Build Battery Packs
Record Your Sounds
VNF Film and Filters
Super 8mm Links
Kodak's S8mm Site
Ode to Regular 8mm
Needless to say, all currently produced film stocks are silent. Silent cameras can only use silent film but sound super 8 cameras can use both silent and sound film. Don't pass over the sound camera, just don't pay extra for it! Sound film is no longer around so for my purposes I avoid the cameras.
What do I do? I create my own synch-sound using my home stereo, CD's, and tapes. The simple approach is to time music to your movies. I like to use orchestra CD's without words for this purpose. I simply record different music at appropriate intervals in rough timing with my scene changes. It is relatively quite easy. You can always cue the tape to the exact spot using a counter and mark the white leader of the film at some precise spot on the projector with a black felt and then hit both start buttons at the same time. It sounds hard but really is very simple in practice. Be sure to use the same projector at all times and make note of its speed setting.
Advancements on sound technique would be to use a four-track so that you can create dissolves between tracks (narration over music, birds over water, etc.). This will also allow you to record live sounds (or use a CD sampler) with a separate tape recorder and overdub this into the music soundtrack. Tape recorders can be of any kind...think of using a Walkman-size recorder to get live sounds while filming. I bought a clunky avocado-green Sanyo tape recorder for $4 at a junk store. Hey, it works! Just put it into a ziplock bag, tape the seal for the microphone wire to get out and you're set for the bad weather.
I passed over a B&H Filmosound tape recorder in the goodwill store for $5. (Good deals still exist.) It was in fine shape but my Sanyo will work for my purposes. The B&H recorder is designed to recieve a pulse-sync signal on one track and record audio on the other track. Since I have no intention of using this recorder during playback of my movies (it can also sync with the projector), I passed it over. Instead, I prefer to record "wild" tracks and manually sync them via a four-track and have the playback through my home stereo.
Also, I just picked up a Marantz professional tape recorder for $2 dollars at a yard sale. The lady had no clue what she was selling. Not only does it play at two different speeds, there is also a +- 15 percent variable speed dial. Okay, so the manual recording level doesn't seem to work, but it does work fine on auto mode! It is very similar in nature to the Nagra style recorders except that this one takes regular cassette tapes! I plan to use it to playback previously recorded paddling splashes at the same rate as the film is playing...thanks to the variance dial I can do that! Keep searching everyone!
Since S8 film is projected at a constant rate, I am experimenting with matching a movie to go in exact time with a popular surfing song. How? Simple: Using my CD player I timed each significant sound change in the song (key or pitch or chord or instrument, whatever you like) and noted the time on a piece of paper. For my song, there were 7 major (repeating) changes and I noted them like this: A B C D E D G - A B C D E D G F - A B C D E D G with a corresponding length of time per change (not all "A"s were eqaul in length!). Now all I have to do is cut my movie to the exact timing of the song. Easy! At 18 frames per second, the math is no problem. The only restricting thing is to limit my shots to the allowed time per scene. Of course, I will be continuing scenes through the movie as in the pattern above. For this particular song of 2 minutes 11 seconds, I only need (131 Seconds x 3 inches/sec) 393 inches of film (32.75 feet) which is (131 sec x 18 frames per sec) 2,358 frames! All I am pointing out is that S8 can be an amazingly simple format to synchronize sound. Now just practice hitting two buttons at the same time and you're all set. Or, use a photostart device to help things along. By the way, you get 3600 frames per roll of Super 8mm film (18fps * 3 1/3 minutes).
As you may have guessed, adding sound to your silent footage can be as technical as you want it to be. Look for the newer super 8 cameras that have a PC flash sync (X synchronization) connector allowing you to use super 8 in a dual system setup, as described above.
For myself (as described), I stick to separate sound recordings (for the time being) and overdub them. This gives me an advantage since I gain in footage by running at 18fps instead of the usual 24fps required for single system sound cameras/film. You can also avoid requiring a sound projector using the dual system approach - synched or unsynched.
Go back to Cheap Ideas for an idea of trying to create perfect synchronization between your silent projector and your tape deck.
Just a word to straighten out the confusion on the built-in "85" filter contained in the majority of amateur Super 8mm movie cameras. There are two filters that get confused when talking about Super 8mm cameras - the "85" and the "85B" filter.
First off, the "85" filter is the one used when shooting Kodachrome 40 (Type A film) in the Super 8mm format. This is the normal K-40 we all currently buy! They just dropped the "TYPE A" nomencalture to make it more hip. Trust me, it is still Type A film! It is a Type A film because it is a tungsten film, hence it needs a "85" filter to correctly expose this film outdoors. It also goes to a slower speed with this filter in place. So, indoors - no filter, ASA 40. Outdoors - "85" filter in place, 25 ASA. Kodachrome in Super 8mm format is a TUNGSTEN film. If you exposed this film outdoors without the filter, all the images would be a distressing shade of blue! This film is not the same as the Kodachrome we use in our 35mm cameras for taking slides - you know, the film you can buy at the supermarket.
Second, so just what is the "85B" filter? It is for use with EKTACHROME TUNGSTEN films, of which there is only one in the Super 8mm format - Kodak's new Ektachrome 125 ASA film. The "85B" filter is commonly used with regular Ektachrome 35mm tungsten film. I use it all the time. In terms of Super 8mm, you need to remove the "85" filter from your camera and install a "85B" filter onto the front of the lens when shooting this film. You could use the built-in "85" filter but you risk being off in color temperature by 200 degrees Kelvin or so. I am not sure which way - warm or cold? So, with the Ektachrome tungsten film, you can shoot under artificial illumination at 125 ASA or in the daytime/outdoors with the "85B" filter in place at 80 ASA. Just like Kodachrome Type A film, the film speed gets SLOWER when you move outdoors! This is unlike our regular experience with Kodachrome 35mm slide film - that film is rated for outdoor use - it gets slower when you move indoors, assuming you use a bluish color-correcting filter.
Note - this starts to get technical so think about it and let it set in. So, if you are using the new Ektachrome Super 8mm, your camera may not correctly expose this film. Most cameras only offer 160/100 and 40/25 ASA automatic setting. In this case, assuming you remove the built-in filter, the camera will expose it at 160 ASA, BUT I am NOT SURE about how the new cartridge is cut - the notch, if present, will determine if this film is supplied in the 160/100 notched cartridge (I assume so) or the 40/25 ASA cartridge (highly doubtfull).
But all is not lost! Once you figure out which way the cartridge is notched, and assuming your camera has a through the lens light meter with a manual override, the speed will get down to the recommended 125/80 ASA. You see, you need to step the ASA down from the internal meter reading for 160 down to 125 ASA. Even with the "85" filter in place, the automatic film speed will be 100 but you want 80 ASA. About 1/3 of an f-stop, I believe. Finally, if you are lucky enough to be ubsing a higher model GAF camera, these come with the ability to compensate the automatic exposure metering with a small +/- dial near the eyepiece. Ahh, gotta love Super 8mm technology. They truly did think of everything! Well, these are my thoughts, and I hope I have not gotten it all wrong. Nikon and Eumig also offered film speed compensation as well.
By the way, one thing becomes apparent. It seems we really never lost that old 1940's/50's style of calling film indoors or outdoors film. Regular 35mm picture/slide film is still balanced to mostly daylight (6300 degrees Kelvin) these days. Movie film, which tends to be shot with artificial lights, is made with a warmer, tungsten balance (3400 degrees Kelvin). So, here's a test, go out (to a GOOD camera store) and buy a roll of 35mm Kodachrome Type A film and a roll of 35mm Ektachrome Tungsten film and shoot each while interchanging the "85" and "85B" filters. Make notes while doing this. If you see a noticeable color difference, then this will be the same difference you would see on your movie film. I rest my case.
PS. It just occurred to me that the "85" filter is sometimes called the "85A" filter. Now, continue reading.... More good stuff ahead.
BACKWINDING YOUR OWN FILM
Did you know that you can backwind your own film to produce trick dissolves? Sure you could look for a Craven or EWA Super 8mm backwinder - but we want to do it NOW! But, before rushing into this, let's check to see if your Super 8mm camera can pull off this trick by seeing if you can tape down the rotating cartridge gear - if it presses in. If it does, use some masking tape and cover the gear tab poking out. Then, with this done, run the camera until the film jams - this is for filming your first scene, of course. Then, remove the cartridge in a darkbag and use your finger to push the film back up into the top of cartidge until it stops. It may be best to wear gloves or whatever the filmbag provides. Then, remove the tape and film your second scene. Presto - instant dissolves. Some people suggest running the film once forward to first loosen up the film (filming within the darkbag of course with the gear taped). Then, push the film back and film your first scene - still with the gear taped. Then remove the tape, push back the film again in a darkbag, and film your second scene. Please be sure to film your darker scene first and your light scene second. You will also have to play with the exposure - perhaps filming each scene at one half the rated f-stop. Also, the reason for the three-times method is to allow for better film registration between scenes. Finally, the film travels from top to bottom when looking at the cartridge with the Kodak label in the normal reading position (film opening in your right hand, curvy part of cartridge in your left hand). Top is Up, bottom of cartridge is down. Film notches are on the left-hand side of the film. Enjoy!
I did not touch on lighting but needless to say I do have a few 3400K movie lamps used mostly for titling. Be sure to remove the built-in 85 filter when using these things.
As you may have guessed, I keep the hobby inexpensive and fun. My fixed costs are simply new thrift store cameras and yard sale projectors running at $5 - $25. My true ongoing costs are film($10 for K40), cement ($5 for a six month supply of heavy use), film cleaner ($7 for a 2 year supply), movie reels ($3/200 foot) and processing ($10/roll for Kodak Premium Processing). As in anything, your imagination is your only limitation.