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Help selecting Super 8 Film stock


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#1 Phil Dexter

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 09:40 PM

Hi everyone. Just bought my first Super 8 camera, a Canon 814XLS. Now I need to choose some film for a music video. I've looked through the Kodak range and wondered if you could help.

I want to output my project in black and white, so would is be best to buy colour and convert in post, or just buy B&W?

I don't want to see allot of grain, just a little, and I'm after a slightly contrasty film stock. Most of the project will be in low light.

A few questions that i'm a little confused over too..

My understanding of Reversal film is that it does not need to be processed, it produces a positive upon filming? so you can place it directly into a projector? If someone could tell me if thats completely wrong, lol.... and then why reversal film is better for the wallet, as surely if reversal does need to be processed as does a negative then i can't see where the savings are.

The "D" and "T" after a film rating, presumably stand for daylight and tungsten. I'm a bit confused over whether that means the film is balanced in terms of colour temperature for indoors or out, or is it just referring to the ASA and where the film is best used. As 64T doesn't make sense to me, as it's recommended for outdoors on sunny days, which makes sense being a slower emulsion, but the "T" throw me off, lol.

Thanks guys.
Really appreciate all your help.
Sorry for sounding like such a noob

Phil
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#2 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 09:58 PM

My understanding of Reversal film is that it does not need to be processed, it produces a positive upon filming? so you can place it directly into a projector? If someone could tell me if thats completely wrong, lol.... and then why reversal film is better for the wallet, as surely if reversal does need to be processed as does a negative then i can't see where the savings are.


HI Phil, not only does reversal need to be processed, it needs a MORE COMPLICATED process than Negative film!

The saving is that you can project the Camera original after processing, you don't have to have a negative printed. (which would be hard these days as most of the super 8 print stock is not made any more.)

The "D" and "T" after a film rating, presumably stand for daylight and tungsten. I'm a bit confused over whether that means the film is balanced in terms of colour temperature for indoors or out, or is it just referring to the ASA and where the film is best used. As 64T doesn't make sense to me, as it's recommended for outdoors on sunny days, which makes sense being a slower emulsion, but the "T" throw me off, lol.


D is for Daylight, T is for tungsten. Tungsten light is red compaired to daylight, daylight is blue compaired to tungsten.

Since you don't make a print from reversal, there is no chance to corect the colour balance (like the WB control on a video) even from a negative, it is normaly better to have the right balance.

Super 8 has a trick though, the cameras have a "85" filter built in, which is deployed by default. That lets you shoot T film in daylight. when you attch a movie light, (or turn a control) the filter goes out of the way and then you can shoot in tungsten light.
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#3 Ian Cooper

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 09:06 AM

If you shoot with a tungsten film in daylight conditions then you'll need to use a filter to correct the colour, this will absorb about 2/3 of a stop of light, reducing the 64asa tungsten film to the same sensitivity as a 40asa daylight film. (this is the filter already contained in a S8 camera, and will be added to the light path during 'sun' conditions, when using the camera indoors the filter needs to be removed from the lightpath, use the 'lilght bulb' setting)

However, if you were to have a 64asa daylight film and wished to use it under tungsten conditions, then the correction filter you'd need would absorb 2 stops of light, meaning the 64asa daylight film has the same sensitivity as a 16asa tungsten balanced film!!

Therefore, it requires less filteration to convert 'daylight' colour temperature to tungsten, than it does to convert 'tungsten' temperature to daylight.

Edited by Ian Cooper, 29 January 2009 - 09:10 AM.

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#4 Phil Dexter

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 02:06 PM

Thanks for all the advice guys. I do actually understand colour temperature relatively well, with various lighting conditions, filters, etc. even though i'm completely colour blind, lol, i still like to know all the technical aspects. I just found it odd that they'd label such a slow film as tungsten predomently. When I think of indoor shooting I think of higher ASA's.

Really great to get your advice, especially regarding the reversal film, so with reversal they literally just chemically develop the film from the cartridge and give you back the same film?. With negative they produce a duplicate print, along with giving you back your original cartridge film?

Could you also explain why the B&W stocks are labelled as daylight balanced film? I thought as it's black and white you wouldn't have a balanced film in that respect as there is no colour cast.

From research and reading various posts here, it seems reversal is not as popular because of it's limitations with exposure and during processing. So I'm looking towards the Color Vision Negative stocks, so will i get good results when converting it to black and white in the digital darkroom?

Thanks chaps.
Phil
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#5 Ian Cooper

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 03:16 PM

Not quite, with reversal film the lab will process it and return the film to you, this will contain positive images you can project and view directly.

With negative film the lab will process it and return the film to you, this will be a colour negative image which you can't project! You can now send this to a different lab to have it telecined to video using a professional telecine machine (ie. not the average 'home movie' transfer facility!). You'll actually probably find the lab which processed the film will also be able to offer this service using Pro. equipment - but it will cost extra. The alternative is to send the colour negative film to Andec in Germany, which is the only lab willing to produce a super-8 print from the negative, the print will then contain positive images which you can project.

The reason why B&W film may say daylight colour balanced is that tungsten light is very red rich, the B&W film isn't as sensitive to these colours so its asa rating drops slightly. If you look on the datasheet/packaging you'll probably find the asa for use under tungsten conditions is 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop lower to compensate for this.

Edited by Ian Cooper, 29 January 2009 - 03:19 PM.

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#6 andy oliver

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 06:46 PM

Hi, imo, if your final project is b/w, then shoot b/w, greater resolving power over the likes of 64t. I took some 100d at a wedding last year and knocked that into b/w, looked really soft when intercut with kodaks 100asa b/w stock...
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#7 Ira Ratner

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 05:27 PM

Phil, did you really think that reversal film doesn't have to be processed, and that you just take it from your camera and put it on your projector?

I feel like we're being punked here.

No offense intended, but that's a first for me. It's film--not video.
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#8 Phil Dexter

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Posted 01 February 2009 - 03:13 PM

Thanks for that excellent explanation Ian, really helpful cheers :) I can see the cost difference now between negative and reversal, especially seeing as if you shoot negative you really only have the option to get a telecine done, which certainly does work out quite pricey. Here in the UK that'll come to about $100 per 50ft roll. I do have a Canon XL H1A hdv cam, so the home transfering option might be a more cost effect way. But then that will limit me to really only shooting reversal, Hmmm, decisions...

Ira - Sadly yes 50% of me thought you didn't have to get reversal processed, many many apologies, lol. Don't ask why, I feel stupid enough.

Andy - Thanks too, I'll bare that in mind about switching colour stock to B&W, good to know.

Would i be right in thinking that B&W reversal is a thicker stock than negative? I read somewhere you need a good motor in your camera to pull the film, or is this not even worth worrying about?

Which films seem to the grainiest from your experience? I want to avoid these types if i can, though I do want some grain.

Thanks
Phil

Edited by Phil Dexter, 01 February 2009 - 03:14 PM.

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#9 Ian Cooper

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Posted 01 February 2009 - 04:04 PM

...Which films seem to the grainiest from your experience? I want to avoid these types if i can, though I do want some grain.



Generally speaking the higher the asa, the grainier the picture. Plus-X is a lower speed than Tri-X and as such exhibits less grain. There is a possible exception where reports seem to suggest that 100D shows less grain than 64T, despite being a faster film stock. This is another one of the situations where your best bet is to get a couple of cartridges and try a few of the different films out. (Not forgetting to check first whether the camera you're using is able to automatically detect the cartridge speed notches!).
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#10 Phil Dexter

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Posted 08 February 2009 - 01:43 PM

Thanks again Ian. My camera is a Canon 814xls which I believe can read most ASA's correctly

I know the camera has a built in light meter, and i do have an external Sekonic light meter, but sometimes i like to light through the viewfinder just by eye. Is what you see through the viewfinder on a Super 8 what will be exposed?

Cheers
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#11 Ian Cooper

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Posted 08 February 2009 - 02:08 PM

Thanks again Ian. My camera is a Canon 814xls which I believe can read most ASA's correctly

I know the camera has a built in light meter, and i do have an external Sekonic light meter, but sometimes i like to light through the viewfinder just by eye. Is what you see through the viewfinder on a Super 8 what will be exposed?

Cheers


I think I get what you're asking, in which case the simple answer is no!

The viewfinder on super8 cameras is fed from a prism before the image goes through the aperture, this means the brightness of the viewfinder remains constant no matter what aperture setting the lens is at. As an extreme example, you could have a film sensitivity of 25asa in the camera and be trying to film in a dim restaurant at night with the aperture set at f32 on the lens. You might be able to clearly see what's going on through the viewfinder, yet the film will be so underexposed you'll probably just get back black film.

Conversely, if you're shooting with 500asa film stock outside at noon on a sunny day with the lens set at f2.8 the film will be badly over exposed, despite the scene through the viewfinder looking 'normal' to your eye.

Actually, even if the image in the viewfinder was affected by the aperture and got dimmer as you closed down (like most 16mm cameras), you still wouldn't be able to just 'eyeball' the exposure by looking through the viewfinder. Unlike a video camera where the viewfinder shows actually what the sensor is recording, on a film camera all you're doing is looking through the same lens - how your eye and brain reacts to the light is different to how the film will react to it.
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#12 Phil Dexter

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Posted 08 February 2009 - 05:56 PM

Sure that does make sense, just checking as i really don't want to waste a bunch of super 8 film.

So basically, you can't really use such cameras in full manual as you'd have no way of telling how it's exposing? It's better to just use it in auto mode?

Thanks
Phil
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#13 Ian Cooper

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Posted 09 February 2009 - 03:20 AM

Sure that does make sense, just checking as i really don't want to waste a bunch of super 8 film.

So basically, you can't really use such cameras in full manual as you'd have no way of telling how it's exposing? It's better to just use it in auto mode?

Thanks
Phil


There's no problem using it in manual mode, you just need to use and interpret a light meter to tell you how it'll be exposed! (together with a bit of experience of how each filmstock reacts to light) ;) HOWEVER, because super8 cameras split some of the light coming through the lens to feed the viewfinder there can sometimes be a 'correction' factor to compensate if you meter the light with a seperate light meter. I don't know specifics about your camera, but some cameras also have darn fiddly controls for manually setting the aperture which make it rather difficult to judge whether you have actually set it at f8, or if you're actually nearer f5.6!

If you just leave the camera on 'auto' then you might have problems with the exposure 'pumping'. As an example, you're shooting a car moving along the road. The camera automatically sets the exposure for this scene, then half way along the sun suddenly catches on the glass windows and reflects at the camera! The auto-exposure will sense this and start to close down the aperture, darkening the whole scene, but because it was only a short flash the slightly damped auto-exposure system suddenly senses that the bright light is no longer there - so opens up again! When you get the film back you'll find part way through the sequence an annoying disruptive bit where the whole scene goes dark for a brief moment! In practice you would have prefered the exposure to remain the same and just see a brief bright flash as the sun reflected. Another example can see the exposure vary whilst you're shooting if you move the camera in such a way that there is more or less sky visible in the frame - not a particularly nice effect! To make things worse, some auto-exposure systems overshoot a little bit! With a large change in light levels (as viewed by the camera's light metering system) the exposure will initially over/under-expose briefly before settling at the new correct value - rather ugly to see on the finished film!

An easy way to counter all this is to use the camera's internal light meter to set the aperture for the scene you wish to film (possibly reframed slightly to minimise the influence the sky plays). You can then manually adjust the aperture so the needle matches up with where the camera's meter 'thinks' it should be. This means all allowances for loss of light to the viewfinder are automatically catered for, and the exposure is 'locked' during the scene so you don't get the camera automatically trying to compensate whilst you're shooting. The technique is just the same as using the internal light meter on a 35mm stills camera in 'manual' mode.

Whilst I appreciate a roll of super-8 film + processing isn't exactly cheap, the one way to make it even more expensive is to 'waste' it! Can I suggest you get a roll just to practice with before shooting anything that you care about. During the test you can experiment with leaving the camera to fully automatically adjust the exposure, you can also experiment with manually locking the exposure etc. etc. If you choose the same B&W film you're thinking of ultimately filming on, it'll show you how that looks as well.

You might find that your camera's auto-exposure system doesn't get easily fooled and you'll be happy relying on that in the future, alternatively you might find otherwise and that you're better off manually locking the exposure on a scene-by-scene basis. You'll also discover whether the camera works properly or not whilst you're at it! ;). If you've got a projector then it'll work out a bit cheaper, but without that here in the uk a similar test would work out to about £30 for film, processing and telecine for one cart. What you'll learn from that exercise will potentially prevent you wasting significantly more money by just jumping straight in on a project you actually care about!


Ian.
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