From: Ken Paul Rosenthal (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Jul 22 2009 - 17:57:26 PDT
After many, many months of research and tests, I've finally found a facility that makes stable, clean, HD super 8 transfers.
I sat in on a marathon 8-hour session yesterday at 'Pro 8' in Burbank, California. My footage was stablized during the transfer, not in post. We captured straight to my hard drive, Pro Res HQ, 1920 x 1080p, 23.98.
I was in a dream--or fugue--state for 8 hours, didn't even think of a taking a break; the delicious detail and granularity of the original super 8 was retained, with just a smidge of drift to resemble traditional film projection. And the image stayed almost entirely clean, and completely scratch-free due to the film not being touched by particle rollers. The occasional speck is likely due to dust bunnies settling on the film after development. (I process and telecine prep all my super 8 at Alpha Cine. They use an ultra sonic cleaner which involves a liquid bath and air drying).
Of the many obvious factors relative to super 8 gear/technology that effects image stability, I made the critical discovery that the first few feet always had comparatively more movement than the rest of the roll, as the torque is initially less forgiving on the take up side of the cartridge. Hence I'll simply run off the first 10 seconds of each fresh cartridge in the future.
I shot Kodachrome (from Wittner in Germany), Plus/Tri-X, Ektachrome 64T/100D, Hi-Con 7363, and Vision 500T. The personal tastes and needs of any artist/project notwithstanding, Plus-X (which constitutes 95% of my footage) proved to be the most stunning--sharp yet notable grain, rich shadows and glistening highlights slightly coaxed by a yellow filter when shooting.
I'm waxing blissful because I feel I've finally struck a fundamental balance between analog and digital technologies. The economy of means afforded by Super 8 permits me to carry all my gear virtually anywhere--land, sky, and water. In deference to purists and far from being an apologist for S8, the optics on my Canon 1014XLS (and my eye ;-) gave me images that those who look at my transfer take for 16mm. Yet in post, I'm clearly editing images that have retained the tasty textures of super 8, with the detail of larger formats.
I've relished obsessively clinging to my vision while considering the equation between cost, aesthetics, technology, and viewership. If I had listened to the numerous operators, fellow artists, and post folks who effectively told me to 'get over it, it's just super 8', I'd not have discovered a work flow that can bring this humble format to a large theatre. Phil, the owner/operator, was a dream to work with. This is not a 'mom and pop' facility, so the transfer was comparatively expensive. But that's film, baby.
I hope to have a new, more representative trailer on my 'Crooked Beauty' site within a couple of weeks, and welcome any inquiries for screenings of this poetic, social justice documentary which I anticipate (read 'hope and pray) will be complete mid-fall). I just screened a work sample/sketch, cut from older, video footage for female inmates at the San Francisco city jail. Not surprisingly, we didn't discuss film aesthetics/structure, but their mental health struggles as inspired by the film. Cinema as a tool for social transformation indeed!
Should you contact Phil at Pro 8, please tell him I sent you. Viva super 8!
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