on the scanner and there  is a big yucky piece of dirt or hair in the frame.  Just a small effort on your part will make your footage sparkle!  BRUSH YOUR CAMERA GATE! – Rhonda

# 1   Hair in the Gate:

“Because of the nature of film and the way it travels through a camera and exposes each frame, the system will build up debris in the gate.  If  it is  allowed to accumulate,  this  will block some of the image.  The metal gate frames the film with what should be a smooth black border.   Because you are running film over metal, it tends to leaves tiny deposits on the gate as the film passes over it.  This emulsion residue is a gummy substance that is barely visible to the naked eye.  If this is not cleaned  from your camera, from time to time you can have several problems.   First, the gummy glue can trap foreign substances like hair, lint, and dust and hold it firmly, often where the image is taken in a camera.  This  results   in these  ugly black globs  which start around the boarder that blocks some of your image usually on the edges,  but sometimes  big enough to block a lot of picture.   Depending on the size of these foreign obstacles, a hair in the gate can ruin a shot.   In addition, the build up of emulsion can get so bad that your camera can physically scratch the film.   The fix for these problems is very simple.   Go to the store and purchase a child’s toothbrush.  Gently brush a few strokes between every cartridge.   Every, single, cartridge!   It is amazingly simple but incredibly effective.   Do not use compressed air as all that will do is blow dirt around, and  it might blow debris into somewhere you cannot get it out.   In addition, compressed air does not often have the force to move the object because remember, it is stuck in place.    Do not use a Q-tip, as the chance of leaving a fiber of cotton is greater then the good you will do by performing the cleaning.”                                                                                     (c) Pro8mm ™ , by Phil Vigeant 2009

If your camera has never been cleaned,  you might need to do some more extensive work.  Once it is clean, the brush trick is all that should be need to keep you hair free.

Pro8mm includes a free camera gate brush with every rental or purchase.  They are also available for sale  on our website for $5.00  at   A nifty little  tool  that fold up small and has  an attached cover, so you don’t have to worry about loosing it.     Once you use it on your camera, we do not advise using it as a substitute for gum or mints when you  have been on the set all day, or for that matter, the other way around!

Our Tip #2 will be on THE 85 Filter Situation.

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