Re: looking for super-8 camera in NYC

From: Jason Halprin (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Jul 16 2008 - 08:49:44 PDT

Jumping in now,

OK, so I mainly stay on the sidelines these days, but you've hit a nerve, Mark.  I would be completely remiss if I didn't step in here to defend my favorite celluloid format, super 8.  Before I begin however, lets be frank, working in 8mm or Super 8mm presents many challenges with regards to finding film, finding processing, splicing your film, and getting quality projection.  Should I even begin discussing the fact that it is near impossible to have prints made?  By working in either of these formats you are making a choice to present yourself with a set of limitations (different for each) at ever stage, production, editing, and presentation.

That said, let me address what Mark has said below:

Economics:  I will agree that my weapon of choice in Super 8 (the Nizo S560) will set you back around $200 (though I purchased one for a friend on ebay, and rehabbed it in a few hours, all for the price of $135, not including my labor), maybe more.  However, a B&H filmosonic that a friend picked up for $5 is capable of shooting a nice film.  My nizo has some great features, such as a built in intervolometer, an automatic/manual aperture, a variable shutter, in-camera lap dissolves, the option to take night shots with long exposure speeds, and the option to ramp up to 54fps during a shot, then return smoothly to either 24fps or 18fps.  I acknowledge that this was a pricey investment ($200 for a video camera, what will that get you in an up-to-date format?), but after 9 years and well over 5000 feet through it, I'm confident that it was a great choice for me.
*I'm not sure where you are obtaining your film, but the list price for B&W (Tri-X & Plus-X) is $10.59, and 7280 is $14.00.  You can obtain discounts on either of these through the educational program, making the price $7.41 and $9.80 respectively.
*Projectors are quite variable in cost (you can easily spend over $1000 for a GS-1200), but I've been known to come across super 8 devices for $10 or less that work great for home screenings.

Creative:  Your creative potential is only limited by one thing: you.  If you want to shoot something that is entirely double exposed, then yes, Super 8 is not the ideal format.  However, to make a statement that the creative potential is significantly higher with one format Vs. another is pure hubris.  "I make the rules the rules of the game, then attempt to play it." -MS...More arrows in your quiver does not make one a more accurate archer, the wisdom to choose the right arrow for the target does.
As I mentioned above, lap dissolves, manual aperture, variable shutter, and the ability to bypass internal filters (choose your own!) are all possible given the right Super 8 camera.  Yes, most super 8 cameras are set up to be completely automatic, but I see that as having it's own set of creative possibilities...ones I choose not to explore at the moment.

I personally have nothing against 8mm film, and have seen some beautiful pieces in this format (Bogus Boxing Trash anyone?), and Mark, if you are happy with the equipment and the possibilities you have with it, more power to you!  The potential for an in-camera 4-way split when projecting unsplit 8mm on a 16mm projector is a great tool, as is the generally higher quality of 8mm cameras vs. Super 8.  However, I would very much dispute your initial statement, "Super 8 Sucks! (sorry, I only yell at landlords and bosses)," and might agree more with "friends don't let friends dabble in celluloid without first letting them fall in love with it."

-Jason Halprin

and PS - my Nizo has travelled with my down the Green River, to the top of 14,000 foot peaks, and I'm confident it would handle the Peten just fine.  I might need to bring an extra set of batteries, but that's nothing compared to the weight of a 16mm camera.

Date:    Tue, 15 Jul 2008 17:21:20 -0700
From:    "D. Mark Andrews" <email suppressed>
Subject: Re: looking for super-8 camera in NYC

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I've been hesitating to respond to this post since I'm afraid I'll just get
into rant mode, so let me say calmly: friends don't let friends buy super-8
cameras, they encourage them to buy regular-8 cameras. Super 8 SUCKS!

This point comes from a newbie to film. I'm currently editing my second film
and shooting my third, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. But I
truly wished I had done more research into this subject before starting out
in small gauge filmmaking. Over the past 8 months I have been utterly
frustrated with super-8 cameras, projectors, processing, etc. and the
significant decrease of funds in my bank account attests to it. It wasn't
until I found a pristine Bolex B8L regular 8 camera for 20 bucks that I
found jesus. Let me tell you why:

Economics: Regular 8 (r8) is significantly less costly than Super 8 (s8)
* High quality cameras are more plentiful and less enticing to most
filmmakers thereby keeping the costs down. I'm currently dedicated to Bolex
D8Ls, three of them in fact. A sweet camera with a three lens turret,
variable shutter, multiple fps settings, built in light meter, lap dissolve
crank, pistol grip. I paid less then $50 for two of them and just shy of
$100 for another. They came with multiple lenses, filters, cable releases,
and even a few rolls of 50 year old film. Both my B8Ls with everything
mentioned here except the lap dissolve function cost less than $20 bucks
* R8 film is less costly. I pay about $10 for BW and $16-18 for color (50ft)
* Processing is either the same price or cheaper than s8, depending on the
* R8 projectors are also plentiful and cheap. My current favorite is the
Bolex M8. Have two, paid less than $40 for each. Sold a nice Keystone this
morning on CraigsList for $20 ($15 more than I paid for it).
* R8 film editors plentiful and I haven't paid more than $20 for any of
them, a couple off CraigsList for $5 each

Creative: Creative potential is significantly higher with R8 (unless you can
afford a $500-2000 S8 camera)
* My second film is almost entirely double exposed. Easy in a R8 camera,
just run the film through twice. Nada for S8, even the high end cameras
limit the number of frames you can do this with.
* Manual aperture, fps, variable shutter etc. give me creative control. This
is huge for me and will be for anyone who wants to control the look of their
film rather than leave it up to happenstance.
* Manual filters, rather then a built-in "daylight" filter let me change the
look of my film--red, yellow, blue -- all good.
* Fades are a breeze with r8. Even if you don't have a variable shutter, you
can open and close your aperture for the same effect.
* Lap dissolves
* Don't split your film when processing and you can project your film as
16mm, 4 frames simultaneously
* Etc.

This post is getting long so I'll stop here, but this list could go on and
on. In short, get your friend to buy a Bolex B8L (try to find one with
variable shutter) or Bolex D8L. You'll get all the trappings of a high end
super-8 for $50 bucks, most likely less.

BTW, I would be remiss is I didn't mention the downsides to R8.
* You have to wind the camera, most are not battery driven. I actually like
this, but everyone doesn't. They continue to work in central american
jungles and antarctica, however :-)
* You get more image in terms of real estate on an 8mm frame of S8. Only in
rare circumstances will this make any difference in the finished product.


For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.