Build Battery Packs
Record Your Sounds
VNF Film and Filters
Super 8mm Links
Super 8 in PC Mag!
Kodak's S8mm Site
Ode to Regular 8mm
Cyber Film School
Stats & Translation
Make no mistake about it, the fact that Kodak is still producing super 8 cartridges containing reversal and negative film is a indication of major support for this format. While other types of film have virtually disappeared (disc camera anyone), super 8 continues stronger than ever - well, perhaps not quite as strong as last year but still, it is all we've got. As of May 2005, Kodak offers 2 negative filmstocks and 3 reversal filmstocks; 4 reversal stocks if you include Ektachrome 125 VNF film.
Oh sure we might be saddened by the recent announcement of the discontinuation of K40 in the super 8 cartridge, but let’s face reality: we can still continue to use our super 8 cameras in the year 2005. Wow! Last time I checked, the last honestly new camera ever built for super 8 came out in the early 1980s. Not one camera has been manufactured since that time. That's over 25 years ago! And let's not forget the addition of those truly amazing Vision 200T and 500T negative film stocks to the professionally-oriented super 8mm filmmaker. Professional results are at your fingertips for very little money compared to any other motion picture format.
Musings on Kodachrome and Ektachrome
case you have not heard about it, after 40 long years, Kodak
has officially ended production of Kodachrome 40ASA in the super
8 cartridge. Kodachrome, the film, started back in 1935.
I still remember that awesome photo of Flying Tiger Spitfires taxiing
on a runway in the North African desert, shot on Kodachrome, during
World War II. Incredible colors that defined a more than a few
generations. That was some 70 years ago now! Fast forward to 2005
decides to stop supporting K40 in the super 8 format. For the time
being, K40 is still available for 16mm and presumably regular 8.
But for super 8, K40 is now officially gone.
the official notice as of May 9, 2005:
is not lost though folks. On this 40th anniversary of the introduction
of super 8, Kodak is introducing a new 64ASA Ektachrome stock
that is also tungsten balanced. This is incredible. Kodak's
decision to offer an Ektachrome movie film stock is now going
many folks the opportunity to use E6 processing
formulas to develop their movie film at home. Like everything,
this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand,
filmmakers can take control of their media in all sorts
of ways never dreamed of with Kodachrome 40. But, for the rest
of us who shy away from home processing, we will now have to
pay conventional lab rates for the processing of our films.
Plus shipping and handling fees both ways of course. That will
hurt many struggling no budget filmmakers. Or will it? Seems
to me many low budget movies are shot on B&W so I do not
imagine Ektachrome will be any more expensive than B&W
when it comes to costs. And, let's not forget about that student
Nautica Film Gate
Interestingly, this also throws a whole new wrench into the valuation of old super 8 cameras. Those cameras that only allow 40 or 160 ASA tungsten readings (25 or 100 Daylight) are now only useable with B&W film stocks. Inserting a cartridge of E64 into one of these two-mode cameras will most likely result in one of two possibilities: an underexposure of 4/3rds of a stop due to the camera metering for 160ASA film loaded, or an overexposure of 2/3rds of a stop due to the camera metering for 40ASA. Either way, dark images or overexposed images are extremely bad when working with reversal film. “Thin” is often the term used to describe slides that have been overexposed in 35mm still photography. The same is true for movie footage. Expect to see your highlights washed out to the point of being pure white. Or, dark, constrasty muddy images when under exposed.
If you are fortunate, your camera may have a compensation dial. Many cameras offered this from as early as 1967. My GAF805M has one. So too does my Eumig Vienette. I encourage you to seek out these types of cameras. Compare some basic setting between 64ASA and 40ASA and 160ASA with a light meter to determine which direction your two-mode super 8 camera is metering on. Then, adjust manually as required.
S 715XL Film Gate
It also helps to remember your film steps (in 1/3 steps). Below is a table listing how Kodak adjusts the film speed notch in each super 8 cartridge – each row is a 1/3 f-stop and notice that only those steps that have measurements are official “notchable” settings – those are in 2/3rd f-stop increments. You cannot notch the in-between steps (well, maybe you can on some cameras that have the sliding notch reader but not on cameras that have pre-defined steps - again, this has not been verified - just an idea to ponder):
* Daylight film speed - cartridge has no filter
Also, like K40, the E64 will have the tungsten notch hole cut out in the bottom of the cart. This means that all cameras will automatically insert the 85 filter into place, resulting in a net ASA rating of 40 in daylight. Note, to be truly accurate, E64 requires an 85B filter, not an 85 filter. But, the difference is considered minor by most folks (200-degrees Kelvin) and can be addressed in post production on the timeline. However, always try to follow the golden rule of getting the color corrected at the point of exposure. Sometimes, critical changes in post production come with unintended tonal differences you may not expect.
Superwide Film Gate
On some cameras, the use of 64T may make for some inventive solutions to meter correctly if your particular model only knows 40 or 160 ASA film cartridges. As mentioned, you could be lucky with the presence of an over/under dial that lets you compensate for the metering difference.
On cameras with external meters (non-TTL cameras) like the Eumig Nautica, you could attach a neutral density (ND) filter over the taking lens to reduce the light entering the camera by 1/3 of a stop and have great results. Of course, the Nautica’s wide angle lens attachment has no threads so you MIGHT be able to install the wide angle adapter AFTER you install the ND filter…just an idea, it may not work. A better idea is offered below.
Cameras such as the Canon 514XL and the Canon 514XLS can only meter 40 and 160 films. However, they do offer a “aperture lock” feature so you could meter on something 2/3rds of a stop brighter than your subject, lock the aperture, then recompose and shoot. Probably very irritating in actual practice to perform but it can be done.
805M Film Gate
As for cameras with TTL metering and limited ASA compatibility and no compensation mechanism, I am afraid these may not work with the new E64. One idea floating around was to disable the internal 85 filter in these simple cameras and then use an 85B filter over the lens. Unfortunately, a TTL camera will simply expose this stock as if it were 25ASA and overexpose it by a third of a stop; the E64 in the super 8 cartridge behaves like a 40 ASA daylight stock if filtered correctly and used in the right camera, like the Nikon Super Zoom 8.
R10 Film Gate
Remember, the basic sensitivity of the auto-only camera is still 40ASA with no filters in the way. TTL’s strength is that the internal meter changes based on what the film sees but it’s weakness, in our case, is when loading a film that is not correctly calibrated for the camera; this is analogous to inserting a roll of 35mm film with the DX bars covered up and setting the camera to a basic sensitivity different from that of the film. No amount of filtering will change the fact the camera is expecting 40ASA light (unfiltered) to hit its meter, in the case of the super 8 cartridge.
Elmo Super 110 Film Gate
Another idea, and a workable one perhaps to the technically articulate folks, is to insert a teeny tiny ND filter in the gate, just before the light hits the film. Then, the meter could happily let in more light but you would be overriding the meter system with a direct cut of light the moment before it hits the film. Think of the Beaulieu 4008 series of cameras and their little internal filter holders. Not for the faint of heart. But it would work perfectly.
8X Super Zoom Film Gate
Speaking of Beaulieu, the 2008, 3008, 4008, 5008, etc, have an external ASA dial so they can shoot any filmstock. Same too with the Leicina Special. And the majority of regular 8 cameras too – but that’s another subject!
More ideas have popped up. How about taking the camera apart and seeing if there is some sort of small variable resistor that can be turned with a screwdriver to adjust the internal light meter? It may be an idea worth exploring on a camera that would otherwise be a doorstopper. See my page dedicated to this procedure!
An idea that doesn't quite work is to re-notch the cartridge to think it is a 160ASA and then put an 85B filter over the lens (or use the internal 85 filter). You could use a small multipurpose drill. However, in either case, the camera will still meter for a net 100ASA setting and you will now be 2/3rds of a stop underexposed. Unfortunately, this is going the wrong way on the light intensity spectrum. Obviously, no amount of additional filtering would help in the case of the TTL camera. But what if the camera was non-TTL?
A non-TTL camera could be attacked in this way: cut the film speed notch to allow the cart ridge to act like a 160T cartridge; then, using a Eumig Nautica as an example, cover the light meter only with a neutral density filter to get it to open the aperture and reduce the light meter reading by 1.3333 f-stops (4/3rds). That would work nicely.
814XLS Film Gate
So here we are. It's the year 2005 and Kodachrome is on its way out in the super 8 format. Well, it’s been fun. I will miss the heritage aspect of using film like those who have walked before me on this earth. I feel it is sort of like being sentenced to only watching remakes of original movies. How can you appreciate the current crop of today’s movies that all shot on a blue screen or worse completely created in a computer. Sort of like watching revisionist history of that classic 1970s movie of a war that takes place in the stars and discover the director added some new animated characters to broaden its appeal 20 years later. No, the passing of Kodachrome will be missed by more people than just us active filmmakers. Our audiences will notice the difference and will continue to make noise that we should just use miniDV instead. My hope in all of this is that the remake is better than the original, just as that other 1980s galactic battle against the robot machines is far better now in the year 2005 than it was in the 1980s.
Interesting. We at a point where this new Ektachrome filmstock will either be greeted with open arms or shunned depending on each filmmaker’s viewpoint. Only time will tell how this all plays out. I think I would call this new movie: “Super 8mm – The Offer of the Empire.” And I will keep hoping that “The Return of Kodachrome” will be the final installment.
See you in another 40 years!