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50 and still fabulous! ! Happy 50th Birthday Super 8 Film

 

written by  Rhonda Vigeant, Director of Marketing, Pro8mm, Author, Speaker, Radio Show Host, Home Movie Educator © May 5, 2015

 Listen to the audio version of this blog via my podcast, Listen to the podcast

 

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 As the beloved Super 8 film format turns 50 years old this month we must take pause to look at some of the milestones that have allowed the once popular home movie format to defy obscurity. Now in its 5th decade of Ektachrome 160 packagecontinuous use the mighty 50 foot film cartridge has dodged planned obsolesce which is common in the digital arena. Super 8 has a loyal following, and continues to breathe new life as a professional format. It has been used in thousands of professional projects for major television shows (American Idol, American Horror Story, Aquarius, The Academy Awards) theatrical movies (Super8, The Fighter, Argo, JFK, History of the Eagles) music videos (Paul Abdul, Beyounce, Madonna, Black Eyed Peas, John Mellancamp, Neil Young, Miley Cirrus, Justin Beiber), and commercials for major brands (Target, Nike, Coca Cola, Armani).   Super 8 film has captured the attention of a new generation wanting a more permanent and archival safe format for recording milestones such as weddings and baby’s first steps, as well as filmmakers who want to continue the tradition of shooting films on film. There is an understanding that in our digital world, an analog reel of film is the only proven archival medium. Properly stored, the film will last 100 years!

A Brief History:

May 1965 marks the official introduction of the Super 8 film format,

50th birthday party

which Kodak debuted at the second season of the 1964 New York City Worlds Fair. The genius in the Super 8 system is the unique cartridge loaded film, which could easily be popped into a camera in broad daylight. While many families were beginning to bring home grown cinema into their living rooms as early as the late 1920’s, these first 16mm systems were too expensive for the average middle class family. When regular 8mm came on the scene in 1932, people loved it but research showed that consumers were easily frustrated. It was tricky for the new user to load the film in the dark, shoot off the 25 feet on one side, then go back in the dark, flip it over to the other side and shoot the 25 feet of film on the back side of the roll.

Sheaffer_Headshot_1

From 1965 to 1985 millions of 50-foot reels were shot of everyday life around the world, which today represents a prolific historical archive of the way we lived. This time machine of “in the moment material” at home, abroad, and in the field is one of our most important national treasures, not only for the families whose relatives are forever present on homemoviefamilythose reels shot long ago, but also as cultural and historical evidence of some of the greatest moments in modern history. Increasingly we see this archival footage being used in documentaries such as JFK, Selma, The History of the Eagles, as well as news and history programs showcasing thousands of stories, both well known and obscure.

jfk

super 8 movie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1972, film schools and indie filmmakers started to recognize the tremendous production potential Super 8 film had.   At that time, the focus was on developing sound and editing capabilities. Bob Doyle, Harvard Professor founded Super8 Sound ™ (listen to my interview) During this time the Super 8 Sync Sound Recorders and editing benches were sold to hundreds of college EditingBench

and university film programs. It was a complete studio set up, and a milestone in the professional use of Super 8. These students who learned traditional filmmaking on Super 8 before advancing to 16 or 35 mm helped to evolve the format into professional work as they began working in the film industry.

Bob_Holly

Super 8 Sound Recorder

 

While some of the biggest directors and cinematographers launched there film careers behind the families home movie camera (Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan, Sam Rami, Ron Howard, Spike Lee) independent and studio filmmakers would shoot Super 8 film on a project given the opportunity that called for the unique look. This was particularly true when shooting flash backs, historical retrospectives, dreams, and what we call the “I’m on drugs” scene.

The evolution of Super 8 going mainstream was often referred to as Pro8LogoBlkPro8logo Hi-RESHollywood’s best-kept secret, and exploded when Pro8mm (formerly Super 8 Sound.  The company moved to California in 1987 and started evolving the use of professional  super 8 into the entertainment industry) introduced a line of professional negative film stocks in 1993. Up until that time, the Kodak film stocks were limited to only reversal film, which was suitable for consumer home movies, but had a limited selection of ISO’s and grain structures. The thought was if we Pro8mm (history of) could convert our slitting machine that we previously used to make the magnetic full coat audiotape for the Super8 Sound Recorders, than we could start slitting 35mm professional film stocks and put them into reloadable cartridges. With in a few months, Pro8mm had a full line of Kodak and Fuji 35mm professional stocks, spooled down to 50 feet and loaded in cartridges so they would work in any Super 8 camera.   We hit the ground running, and for over 20 years Super 8 negative film has been a part of thousand of projects including numerous MTV and VH-1 shows, specials, and videos, including almost every episode of Behind The Music and Where Are They Now?  

During this time, we also started seeing “extreme sports” brands use Super 8 in their commercials and TV shows. Snowboard, Skater Board, Surf Board, and all the associated clothing lines clothing brands such as Vans, Billabong, Volvo, Roxie loved the look of Super 8 negative film which fits perfectly with the popular “grunge” look of the era. This was followed by other big brands in the fashion industry shooting on Super 8 for Fashion Week, or in store promotions, including Calvin Cline, Armani, Victoria’s Secret, Ralph Lauren, Armani, Tori Burch, Minnetonka Moccasins, and many more.

 

With so many high profile brands and shows creating projects on Super 8 film during the 90’s, there was no longer the strong association of super 8 as being amateur home movie format. This was accelerated by the progression in scanning technology which continued to fuel the acceptance of Super 8 as a competitive force for studios and independent filmmakers. With better film stocks that were intended for transfer to digital, the power of Kodak Vision Film (1,2, and now 3) and Fuji Vivid, Eterna and Reala scanned on a professional flying sport scanner to a codec such as Pro Res in 1920 x 1080 HD, and now to 2K and beyond, the Power of Super 8 Film

Was unstoppable. The footage could use the same workflow as digital productions and could be easily edited in with program such as Final Cut Pro.

 

Another milestone Pro8mm came up with in 2001 was to expand the gate of the camera so that you could shoot a super 8 image 16 x 9. Called Max8

Max 8 is the expansion of the camera gate that changes the aspect ration from

4: 3 to 16: 9. We also recenter the optics of the camera. This feature allows you to insert Super 8 film footage in an HD workflow at the correct widescreen configuration. We also have3 a custom Max 8 gate for our scanner, so you can shoot 16: 1 and scan 16: 9. This eliminates cropping or curtains on the side of the frame. This does for Super 8 what Super 16mm did for the traditional 16mm film format – a modern application of analog film, keeping it viable in modern workflows.

 

The future of Super 8 film remains strong. This year a brand new Super 8 camera was introduced to the market. Logmar

 

Logmar-full (1)

Logmar DIGICANICAL Super 8 camera 2015

Camera Solutions of Demark has brought to market a brand new camera built from the ground up. (listen to my interview with the Logmar team) Currently still in Beta Testing with 40 users world wide, it Is a digicanical Super 8 camera. Features such as

  • Pin registration & dedicated pressure plate
  • Crystal synchronized frame rates from 6fps to 48fps
  • Stereo audio recording on SD-CARD as well as true XLR 48V Phantom power.
  • WiFi remote control via iPad, iPhone or Android
  • Digital viewfinder with low light CCD sensor and video output for external monitor
  • Programmable “Function button” for: Phase Advance, Alternate speed, Rule of thirds grid etc.
  • Firmware upgradable (future proof) via standard USB connector.
  • 200ft custom reloadable cartridge option

 

This is a game changer for anyone who loves shooting Super 8 Film!

Here is a list of some current projects shot on Super 8 film or in production.

We will be highlighting these projects over the next year in a series called

 

50 Years, 50 Feet, 50 Voices

 DO A SHOT PROGRAM  (since 2012 we have put about 1,000 people through the program who have never shot on Super 8 before) http://www.doashotwithpro8mm.com/

Monsanto Years (Neil Young) http://pitchfork.com/news/59348-neil-young-announces-monsanto-themed-lp-recorded-with-willie-nelsons-sons/ )

Second Coming of Russell Brand (filmmaker Ondi Timoner; opened SXSW 2015 .  Super 8 insert shots in London) http://www.brandthefilm.com/

Montage of Heck – Kurt Cobain  (Brett Morgan, producer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiCkJyeB0Vw

American Idol ( Owen Smith) Many behind the scenes shots

American Horror Stories (Michael Goi /James Chressanthis)

Minnetonka Moccasins Commercial https://vimeo.com/70003793

I Saw The Light http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3789828/

Marshall Head Phones Commerical https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85WAwbwkPIs

Tory Burch Commercial  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYwOY16mrec

 

 

 

Aquarius  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3768572/

 

Jessie Jo Stark (music video) Monster Party http://jessejostark.com/videos,4.html

 

No Entrerence (music video ) https://vimeo.com/79759407

 

Rebel; (James Franco) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1961476/

 

Spike Lee (many projects) 2015 music video for pepsi with Kelly Rowlands super 8 cut into the digital https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59aUxXn-BO4#t=15

 

It’s About You: John Mellencamp (Kurt and Ian Marcus)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqUrmGmLXIE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GET “REEL” About Your Home Movie Legacy Before It’s Too Late!

 

There is no time like the present to look at the past! (still photo created in native 1080 HD off my super 8 film by Pro8mm    www.pro8mm.com

 
Me and my mom – 1962      © 7/12 Pro8mm  Rhonda Vigeant

Everyday I see the relief in my client’s faces when they walk into my studio with their shoebox full of films.  The stories are more similar than they are different.  They tell me that these films were shot by their grandfather, aunt and uncle, or parents. They have been thinking about scanning them for a long time.  Some clients had them converted once before to VHS or DVD and they were disappointed with the quality. “These are important to me. Can you help?”

The fact is people should be worried about their home movies.  Most want to do something with their growing and ageing collection of film and tapes, but they do not know where to begin.  We are in a digital dilemma about our growing personal libraries and it can be a daunting task to digitize, organize, and share the material. Technology is changing so fast.  We worry that we will spend money to put our home movies on yet another format that we can’t playback.  So we wait.  We lack the motivation or call to action to do something  – until we have to.

My message is GET  “REEL” About Your Home Movie Legacy Before It’s Too Late!  Too late to save the material which is in a constant state of deterioration. Too late to get oral histories from the people who can tell you who is in the films and the “reel story” on the reel! Too late because your original film master was scratched or damaged from being projected too many times or transferred improperly. Too late because you were not ready when you needed the material for an important event. Too late to use the material as physical evidence for things that may happen in life.

(how will they know what the family did in the 1940s?

Technology has given us many options and choices beyond putting your analog home movies on a DVD (passive choice).  You want to “do something”  (active choice) with the material so that the family legacy will live!

Here are some great tips of things to think about just to get the ball rolling!

1.  Vision:  What is your vision for the project?  Do you want to just see it, share it, edit it, sell it as stock footage, have it on the Internet, or use it in genealogy research? This will dictate the type of workflow and play back you choose.

2.  Preservation: Just like photos, home movies matter. There are 3,600 still images on a 50-foot reel of super 8 film! They are not just some old home movies! They are part of our family assets, and help our legacy live for future generations. The original material needs to be protected and preserved with integrity, and should only by handled by people trained in working with original material on equipment designed specifically for digitizing media. Make sure the handler has experience is assessing the condition of the film and is working with equipment that will not further damage the material.

3.  No Spoilers: Some of my clients want to see what they have before they scan it.  It is difficult to get access to good projectors and tape players. Additionally, each time you project ageing film, it runs the risk of being scratched or damaged. The perforations of the film shrink over time and often do not line up in the projector properly. Our recommendation is to scan everything. (except commercially produced films) Because you are dealing with original material there are generally no copies, and it is worth it to have a back up. I have seen Mother Nature or fire destroy entire film and video libraries and if there was no back up, it is a devastating loss. Sometimes there is a single golden nugget on the reel that makes it a compelling part of the library. A back of everything gives you peace of mind.

4. Money Matters:    As in most things in life, you get what you pay for and there are lots of places that transfer film very low quality, very inexpensively, and compromise the integrity of the material. Big Box stores have been known to send archives out of the country and do the transfer in an automated “factory style”.  How much would it be worth to you to have films and tapes scanned to the same quality as the original material looked – or even improved? A great option is setting a budget and doing a little at a time best quality by a professional company that specializes in this work.  This is a fantastic way to get the library done. Set a time line.  Increasingly, I see people scan one roll best quality, put it on the internet for family members to see and use a use a Crowd Funding Website such ad www.kickstarter.com to get family members to help pay for the project.  Seeing that one roll really gets people excited and they can donate directly to the project on line!

Monetize Your Home Movies as Stock Footage: There are amazing opportunities for clips to be sold as stock footage when scanned professionally (no roll bars, flickers, pixellated or ghost frames). One clip can sell for as much as it costs to scan the entire library professionally. This is a great investment opportunity for people who might be hesitant. Turning your film library into an investment might be something you would want to consider. A single clip of 8mm film on Getty Images or Pond 5 can be a revenue producer for you. You get paid a percentage each time it is sold

5.  Family Matters and  Getting Social:  There is a growing interest in Family History and Genealogy. More and more people are finding clues in their home movies to link them to their past and find out about their ancestors. These can be easily shared on the Internet via YouTube, Facebook, etc. You can add tags that researchers are looking for, and maybe find some long-lost relatives or they might find you!

6. Get Organized:  You probably have a multitude of film and video formats. If you want to do an assessment of what you have, get totes, put film in one and tapes in another.  When considering what to scan, start with having the oldest material scanned first, which will be 16mm or 8mm film. Use the information written on the boxes and cans to identify what might be on the reels. There may be a “favorite” remembered from the past.  Postage stamps on the boxes and postmarks are great clues! In the day, film was generally mailed to and from the lab.

7.  Common Film Problems: Here are a few things you can do to see if the film reels are in trouble. If they are, you may want to advise your client to get these scanned ASAP!

– Take a whiff! If you smell vinegar, the film has something called Vinegar Syndrome. This is the breakdown of the emulsion and base of the film. The film shrinks, becomes brittle and warped. It is accelerated by heat and humidity, so get the film out of the attics!

Mold can appear as white or green chalky artifacts on the film. This was caused because the film got wet or being exposed to condensation. Get the film out of basements or refrigerators!

-Cans That Are Rusted Shut. These can be carefully pried open with a screwdriver.

– A Reel Never Developed. Very expensive to have the chemistry recreated, but possible from some specialty labs such as Pro8mm or Film Rescue.

Hockey Puck Reel. This reel got completely wet and as it dried out, the base and emulsion began to separate and it is now a solid mass. Some specialty labs offer a rejuvenation process where you can have the reel soaked for up to 6 months. In some cases, the film can then be hand scanned and sometimes there may be an image on it.

Curled Film. The film has shrunk or got wet and should NOT BE PROJECTED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!

8. The Home Movie Transformation: There are now so many options for getting film and tape moved to digital that is has become very confusing. In simplest terms we want to advise consumers to mimic what the studios are doing with their films so that the material can be seen at it’s highest quality and repurposed in many ways. The best workflow means have the film transferred in high-definition (1080) not standard definition. This more closely matches the original resolution of the film and looks fantastic projected digitally on our modern flat screen TV’s. Film can be color corrected (like Photoshop for your film) where needed to fix fading and inconsistent lighting conditions.  Flying spot scanners have amazing dirt and scratch concealment tools.  This is a fantastic reason to get film converted my a professional company.  There are  many tools to improve the image/  Material that is encoded and put on a hard drive is ready to edit, upload, and watch on a computer, smart phone or iPad, or even your own YouTube channel and streamed over the internet.  You cannot easily edit a DVD.  A DVD is just a lower quality copy of your original material.

9. Scanners (This is the most important tip I can give you) Investigate how the work is being done and by who. There are so many places that now offer transfers, often on very primitive equipment. These are usually modified projectors that can compromise the integrity of the film. Clients only have one archive!  Hundreds of reels are destroyed every year. Would you go to an Internet site if you needed a new heart? You would certainly want to see the facility and c heck on the credentials of who is doing the work.  The same is true of your one and only archive!

Film Chain (modified projector with a video camera in it, which tapes the image. Does not have tools to improve the picture and can damage film).  This is what a majority of the transfer facilities use. Many places set these up factory style and the work is done by minimally or untrained film handlers. Can be very cheap and sometimes the work is sent out of the country.

Flying Spot Scanner (a sproketless, capstan system designed specifically for scanning). Same equipment used by the Film and TV industry. Has tools such as color correction, dirt and scratch concealment, high-resolution, framing options, speed control, and more)

10.  Next Ah-Ha:  One of the things I love most about having a home movie library encoded on a hard drive is that each reel or tape shows up as it’s own file when you plug it into your computer. You can name the files. Your entire media library is all in the same format, so the possibilities “ to do something” with the material are endless. You can then organize these into  “play lists” chronologically, or as projects, such as just weddings or just holidays!

To conclude, the challenges we have for film and video are the same as for still images. The chore of organizing, digitizing and migrating all the material into a modern workflow is big so be ready with the analog film material encoded and on a hard drive so it can be added to your books! It will give you an edge. Educating yourself about best practices for working with home movies raises the bar and elevates our commitment as a society to elevate how important and priceless these film treasurers are.  Get your family  people passionate about helping  your family film  legacy to live!

Rhonda Vigeant is  Director of Marketing at Pro8mm in Burbank, CA and has worked with home movies and legacy footage for 30 years. She is the author of the soon to be released book  GET “REEL” ABOUT YOUR HOME MOVIE LEGACY… BEFORE It’s TOO LATE!