Good question. There are a few different films on the market and Kodak have relaunched Ektachrome, which is a beautiful film.
As a rule of thumb you need to consider what your end product is going to be.
• Is it a professional shoot that requires extensive digital grading? In which case your best opting for colour negative films, as they have great latitude, meaning they are pretty forgiving with over and under exposures (within about 2 to 3 f-stops). They also have a very flat (raw) colour palette, which means that they digitally grade very well. The best colour negative movie films are the Kodak Vision 3 range. In super 8 there are three speed films. 50 ASA, 200 ASA and 500 ASA. The speed of the film is its sensitivity to light. 50 ASA is the least light sensitive, but it has very fine grain / resolution. This is a daylight film only. The 200 ASA film is good in daylight and subdued light, but not night time. The grain is slightly higher with this film. The 500 ASA film is the most light sensitive, and is best for subdued light and night time. But note, not all super 8 cameras can handle this film speed. Please double check before attempting to use it in your camera.
If you fancy some colour negative film on a budget, you could consider Kahl NC 22. Vivid colours with a warm red cast to it. It’s also quite a fast film, (125 ASA), so a good all-rounder in daylight and low light. But not night time.
• Or, are you after a Kodachrome / vintage look? The film that comes closest to this is Kodak Ektachrome, Kahl UT 18 or Fuji Provie 100D. These are colour reversal films. Think colour slide film that would load into an old slide projector. Or basically, projectable colour film. They produce a positive image (as we see things in the real world). They are not so good for grading and have very little latitude, meaning you need to get your exposures right when shooting to get the best out of the film. Colours tend to be a little over saturated and the image is generally pretty high contrast, meaning the shadows are very dense and highlights bright. They don’t have so much detail in the shadows as negative films. The only exception to the rule in regards colour reversal films are Kahl NC 17 and Kahl NC 15. These have a very flat colour palette. These two films grade really well, and have some interesting colour drifts that give a truly vintage esoteric look. But note, all colour reversal films need plenty of light, so no good in low light.
• If you’re after a beautiful high-contrast monochrome look, then Kodak Tri X or Plus X are your best bet. But note these films need exposing correctly in our experience. They’re certainly not forgiving on under-exposure. You could always give your self the option of shooting on colour negative film, with its extended latitude and then grade to monochrome later in-edit.
The difference is the film speed (light sensitivity). The higher the sensitivity, the grainier the film. The slowest (least light-sensitive) of these films is the 50D (but this has extremely fine resolution and grain). The most light-sensitive is the 500T but not all supers 8 camera can handle the 500T film. Please check this before purchasing. The 200T is a good all-rounder, good for daylight and subdued lighting conditions.
• Reversal films hold a positive image on the film emulsion i.e. how we see in the real world, so these can be projected in a traditional film projector. They are generally much higher contrast than negative films and are not so flexible for digital grading, although there are some exceptions (see Kahl films).
• Negative films hold an inverted image (i.e. the light is dark, and dark is light) on the emulsion. They are not designed for projection, but should be digitally scanned. They have excellent latitude and allow for great flexibility in digital grading / colourising.
• Super 8, invented by Kodak in 1965 is 50 foot (15 meters) of film and held in a light-proof cartridge that is very quickly and easily loaded into the camera. It has a smaller sprocket hole than standard 8, allowing for a larger image area and so typically delivers a sharper, higher fidelity image than Standard 8. Super 8 is (these days) the most popular of the two formats.
• Standard 8 is delivered on a 16mm spool in 25 and 100 foot loads. When run through the camera one half of the 16mm film is exposed, then once this is complete, you remove the take-up spool, and re-feed it back through the camera to shoot on the other side of the 16mm film. Once the second half has been exposed, the take up reel is removed and sent for processing. During processing the film is slit down the middle and the two 25 foot lengths spliced together to make one 50 foot length of 8mm film. Standard 8 has a larger sprocket hole, hence smaller image area and generally yields a lower quality image on the film.
• Note Super 8 cannot be run in a Standard 8 camera and vice versa.
• If you’re travelling internationally, checked baggage often goes through equipment with higher energy X rays, but X-ray equipment used to inspect carry-on baggage uses a very low level of x-radiation that will not cause noticeable damage to most films. The X-ray machine that screens your carry-on baggage at the passenger security checkpoint will not affect undeveloped film under ASA/ISO 800. However, if the same roll of film is exposed to X-ray inspections more than 5 times before it is developed, it is possible that damage may occur.
• When we ship film internationally, we mark the package ‘CONTAINS PHOTOGRAPHIC FILM, PLEASE DO NOT X-RAY’. On returning the film to us we advise you do the same.
• To date we have never had any film spoilt from courier X-Ray machines and we ship film internationally every week.
• In short, no, not anymore.
• Some super 8 cameras used to record sound with especially sound-striped films. However Kodak discontinued these films in 1997 and the sound quality was always questionable.
• Standard 8 is a silent format.
• 16mm was sometimes delivered with magnetic and optical sound stripes and some 16mm cameras had on-board sound recording (for use in TV journalism and documentary work). However, the favoured form of capturing sound by most filmmakers is to run a separate recording device and using a clapper-board for synchronising the sound later in-edit.
• FPS means ‘frames per second’. This is the speed the film is run through the camera and the number of frames that elapse per second.
• 16fps was popular in Standard 8 filming, but the motion fidelity is not great. Great if you’re after a truly vintage look. It yields around 4 minutes of film from one 25 foot film load.
• 18fps is the standard speed that most Super 8 cameras run at yielding around 3 min 12 seconds from one Super 8 cartridge.
• 24fps was the standard cinema frame rate for most theatrical releases (when film was the dominant medium for cinema projections). Motion fidelity of 24fps gives you a classic cinematic look.
• 25fps was generally used for TV work, as it synched better with broadcast telecines and transmissions (back in the day). These days it’s best to decide your frame rate, in line with the ‘look’ you’re after and what frame rate your final edit is likely to be at. For example if you’re cutting your film along with digital footage, it’s best practice to run both film and digital at the same frame rate.
• This can be a combination of film speed and exposure (or in some cases, both).
• Film Speed: This has a great deal to do with how much grain you’ll see. Expect very low grain from a 50 ASA film on Super 8, but 200 ASA and 500 ASA films will have visible grain, especially from such a small film format such as Super 8. Bear in mind, we’re having to enlarge a very small film strip into a very high resolution image. Expect less grain on 16mm as it’s double the size of 8mm. Paradoxically, older film scanning systems (that have poorer optics and sensors) can be more forgiving on grain, as you’re not seeing the film emulsion as accurately as a modern film scanner delivers.
• Exposure: If your film is underexposed we have to adjust our scanner’s sensitivity to receive as much information as possible from the film. This results in heightened film grain, as the grain may be more dominant than the underexposed images.
• 3 minutes 12 seconds @ 18fps.
• 2 minutes 25 seconds @ 24fps.
• 2 minutes 20 seconds @ 25fps.
But this can vary slightly with different film stocks.
• Super 8 film jams don’t happen very often at all. If it happens continually with different carts you’ll need to get your camera checked.
• Remove the cartridge from the camera, and quite forcefully tap it on a table top or in a palm of your hand. Then return it to the camera. This usually works, but occasionally some films will jam no matter what. If this is the case the film can be returned and a replacement sent out.
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