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Super 8 or 16mm that is the question!


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#1 Mike Rizos

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 12:03 AM

I was looking to buy some super 8 and 16mm and was checking around for prices. This got me into comparing the formats and much to my chagrin, I realized that it now costs the same to use negative, and specifically vision 2 in either super 8, or 16mm.

The key to all this is, off course, short ends and recans, which are not available in super 8. Considerably higher telecine costs for super 8 also contribute. Unbelievably, by my calculations, in the following scenario, super 8 vision 2 will cost about 50% of using 35mm 4perf!!!

Say we want to buy, proccess, and transfer 11 minutes of footage. I am using Cinelab prices for proccess and transfer, but I am sure other labs are comparable.

35mm short ends and even full recans can easily be found at $.20 foot. 16mm can also be found at that price. Raw Stock has these available right now. Much lower prices are possible, or even probable if we buy some quanity, but let's stick with these numbers for now. For super 8 vision 2, our best price is from Kodak which last time I checked was around $15 per cart, which is $.30 a foot.

In 35mm we need 990 feet @ $.20 raw stock, $.12 to process, $.08 to transfer for a total of $ 396 or $36/min
In 16mm we need 400 feet @ $.20 raw stock $.14 to process, $.14 to transfer for a total of $ 192 or $17.50/min
In super8 we need 220 feet @ $.30 raw stock $.30 to process. $.25 to transfer for a total of $ 187 or $17/min
35mm/3perf and 2 perf offer further substaintial savings.
To bring another ridiculous point to the discussion miniDV costs $.10/min

It's obvious that super 8, a totally amateur format originally, has taken a completely different role, but what exactly is that? What keeps it alive? Does anyone use it for their home movies anymore, and if so what are the reasons? I just hope it's not nostalgia...but I have a horrible feeling that it is.
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#2 Alessandro Malfatti

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 01:24 AM

Why, what's wrong with nostalgia as a reason for using Super8? I find it acceptable that people have begun to use a home movie format for something it was never planned to be, and now you're saying that you hope no one uses it because of nostalgia for the purpose it was designed for? Let me get you a (somewhat extreme) parallel. Say we're thirty-five years in the future. No one uses cars any more. The super-ultra flying car which runs on cat turds has taken over personal transportation completely. But a few nuts still use cars, mainly for racing, because the flying car is not suited for that. Then, suddenly, someone comes about driving his 2002 Honda (a classic car by then) down the road to WalMart (yehaw, combining another controversial topic, good writing, huh? =D ). And he drives by those people who are the main users of cars, for a reason they were not specifically designed for (although back in the day used for that purpose already, just like Super8), in this case, racing. And he drives by and sais: "Wow, how cool that people have found another use for cars, even though gasoline is hardly available and cars haven't been made in a long time. They keep this alive, though it is only my hobby." But then one of the racing guys comes over and tells him: "Oh phooey, so you use your car to go to WalMart? Please don't tell me you do it for nostalgia."
And the car driver thinks: "Oh, go so soak your head in water, what's the big idea telling me I can't use a car for the purpose it was designed for, just because I do it because of nostalgia (among other reasons), and even though it's quite expensive. I respect him completely for doing something for reason's I could consider wrong, and he doesn't think the same of me, he thinks my reason's are not the right ones." (How about that awesome use of '40s language? =D)

Anyway, I'm not mad at you, I'm trying to make you see why I don't agree with you being unhappy that people still use Super8 for home movies because of nostalgia. If someone hasn't thought of it, of course I MYSELF use Super8 for my home movies, not only but also because of nostalgia (also because it makes taking movies a challenge, considering the use of film responsibly, filming correctly, etc., you know, everything that goes with Super8). And even though I don't think Super8 really is for professional use, I completely accept and tolerate people using it for that purpose, just as I wish people accept that I also use it because of nostalgia.

Hope I made my point clear.
Cheers.
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#3 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 01:31 AM

It's obvious that super 8, a totally amateur format originally, has taken a completely different role, but what exactly is that? What keeps it alive? Does anyone use it for their home movies anymore, and if so what are the reasons? I just hope it's not nostalgia...but I have a horrible feeling that it is.


There is more to the Super 8 story than some realize. First off, I doubt S8 is useful anymore as an amateur format...it is very much used mostly by aspiring filmmakers and wedding photography professionals, music video shooters, etc. It is definitely too expensive for casual use. Care must be taken when shooting S8 because it is a very cost intensive format.

Consider the following reasons someone might shoot S8 over 16mm or miniDV:

S8 vs. 16mm:

Most high end S8 cameras are far cheaper than high end 16mm cameras. For single projects, this is a serious cost consideration. People will always point out that CP16's are great values, which they are, but they are not that easy to find as people think. Believe me, i tried for over a month to acquire one. I ended up shooting my short on S8.

Recans may be an option for 16mm, but ONLY for those 16mm cameras that offer 400ft mags. Back to the last point, these tend to be higher priced cameras such as Bolex Reflex-5, Arri SR editions, Eclair, hard to find Auricon, and CP16 which is often hard to find. Most low cost 16mm cameras take 100 ft daylight spools which are just 16mm equivalents to the 50 ft S8 cartridge. Honestly they are worse and here's why:

1) Daylight spools expose a certain amount of film to load. S8 cartridges are, in theory, 100% useable.

2) Daylight spools take far longer to load than an S8 cartridge. If you are shooting a short in a day or two, you will realize how much this time savings is.

Many lower end 16mm cameras are much louder than S8 cameras that are priced less. For example, the K-3 is much louder than a Nizo 6056 or an Elmo 1012S-XL. This makes the S8 camera more desirable for a dialog shoot.

Many good S8 cameras are syncable through the Film Group but lower end 16mm cameras like the K3 are almost impossible to find crystal motors for. Tobin used to make a sync motor for the K3 but those have been discontinued. Demand for those are high and you probably won't find one unless you pay a lot.

Super 8 has a unique look that you cannot imitate with any other film or digital format. Some like it and some hate it but all agree that it is truly unique. I personally love it and I've seen more positive reviews of it than negative. 16mm just sortof looks like "baby 35" and does not look entirely unique...I'm sure some will disagree. However, most would agree that S8 is much more uniquely different than other formats compared to 16mm.

Super 8 vs. miniDV

Super 8 is film. Pure and simple. It has all the advantages of film even though it is a small gauge. It also has some of the strengths of digital without the weaknesses. Super 8 has cartridges that are fool proof and therefore loading is easy and a joy. It takes less time to load an S8 cartidge than it does to load a miniDV tape. In some ways, Super 8 has all the strengths of film, similar practical strengths of miniDV in terms of loading, and none of the aesthetic weaknesses of video. It also has the advantage of fool proof loading which is a benefit over larger film formats. S8, in many ways, is like the perfect compromise. I don't know why more digital shooters don't migrate to S8 because it is a very nice and smooth transition into the film world.

I hope this has given some perspective on the S8 issue...all are free to disagree of course.
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#4 Kenneth Wajda

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 10:58 AM

Here's how I calculate my Super 8 film costs--which I think if you can add your own telecine process, the cost of S8 is quite affordable.

I am shooting mostly at 18fps because I want that "old time" look. But I put the costs for 24fps as well.

Film PLUS-X @ $11.00/roll (John Schwind)
Processing: Yale @ $14.00/roll
$25 for 200 seconds (3:20) at 18fps.
Transfer myself with a HVX200 HD variable speed camera and a Variable Speed Projector
Total $7.50/minute (My most used setup)

Film 64T @ $19.00/roll (Yale)
Processing: Yale @ $14.00/roll
$33 for 200 seconds (3:20) at 18fps.
Transfer Myself with a HVX200 HD camera and a Variable Speed Projector
Total $9.90/minute

Film PLUS-X @ $11.00/roll (John Schwind)
Processing: Yale @ $14.00/roll
$25 for 150 seconds (2:30) at 24fps.
Transfer myself with a HVX200 HD variable speed camera and a Variable Speed Projector
Total: $10/minute

Film 64T @ $19.00/roll (Yale)
Processing: Yale @ $14.00/roll
$33 for 150 seconds (2:30) at 24fps.
Transfer Myself with a HVX200 HD camera and a Variable Speed Projector
Total $13.20/minute

It seems to me the telecine costs are significant in this process, virtually doubling or tripling my costs. That money could be invested in a good HD camera and telecine projector. This is all for personal projects, paid for out of pocket. On a commercial shoot, it doesn't matter as the costs will be passed on to the client.

Here are Spectra's discounted specials:

8 Pack
8 Rolls Super 8 (20 min)
Processing
Prep & Clean
1 hour RANK Transfer @ 24fps
Mini DV or Beta SP Tape
Cost: $553.00
Discount: $94.00
Final Cost: $459.00
Total: $22.95/minute

Spectra's largest order with the biggest discount:

48 Pack
48 Rolls Super 8 (120 min)
Processing
Prep & Clean
6 hour RANK Transfer @ 24fps
Mini DV or Beta SP Tape
Cost: $3258.00
Discount: $879.00
Final Cost: $2379.00
Total: $19.83/minute

Anyway, that's how I see it and do it. Thought I would share.

Andrew
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#5 Will Montgomery

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 04:36 PM

Thanks Andrew, nicely laid out.

Film 64T @ $19.00/roll (Yale)

You know you can order directly from Kodak for about 4 dollars cheaper right? Shipping might make up the difference but if you order enough it will make it better.

Spectra's prices are pretty good too... there are many other facilities where telecine costs are more and HD costs are of course much higher.

This cost analysis led me to 16mm about 5 years ago. Cameras aren't that much more expensive, film is more but processing is about the same. Telecine is the same if a decent house does it. Quality is night and day difference. Of course, sometimes we're just looking for the Super 8 aesthetic and it works great.
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#6 Jim Carlile

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 09:29 PM

Super 8 is still popular because there are a lot more cool cheap cameras than in 16mm and the film is considerably cheaper, all in all. It's largely a hardware thing now.
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#7 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 07:24 PM

I would say Suoer 8 or 16mm or 35mm. I did a brief cost analysis here: http://www.indi35.com/tips_and_links
Not including hardware costs, you can shoot and telecine 2 perf 35mm for much less than Super 8. Oddly, you can find better deals on 35mm film, processing and telecine than Super 8 or 16mm, I guess because of greater competition (at least here in LA). The raw stock cost of .20 a foot can be cut in half, and you can get it processed for .08 a foot. I rent a 35mm MOS camera outfit with a tap for $230 a day, less than what I see 16mm gear renting for. A Canon 1014 rents for $150 a day plus $75 for the video tap.

As a Super 8 shooter in days of old I understand that Super 8 can be an appropriate aesthetic choice, regardless of cost. It has its own unique look. But it's also important to look at the needs of the project and find the format and image capture media that's appropriate. The truth here is that there is more choice than ever before. Do I wish 35mm had been affordable in my student days. Not that I don't love the Super 8 I shot, but more film fomat options would have been nice.

Bruce Taylor
www.Indi35.com
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#8 Chris Burke

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 08:19 PM

I would say Suoer 8 or 16mm or 35mm. I did a brief cost analysis here: http://www.indi35.com/tips_and_links
Not including hardware costs, you can shoot and telecine 2 perf 35mm for much less than Super 8. Oddly, you can find better deals on 35mm film, processing and telecine than Super 8 or 16mm, I guess because of greater competition (at least here in LA). The raw stock cost of .20 a foot can be cut in half, and you can get it processed for .08 a foot. I rent a 35mm MOS camera outfit with a tap for $230 a day, less than what I see 16mm gear renting for. A Canon 1014 rents for $150 a day plus $75 for the video tap.

As a Super 8 shooter in days of old I understand that Super 8 can be an appropriate aesthetic choice, regardless of cost. It has its own unique look. But it's also important to look at the needs of the project and find the format and image capture media that's appropriate. The truth here is that there is more choice than ever before. Do I wish 35mm had been affordable in my student days. Not that I don't love the Super 8 I shot, but more film fomat options would have been nice.

Bruce Taylor
www.Indi35.com




Bruce,


Do you rent only in LA or will you rent say your 2 perf camera out on the east coast? I have a indie feature in the offing and am considering 2 perf over s16.

chris
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#9 Marc Guerriero

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 09:09 PM

I would say that Super 8 will retain it's viability under two circumstances: 1) if it's price does not get too far out of hand and 2) if they can produce a cart that maintains a reasonable level of viability similar to that from the days of yore. Under these circumstances, super 8 will retain it's charm. As Jim pointed out, it's really all about the gear at this point. The size of Super 8 equipment makes it a great gorilla film making format and as one filmmaker pointed out, that means that there is less overhead in the process of using it. You can own the equipment at a lower cost than that of 16mm and the level of automation of these cameras, especially the high end ones, gives you a lot of film making power in a small package. The only thing that really concerns me about super 8 is the cartridge reliability as this has been an issue of recent years. I fear that Kodak does not want to put much effort into fixing the problem and may let it die on it's own accord as people just give up using it because of it's lack of reliability.

Edited by Marc Guerriero, 07 August 2008 - 09:12 PM.

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#10 Kenneth Wajda

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 09:58 PM

Feel free to add to this equation--this is the lowest I've been able to figure:

Film PLUS-X @ $11.00/roll (John Schwind--he uses USPS, cheaper than UPS/FEDEX Kodak uses, and he's only $.40 higher/roll.)
Processing: Film Video Services Minnesota @ $7.50/roll (I just found them-anyone have any experience?)
$18.50 for 200 seconds (3:20) at 18fps.
Transfer myself with a HVX200 HD variable speed camera and a Variable Speed Projector
Total $5.55/minute

As an added benefit, S8 blends in and doesn't attract the kind of attention a 16mm or 35mm camera attracts, for permits and such. Needs much less personnel to operate. Just a thought.

Andrew
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#11 Marc Guerriero

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Posted 08 August 2008 - 12:09 AM

Correction from my above post: "2) if they can produce a cart that maintains a reasonable level of RELIABILITY similar to that from the days of yore. "
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