Re: The return of Kodachrome Super8?

From: Fred Camper (email suppressed)
Date: Mon May 12 2008 - 11:04:19 PDT

Jim Carlile wrote:

> Why? This should give the inventor of K-40, Ron Mowrey, a good laugh.
> Except for archival properties, it's kind of silly.

I don't think I've ever read anything on FrameWorks that I disagree with
more strongly than this blanket judgment of Kodachrome, and Carlile's
later statements that "The new neg MP stocks are better, actually."
Aside from the fact that reversal is, or was, in theory, cheaper,
because you didn't have to make a workprint to view or edit it, there's
a larger issue here.

There is no "better" when it comes to making film art. There may be a
"better" if you want to get natural looking faces for a TV commercial; I
don't know about that. Otherwise, THERE IS NO "BETTER," only different
choices. A reading of what is by far the best "instruction" book for
experimental filmmaking. Stan Brakhage's "A Moving Picture Giving and
Taking BOOK" (reprinted in "Essential Brakhage") should make clear that
there is no one right way.

When I was first trying to make 16mm films, in the mid 1960s, I tried
Kodachrome, Ektachrome MS, Ektachrome ER (VERY grainy, which was also
very nice), the later Ektachrome EF, Ektachrome Commercial, Color
Negative when it became available later, and various Ansco stocks (D100
and D200 and their tungsten versions). Each emulsion had a different
look, a different feel, a different flavor. Ektachrome Commercial was
"better" than Ansco if you wanted low grain and "naturalistic" colors,
but the Ansco stocks had their own values and merits, values ECO lacked.
Later, working in super-8 in the 1970s, I used the wonderful panoply of
stocks Kodak offered, Kodarchrome, and the four Ektachromes, namely 160,
Type G, SM, and EF. None was "better." Each was different, as was Agfa.

Warren Sonbert used different stocks in his work, and I remember him
bemoaning the availability of fewer and fewer stocks as a narrowing of
his palette. Frampton once said that in shooting either "Autumnal
Equinox" or "Winter Solstice" (can't remember which) he had several
cameras, each loaded with a different stock. Jonas Mekas once gave a
great talk on film innovations that came from technical problems and
technical mistakes -- not the least his discovery of his own short-burst
style due to a broken camera that would only shoot short strips of film
at a time, which he discovered he liked better.

Carlile's statements oppose the whole history and "ideology" of what it
means to make experimental/avant-garde films.

At the same time, I don't hold out a lot of hope for the return of more
filmstocks, and would encourage people to explore the widening
possibilities of video. I have in recent years been making digital
prints of multiple digital photos on paper, works that are somewhat
cinema inspired; with my own printer I can control the output in a way
you never could dealing with film labs ("Yeah, I just couldn't get all
that yellow out," one lab technician told me -- yellow that was not in
the original.)

Fred Camper

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