Kodak launches a new Super 8 8mm film camera

Kodak Super 8

Kodak Super 8

In January 2016 Kodak announced a new Super 8 8mm film camera at CES in Las Vegas. To say the least, this is a surprise and I am enthusiastic about it. They say there’s kind of an analog film renaissance and that’s why there is a market for it. As you may know, I spent quite some time over the past few years to revive a Leicina 8mm film camera.

“On the heels of celebrating 50 years of manufacturing Super 8 film, Kodak is launching an initiative aimed at putting Super 8 cameras into the hands of a new generation of filmmakers as well as meeting the needs of top directors, indie filmmakers and others who appreciate the art and craft of filmmaking.”

Source: “Kodak Launches Super 8 Filmmaking Revival Initiative at CES 2016” kodak.com

The company is citing prominent filmmakers and Hollywood professionals as supporters of theirs efforts, such as Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino (who filmed his last movie “The Hateful Eight” in glorious 70mm), Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, Robert Richardson, Patty Jenkins, Shannon McIntosh, Jem Cohen and many others.

Although there’s not much to show yet as the camera will be released in late 2016, some facts are quite interesting. It will be an all analog film camera with an electronic viewfinder and an additional mic input for digital audio recording. That’s quite an upgrade from recording audio on cassette tapes.

The product website shows off the specs, naming a fixed 6mm 1:1.2 Ricoh c-mount lens and an optional 8-38 mm lens. The camera presented at CES 2016 looks far more edgy than the animations on the website, but I am sure everything will work out. The Super 8 camera is expected to be priced between $ 400 – 800.

 

8mm film development & scanning

In addition Kodak will provide 8mm film cartridges and offer development and scanning as a service. Considering the effort and costs to develop and digitise 8mm film theses days, this is quite a promise and I can’t wait for more details on the program. Apparently the development and scanning service will also be available to anyone buying 8mm catridges from Kodak in the future.

For some brief summary of the specs and features, take a look at this video recorded at CES 2016.

8mm film – Considering costs for using 8mm film

As you might remember, I started experimenting with my LEICINA SPECIAL Super8 camera and finally made it to send in the first cartridge of Super8 8mm film material for development. I used Kodak Tri-X black & white Reversal Film and chose Wittner Cinetec in Germany as a service provider. About 2 weeks after sending my material I received the developed film. 

8mm - developed 8mm film material - 1
8mm – developed 8mm film material – 1

Costs to shot, develop and digitise 8mm film

A 50ft (15m, around 3.5 minutes at 25 fps) cartridge costs 25€ to develop including shipping costs. Considering the 22€ to 40€ for the material, it basically sums up to 13.42 € to 18.58 € per minute. Additional costs might come up for digitisation of the film for digital post processing.

A few month ago, I already compiled a list of service providers for digitising my 8mm film. I will either go with retrofilms.de or schmalfilm-archiv.de. Booth offer frame-by-frame scanning as single image files with a resolution of 2K. Looking at their price list, I expect this to set me back another 0.60 € per meter of material and additional costs of up to 7.50 € for a 120m film spool plus 6.90 € for shipping.

8mm - developed 8mm film material - 2
8mm – developed 8mm film material – 2

In the worst case of just digitising one spool, this might add up to 23.40 €. For lets say 8 15m film spools (resulting in 120m of material) it would add up to 86,40 € and 10.80 € per spool. This would add up to 20.10 € to 25.26 € per minute with one spool and 16.50 € to 21.66 € per minute with 8 spools all costs considered. That’s not cheap.

I am not sure how much filmed material is usually produced for 1 minute of finally used material in an amateur film setting. At a relation of 1 to 8, a 3,5 minute amateur 8mm movie might add up needing 28 minutes of raw material resulting in costs of 462.00 € to 606.48 € depending on the used film just to get the shot material developed and digitised. That’s 132.00 € to 173.28 € per minute. Not cheap at all.

50 Jahre Super8 8mm – Wunderblock – Deutschland, deine Speicher

wunderblock

Wunderblock – Deutschland, deine Speicher – 50 Jahre Super8 – 50 years after KODAK’s introduction of the Super 8 format, amateur 8mm material will be digitised, rearranged to new fictional stories and shown in a mini movie theatre on tour.

My Super8 8mm Experiment – 8mm film resolution

With affordable 4K displays around the corner a higher resolution than the offered 2K frame-by-frame scanning would be nice for my 8mm film, since products like ARRISCAN provide up 6K/4K.

Bolex H16 – ARRIscan from Justin Cary on Vimeo.

The question would be, whether this makes sense at all, taking the natural resolution of the 8mm motion picture film format into consideration. The filmstrip of the format is 8 millimeters wide, providing the name for the 8mm film. Super8 has a larger image area than Normal 8 due to its smaller perforations, 5.79mm x 4.01mm (0.228” x 0.158”) to be precise.

8mm - developed 8mm film material - 2

Kodak advertises parts of their current film lineup, e.g. Vision3 for Color and Eastman for b/w, as especially made for scanning. According to Kodak, a resolution of up to 1120 scan lines can be achieved with a 8mm film, making Super8 compatible to 2K and Full HD Resolution. I think this might depend on the quality of the film material, its grain and various other factors. Apart from Kodak’s statement, I must admit any hard facts about this issue are hard to find. But since Kodak seems to be in the lead with their current products, it could be considered a valid source.

This would mean, aiming for a 4K scan won’t be necessary. In the end I could try one of the 2 service providers (retrofilms.de or schmalfilm-archiv.de) for comparison or look harder for some other offerings, maybe even internationally.

My Super8 8mm Experiment – Digital Intermediate

As explained before, I have to choose between various options to digitize my 8mm film. There are some things I can do myself. I could capture the film playing on a projector using a digital camera or I can try out manually scanning every frame with a flatbed scanner and reconstructing the movie from single images. There are many people who tried already, with some nice results. Some even built their own homemade Telecine:

Homemade 8mm Telecine – First Scan from Justin Cary on Vimeo.

Since I don’t have a decent digital video camera or a flatbed scanner, I have to source out.

Basically, I can let a service provider capture the film playing on a projector or use a telecine scanner. For best quality a motion picture film scanner can be used to create digital intermediate files. Various service providers are available in the first two categories for 8mm and 16mm. They provide anything from creating DVDs or video files from your source material to restoring damaged films. They charge between 1.50 € and 3.00 € per minute of 8mm film without any cleaning, editing etc. and are somewhat fuzzy or imprecise when it comes to explaining the technologies they are using.

I compiled a list of German services (in alphabetical order, not complete nor evaluated in detail):

8mm-dvd.deallesdigital.orgasdigital.debereit-videofilm.debicker.eudie-filmwerkstatt.dedigitalisieren-kassel.dedigitalspezialist.comdvd-rinkens.defilm-auf-video.defilm-digital.defilm-gestaltung.defilm-retter.defilme-sicher.defilmaufdigital.defilmstube-berlin.comfilmaxx.defotoplus-eschborn.defrank-medienservice.dehs-filmtransfer.dehyperworx.dejensen-digital-service.demedia-schmid.demedienservice-marzahn.demuvig.dephoto-porst-hamburg.dephotostudio.deRetroCut.de,retrofilms.des8digital.descancorner.deschmalfilm-archiv.deschmalfilmdigital.destudio-dvd.desuper8-to-dvd.deudo-schmittnagel.devideooncd.de

Service providers that stand out, are retrofilms.de and schmalfilm-archiv.de. Booth seem to offer frame-by-frame scanning and are able to provide the single image files with a resolution of 2K rather than a video file.

Kodak 8mm cartridges
Kodak 8mm cartridges

Over the next weeks, I might try them out and will sum up the results.

My Super8 8mm Experiment – Lego Technic Super8 movie projector

While considering digitizing my 8mm film at home, I came across a great idea: why not build your own Lego Technic Super 8 Movie Projector. Take a look.

Lego Technic Super-8 Movie Projector from Friedemann Wachsmuth on Vimeo.

My Super8 8mm Experiment – Telecine and motion picture film scanners

After shooting and developing 8mm motion picture film, one might want to transfer it to a digital format. This is quite complicated actually, since there are no consumer or easy solutions available. Most people just capture their original film playing on a projector with a digital camera. Although it looks quite nice in most cases, clearly this can’t be the best way to do it.

Goodbye (summer sun) from monomatic on Vimeo.

There is one project I could find, trying to utilize consumer flatbed scanners with transparency units (TPU) and the Cine Film to Video Suite by W. Kurz, allowing high quality digitization of 8mm, 16mm and 35mm film at low costs.

Basically, one has to manually scan segments of the film, cut out the single frames of the movie, store them as single image files consecutively numbered and combine them to a MPEG II movie using FFMPEG. Obviously every single image can and probably should be cleaned, stabilized and so forth. In addition any sound has to be recorded separately. All in all, a very time consuming process, but still an almost free way to do it.

Within the film industry the process to transfer the original film to an electronic format is called Telecine and is even more complex. During Telecine the film is played and recorded digitally in real time. The most important issue being the synchronization of the mechanical film motion and the electronic video signal.

The most complex part of telecine is the synchronization of the mechanical film motion and the electronic video signal. Every time the video (tele) part of the telecine samples the light electronically, the film (cine) part of the telecine must have a frame in perfect registration and ready to photograph. This is relatively easy when the film is photographed at the same frame rate as the video camera will sample, but when this is not true, a sophisticated procedure is required to change frame rate.”

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecine

The most common methods to do so are 2:2 pulldown and 2:3 pulldown. 2:2 is used for the PAL or SECAM video standard (25 fps) and basically records one video frame for every film frame. Films with 24 fps are just played at 25 fps which is almost not noticeably, apart from a minor audio pitch which can be corrected. 2:3 pulldown is used for the NTSC video standard (29.97 fps) and many others. In these cases a 24 fps film has to be converted into a 29.97 fps video film. For this, 4 film frames played at the slightly reduced speed of 23.976 fps are stretched into 5 video frames exploiting the interlaced nature of video. So basically during Telecine the film is recorded on digital video at slightly increased or decreased speeds, e.g. using the Scanity CCD sensor by DFT – Digital Film Technology. With my 8mm film being recorded at 25 fps, the 2:2 pulldown would be used.

“To avoid the synchronization issues, higher end establishments now use a scanning system rather than just a telecine system. This allows them to scan a distinct frame of digital video for each frame of film, providing higher quality than a telecine system would be able to achieve.”

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecine

8mm - developed 8mm film material - 2

For best quality one comes back so scanning single frames, just like with W. Kurz’s software. With a motion picture film scanner an original film can be stored as a high-resolution digital intermediate file. They are available for gauges from 8mm to 70mm with high resolutions up do 8K and scan the film frames into separate files for each frame as raw data, preserving optical characteristics of the film and allowing non-linear editing. With products like Arriscan by ARRI and the The Director by Lasergraphics for single frame intermittent pull-down or Golden Eye Filmscanner by Digital Vision for continues motion scanning it becomes clear, these are no products for home use.

A Super 16mm Summer from Elliot Rudmann on Vimeo.

This explains, why W. Kurz developed his software. It also explains, why most people choose to capture their original films playing on a projector with a digital camera. As this is no option for me, I have to choose between digitizing the film manually or ordering a high end digital intermediate.

My Super8 8mm Experiment – Getting film material

Unfortunately the variety of 8mm film material still available has decreased over the past years. The popular Kodachrome was discontinued in 2009 and even its processing ended in 2013.

Kodachrome (English version) from schmalfilm magazin on Vimeo.

Although points of sale are increasingly difficult to find, there are some dealers left, Wittner Cinetec in Germany for example. One can choose from the current Kodak Vision3 lineup (500T, 200T and 50D for color negative film and Kodak Tri-X Reversal Film for b/w. Currently, there are some Kodak Ektachrome films left, which have been discontinued in 2013. Wittner also seems to produce 8mm film or at least package cartridges, utilizing materials from Agfa, Fuji, Aviphot, Orwo and Fomapan.

A 50ft (around 3.5 minutes at 25 fps) cartridge costs between 22€ and 40€ with an additional 25€ for development by Wittner. One can easily order cartridges with a coupon for the corresponding development which is valid for 12 months. For testing purposes I ordered some cartridges to try them out with my LEICINA SPECIAL.

kodak-8mm-cartridges

The transfer of 8mm motion picture film into a digital format will be a different story, though. It seems, there is no easy way to this yourself at all, if you are serious about preserving the optical characteristics of the film.

Here are some videos shot with the LEICINA SPECIAL on Vimeo.

My Super8 8mm Experiment – 8mm motion picture film format

8mm film is a motion picture film standard developed by Kodak in 1932 to create a cheap “home movie” format. Its most famous filmed sequence undoubtedly being the Zapruder film, capturing the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Super8 was released in 1965 and quickly adopted by amateur film-makers providing better image quality and picture size. With its innovative cartridge-loading system it became an easy to use system and inspired millions of people around the world.

“The 8mm Revolution” – SUPER 8 Movie Featurette from Cinelicious on Vimeo.

Not only was Super8 a popular film format during the 1960ies and 1970ies, it is still thriving today. Many people still like to shoot with “low cost“ Super8 equipment and then transfer the footage into a digital format for additional editing. Although the cost of the film material and its development increased over the past years, it’s still a good alternative to other motion picture film formats, despite providing a rather small image format.

California Vintage Super 8 Wedding from Living Cinema on Vimeo.

So, maybe I will give this a try.

Kodak 8mm cartridges

My Super8 8mm Experiment – LEICINA SPECIAL

Last time I visited my parents, I took the LEICINA SPECIAL with me. It’s a Super8 8mm film camera produced by Ernst Leitz GmbH in Germany between 1972 and 1977. Ernst Leitz GmbH is the former corporation of Leica Camera AG.

leicina-special-1

The LEICINA SPECIAL records on 8mm film cartridges up to 50ft in length at frame rates of 9,18 25 and 54 as well single frame with automatic exposure (Leicinamatic) with manual focus and macro ability.

It comes with a Optivaron f1.8/6-66mm lense. There also was a Macro Cinegon f1.8/10mm lense at the time, but I don’t have it. Particularly interesting for my taste is the lense mount of the LEICINA SPECIAL. It’s a M-bayonet mount, making it compatible to all Leica M lenses available. I also have adapters to use Nikon and Leica R lenses.

Regarding accessories, I have the ST-1 Electronic Controller, featuring a remote controller, intervalometer, sequence timer, sound synch tone generator and a connector for tape recorders. In addition there are a variety of Cokin filters with a filter mount for optical effects at my disposal.

leicina-special-3

leicina-special-2

leicina-special-4

I will get some 8mm film cartridges and try it out. First mechanical tests keep me optimistic, since everything seems to work just fine.