faq : page sections

General questions

Manuals, maintenance and services

Film stock

Website

faq : general questions

Why should I start filming with Super 8?

Why should I start filming with Super 8?

You might ask youself: I have a cool new video camera! Why should I start filming with Super 8?

Hmm ... not an easy question and impossible to answer in two sentences. It's worth a kind of historical and philosophical approach and this is given in the next answer of this FAQ for not to annoy you with the length it takes. But absolute beginners should start reading there!

The answer, why

The answer, why

The history of filming on Super 8 and Video started in the same magic year of 1965. Kodak-Eastman developed an easy-to-use cartridge system for the ageing 8mm film format and Sony presented the first portable open-reel video camera system named Portapak. Since then technology in both sectors made major leaps but video won the race for customers due to the steep curve of falling prices for tapes since around 1985 while a Super 8 cartridge costs nearly the same sum from its heydays untill now. By the way, VHS is the worst of the surviving video standards. Video 2000 is gone, U-Matic and S(uper)-VHS scratch the edge of extinction, even in the arts section, Hi-8 and VHS Pro were kicked by DV and Beta SP and Digibeta survived only in the professionals niche. But now the facts on film:

 

The disadvantages of filming with standard Super 8 cartridges are:

  • they each offer you less than 3 minutes length
  • most movies are mute since sound cartridges are not available/affordable any more
  • the film material is far more expensive than video tapes
  • it takes a lot of time to get them processed and assembled
  • the camera has to be adjusted and manually focused

The advantages of filming with movie cameras are:

  • They are extremely durable - the age of working cameras found at online auctions is a proof
  • Videotapes fade to snow after 20 years - a movie can still be viewed in 100 years
  • good film material has an extreme density of pixels, you have to use HDTV technologies to beat this!
  • Colours and contrasts are far better than on video
  • You can use all possibilities photographic equipment offers you like different filters and lenses
  • The equipment is much cheaper than a video equipment giving you the same results
  • You have full control over the results of your filming activities when assembling or processing it
  • You can enjoy a good glass of wine when assembling it and even accidently knock the glass over. Film splicing equipment is easy to rinse - try this with a computer or video processor!

You enjoy and are fully content with the astonishing possibilities of your modern video gear - especially the increasing quality of DV? You don't like the idea of handling 50 feet-long filmstrips, uneasy splicers, ripped and burnt film strips blocking the projector, handling poisonous, acidic and smelling chemicals in a darkroom? Then stop reading here and go on to use video!


But if you are keen to look out for the possibilities and deeper understanding of filming techniques you should try to get a grip on a movie camera. Most video movies are boring, have their lenghts and are sometimes impossible to sit through. Amateur video filmers tend to record everything - a boring pile of images rushes over the screen ... because it's so cheap. With film you have to think before you pull the trigger of your camera. Film happens in the mind before it comes to live in the projection. Not surprisingly Super 8 has been the starting media for a lot of directors and cameramen when they were students in their line of business. Telecine and digital editing adds an new perspective on cutting your footage. And a movie cameras' lifetime will easily supersede the lifetime of your video equipment and maybe even yours. So will the films you have made with it!

What kind of camera should I purchase?

What kind of camera should I purchase?

That depends on what you intend to shoot with it.


If you just want to show your next holiday movie on a large-scale projection rather than on a small video screen get yourself a fully automatic silent camera. This type of camera has an integrated exposure control, automatic shutter control and rarely other movie speeds selectable than 18 frames per second. Single shot functionality is sometimes also provided. You can hardly do anything wrong with it - except facing the problem of under-exposed footage since most of the film types recommended for these cameras and still being sold have a quite low light sensitivity.
Agfa, Nizo or Eumig cameras might meet your needs.


More professional cameras offer you to disable automatic features and manually set the exposure. Frame rates may be set from single shot (good for animations) over time-lapse speeds like 2, 4 or 8 fps (i.e. frames per second) to standard Super 8 speed at 18 fps, standard cinematic speed of 24 fps up to slow-motion at 36 or even something like 54 fps. They should have a metal body and interchangeable lens systems (called C-mount) not to mention the higher quality of the often used Schneider-Kreuznach, Angenieux or Zeiss lenses. The advantages of a reflex viewfinder system with exposure meter is another noteworthy thing since with it you have a much better control over exposure and focus. There are of course a lot of sound cameras in this upper class but due to the answer given to the previous question you may neglect this feature. But the most sound cameras also often provide a very good quality.
Beaulieu and Bolex are the most famous brands for professional cameras.


If you want to know about the prices for any movie cameras ever built I recommend to purchase or borrow the book "Filmkameras. Film cameras." by Jürgen Lossau (bilingual). Find out more about it in the Links section.

I have seen a nice camera at an online auction! Should I buy it?

I have seen a nice camera at an online auction! Should I buy it?

I highly recommend not to be too trustful on offers at online auctions: if somebody posts offers with the words "...have no possibility to test the camera..." or "...may be broken..." - skip it and look for something else. Three out of four cameras I bought via eBay were defective! When you think you might make a good deal bidding on a camera from somebody who seems to have it heritaged from his grandpa, pretends to have not the slightest idea about the cameras functionality and does not offer a warranty to take it back/give you refund when it arrives in a defective state ... you are wrong to bid on it. The spare parts and maintenance costs often supersede the worth of the camera. The prices met at online auctions are also often higher than the cameras real collectors value. Better buy it from a good photo store where you have the possibility to test it and they often sell these reconditioned ones with a warranty. The slightly higher prices paid there are a far better investment, believe me!


To help you in estimating the value of a camera or projector I've added collector values to the manual lists. These have been taken from Jürgen Lossau's marvellous books "Film Cameras" and "Movie Projectors". Sure, they are an estimation too, but offer at least some orientation.

Somebody offered me a camera. What should I pay attention to before buying it?

Somebody offered me a camera. What should I pay attention to before buying it?

If you have the chance to see the camera before buying, pay attention to this:


Are there any fungus stains visible inside the lens unity? Ask where the cam has been stored in the last years. Do a Google image search for "lens fungus" or visit www.film.project-consultant.net/html/fungus.html to know how fungi may look like prior to the inspection. Have a penlight ready for inspection and look directly into the lens. If you can see white spots or even smears inside, the camera is doomed.


Is the battery battery compartment clean or could the cam have been damaged by a battery leakage in the past? Be sure to have some standard Alkaline cells (mostly common size AA, no rechargeables!) ready to perform a basic funcionality test.


To help you in estimating the value of a camera or projector I've added collector values to the manual lists. These have been taken from Jürgen Lossau's marvellous books "Film Cameras" and "Movie Projectors". Sure, they are an estimation too, but offer at least some orientation.

I have more questions. Who might answer?

I have more questions. Who might answer?

There is a USENET group concerning Super 8. You find this newsgroup under alt.movies.cinematography.super8 via your Newsclient. Andreas Widerøe Andersen maintains an archive list of this group at his website www.8mm.filmshooting.com. Please don't bother the newsgroup with questions that have already been answered - use the archive for finding earlier threads on your question.

 

Another excellent starting point for your researches is the Super 8 Wiki or Martin W. Baumgarten's 8mm Film Format Metadirectory (but it deserves an update).

faq : Manuals, maintenance and services

Where can I find a manual for my camera?

Where can I find a manual for my camera?

There are some Internet resources for free online manuals (including this site):

Commercial resellers are www.super8.de. Wittner Cinetech sells reprints of manuals for Beaulieu cameras and the 708 EL projector.

Where can I let my films be transferred to video or DV?

Where can I let my films be transferred to video or DV?

Please see the links section. Differerent services are available. You can have your films scanned digitally or simply transferred optically via projection and recording with CCD-Videocameras. Different video tape and digital storage systems are available. You can get your movies on any Video systems' tapes as well as digital data on CD-ROM, CRON harddiscs (swapable HDDs in a special tray system) and meanwhile even DVD - ask your dealer or surf the linked websites. The process of transferring film to video is called Telecine.

I need to replace a lamp and belt drive of my projector. Any idea where to get this?

I need to replace a lamp and belt drive of my projector. Any idea where to get this?

Please see the links section. Lamps for projectors are often held in stock at professional photo stores. Replacing belts can be tricky since ther is a wide variety of diameters and cuts (square, round, with traction notches etc.). Better ask a professional photo dealer for a replacement and bring your projector in.

My camera is defective. Where can I get it fixed?

My camera is defective. Where can I get it fixed?

Wittner Kinotechnik based in Hamburg, Germany, used to offer maintenance services for most models but their good service has its price (www.wittner-kinotechnik.de). A list of shops in Germany, Austria and Switzerland can be found at Herbert Schmelzer's website www.super8.de. At the moment I can't answer this question for areas outside these countries.

faq : film stock

Is there still film stock available for my camera?

Is there still film stock available for my camera?

You should first determine which kind of film size your camera was built for. 16mm, 8mm (aka Normal 8), Double 8, Double Super 8, Single 8 and Super 8 films are still available. See the next main section of this FAQ to find out more on the differences of Super 8 film types.

What about film stock with sound stripes?

What about film stock with sound stripes?

Unfortunately there are no sound film cartridges for Super 8 available in regular stores anymore. Fuji was the last company producing these films and they stopped offering it in the mid nineties. You have to use external devices to record the sound (a Nagra reel-to-reel tape recorder for example) and there are many difficulties providing speech synchronicity. Fuji Single 8 sound cartridges are back on the market but at a very high price. Search the Andec Film website for it, listed on the links page.


You can let your films be equipped with magnetic tracks after editing (post-striping) and record your custom sound on it with the most sound projectors. You also need a quartz-synchronized camera (can be done with professional devices like Beaulieu 6008 etc. at fixed framerates of either 24, cinematic or 25 frames for telecine and broadcasting purposes) to guarantee a better synchronicity when doing longer sequences. Better results in controlling synchronicity can be achieved with digital postproduction (AVID etc.).

I have an automatic camera. Which film should I buy for it and where?

I have an automatic camera. Which film should I buy for it and where?

A 40 or 160 ASA Tungsten (artificial light); 25 or 100 ASA Daylight; 40 or 160 ASA Black & White are accepted by a Braun Nizo S800 for example. The cheapest film you may try with these cameras is the classical Kodak Kodachrome 40 (K40 in short) colour reversal film and you should be able to get this at a professional photo stores at about 10 to 15 USD/EUR. It comes with a mailing envelope to send it to the next Kodak Lab near you and processing plus shipping back is included in the price. For western Europe this is in Lausanne, Switzerland. But you can simply send it to the next Kodak Lab and it will be redirected there. Processing time takes around 14 days.

 

Kodak ceased to produce the Kodachrome K40. At the moment I don't know if the lab in Lausanne is still processing K40 stock. Read this Super 8 Wiki article on support of Kodak's new 64T in old cameras.

 

The Kodak US website www.kodak.com offers some more information about their films and salespoints in the US. There might be some more internet salespoint for your country. I provided some links to film salespoints in Europe in the links section.
 

What does reversal stock mean?

What does reversal stock mean?

Reversal stock is a film that shows a positive image after processing and it is the most common film used when shooting Super 8 movies. Reversal films are available as black and white, colour and even infrared-sensitive material. The standard black and white reversal processing is done with 5 baths. A first developer with a contrast-enhancing additive developes the films emulsion layer. In controling this steps' duration you may pull (shorten) or push (extend) the time of development. This is sometimes needed to correct a controlled over-exposure (when pulling) or under-exposure (when pushing) of the film. The second bath is an acidic bleach where the negative images' silver layers are converted into layers of silver salts that will give the positive image afterwards. The third bath is a so-called clearing bath that removes the yellowish gelatine surface. All the previous steps must be done in a darkroom, the latter ones can or must happen with lights on. The films' silver salts will now be re-exposed to light! and a second development takes place. Now the process is to be finished with the fifth step, an ordinary fixing bath. This is a short summary of how to process a reversal film. In fact the entire procedure need 14 to 15 steps and takes around 20 minutes per film.

 

If you are interested in details see the processing manual (in german) at www.super8site.com. English descriptions may also be found on th web. Processing colour reversal films is more complicated and I did not gain any experiences with it yet.

What is a negative stock needed for?

What is a negative stock needed for?

As you can imagine the projection of a negative film might look kind of surreal. A negative film is normally used when intended to make Blow Ups with it. That means the film is copied to a positive 16 or 35mm material to adapt it to cinematic formats. This is normally done at special labs and quite expensive. Negative films are availabe as black and white or colour (rare and expensive) material. When doing telecine with your footage the material can also be reversed to positive and the range of higher sensitivities and its finer grain make it a very professional stock to use.

faq : website

Why do I have to register? Why are manuals and forum not public?

Why do I have to register? Why are manuals and forum not public?

This websites' idea is to gather a community of likewise minded people who share their love for small-format moviemaking so I added a way to register with this website. The forum is not public due to misuse by spammers. All downloadable files are restricted to community members to prevent leeching these files.

What do the LMC and LMP numbers in the camera and projector sections stand for?

What do the LMC and LMP numbers in the camera and projector sections stand for?

These numbers (only available to community members) refer to the item codes listed in Jürgen Lossau's marvellous books "Movie cameras" (LMC) and "Movie projectors" (LMP). They are useful to identify items, especially when built in series. You can find more information on these books on the website of atoll medien. The use of these codes on this website has been kindly permitted by Mr. Lossau.