The Power of Super 8 Film

Last night I made a trip over to the Kodak screening room for a mini-seminar on "The Power of Super 8," given by Phil Vigeant of Pro8mm (previously Super 8 Sound). I've known of Pro8mm for a few years now, having seen them around on cinematography forums and in magazines, and I've bought and processed a couple of rolls through them. Most recently, I sent the first batch of 52 Weeks Project cartridges to them for processing and transfer because they have quite reasonable prices for HD scans and specialize in the Super 8 format. Most importantly, Phil and company are doing - and have been for years - more than anyone to keep this format alive and champion its viability as a medium. Perhaps their biggest contribution has been repackaging professional motion picture color negative stocks from Kodak and Fuji in the Super 8 format by cutting down and perforating 35mm rolls. Kodak has helped Super 8 quite a bit too, by packaging their current Vision stocks (they've always done black and white and reversal stocks) as Super 8, but the first folks to do this were Phil and Pro8mm and they continue to re-package stocks we want such as the new Fuji Vivid 500 (I can't wait to burn some of this for the 52WP). Pro8mm and its predecessor are responsible for several other innovations in the realm of modern Super 8 film making and they really ought to be praised for it. 

Lately I've noticed that Pro8mm have been kind of vocal in their marketing. There have been seminars around the country, Phil has written a book on the topic, and I've been seeing news about these "Power of Super 8 Film" boot camps. It seems Phil is on a campaign, or, even better, a crusade to further champion the cause of small format cinematography. And why not? Contrary to popular belief, film is still alive and kicking even if its presence isn't felt as strongly in the mainstream as it once was. There are many of us that prefer film, and many more who choose to see the proliferation of digital cinema (and photography) as a widening of the landscape rather than the paradigm shift we're told it is. The rise in Super 8 shooting parallels, I think, what has gone on in the digital world to a certain degree. The digital world is all atwitter with enthusiasm for DSLR cinematography which comes with its share of compromises and weaknesses but produces something of high enough quality to be seen as an acceptable low-cost alternative to shooting with more advanced systems from companies like Arri and Red. Likewise, Super 8 has its share of shortcomings but, as Pro8mm and others have been demonstrating, provides a low-cost yet valid alternative to shooting on Super 16 or Super 35.

So I went to the two-hour seminar last night hoping to learn a thing or two. I'm still honestly a novice with film and with Super 8 and while I understand the fundamentals that I knew would be discussed, I felt I'd get something out of going. I also knew that part of the free presentation would be marketing for the not-quite-so-free weekend-long boot camp. I went in with no more intention than spending a couple hours around like-minded individuals and learning a couple things, but by the end of the night I had my credit card out and was trying to figure out how many pennies I'll have to rub together until they turn into a trip to Los Angeles. I'll be attending the Power of Super 8 Boot Camp the weekend of March 25th and I'd urge anyone interested in analog cinematography at any level to do the same if you can. For my part I just know there's so much I still have to learn - and look forward to learning. I also have to say that I was just incredibly inspired by Phil's enthusiasm for the medium and really blown away by the footage he showed.

I'm excited. There really never has been a better time to be shooting film.

(photo provided via Creative Commons by Flickr user Jovino)