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Modern Super 8 Better than Older 35 mm


Guest Pete Wright

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Guest Pete Wright

Hello everybody,

 

I have some questions:

 

16 mm film became at certain time as good as 35 mm was few years earlier. Super 8 was expected to become as good as that some years later. But even if Super 8 was excellent, the quality of film transport in cameras, etc. would too have to improve.

 

I just wonder: Is today's film technology good enough to make lets say 40/25 ASA Super 8 mm negative film that could be telecined, edited, and then printed to 35 mm stock, with excellent sharpness and low enough grainness? Maybe a thinner base could be used. Did not Fuji have something similar to Super 8 (Single 8), but with a thinner base? Future even thinner base would probably mean sharper image. Am I right?

 

Isn't new Super 16 mm negative stock that is normally shot something like 400 ASA? Is that good enough for 35 mm transfer? Wouldn't 10x slower Super 8 mm film be theoretically sharper? Would not be possible to make it sharper?

 

Isn't there technology to make such films, sharp lenses for such films, excellent cameras and telecine equipment, etc. for such film?

 

What happened? Why was the Super 8 mm market abandoned by the equipment manufacturers? Is it because there was a lot more profit in pro 16 mm stocks and equipment? The low and medium end Super 8 was abandoned because of video. What Super 8 mm equipment is still being made, if any? How good is it?

 

It almost seems that it is HD now that is pushing Kodak and Fuji to come out with better S16 stocks. If the pressure on them existed years back, maybe they would have produced better Super 8 stocks, which would give a good reason to the equipment manufacturers to continue producing at least some limited high end Super 8 mm equipment, including maybe some higher quality Super 8 projectors.

 

Is this the picture, or is it different?

 

Pete

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I wouldn't say that today's super16 is as good as 35 from "few years earlier".

Today's finest possible super16 photography can get you somewhere at

3.2 K resolution. (I considered a good lens at a good aperture resolving some 400 lp/mm and 5245 or similar film resolving up to 200 lp/mm (on 1000:1 contrast detail))

 

Using the same lens resolution (400lp/mm) at 35mm (21mm academy offset),

you would need a film stock resolving about 90lp/mm to get the same resolution.

90lp/mm will lead us back to 70's and 5254 I think. But I think that 5254 could

do even better than this. (maybe John can tell us what was the maximum resolving power of 5254)

 

Conclusion: today's highest-resolving films in super16 can be compared

to early 70's 35mm film (and not even a full frame, but academy offset)

So it isn't few years ago. Here, we are comparing best now in super16 and best then in 35mm.

 

Grain is a different story of course, and it has a lot of anomalies, so it is harder to generalise.

 

Considering all from above, i think you could forget the idea of modern super8 matching any of the emulsions from the past in 35mm in resolution.(I'm not talking about early BW Chaplin-era emulsions, because I don't know anything about them)

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It's hard to make up for a lack of negative real estate. The best Super-16 stock today might just barely match the resolution of an old 35mm stock, but not Super-8. Kodachrome 40 in Super-8 might match Super-16 if you could get a camera with a great lens and good resolution, but Kodachrome partially achieves this by being higher in contrast than negative stocks.

 

Older 35mm color movies are not as soft as you think. They were slow-speed stocks for one thing so grain was not so bad. Most of the image loss in old movies we see today is due to prints made from dupes.

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Guest Pete Wright

Thank you Filip.

 

So basically today's low ASA negative S16 is about equal to 70's 35 mm. But some S16 movies may be shot on 400 ASA film; am I right? So it may be possible to create a 40/25 ASA Super 8 film that would have a similar or better performance than the 400 ASA S16 film. Or am I wrong?

 

Grain may be actually more objectionable than lack of resolution in the small format, or fast films. Or am I wrong?

 

Pete

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Sorry Pete, but you're wrong. At a certain point size really does matter, and you can't get the resolution out of that tiny frame. And this is completely separate from the practical arguments about getting someone to build a S-8 camera with a stable transport, sharp lenses, proper pressure plate, etc. The smaller the frame the more difficult it is to keep the image stable because the tollerances become that much smaller. So a .001mm shift in vertical or horizontal alignment from frame to frame is much worse on the S-8 format than on 35mm format because it is vastly larger relative to the size of the frame. And if the pressure plate or lens mount is off slightly then the depth may be off, and with the smaller image needing to be magnified so much more it can therefore produce soft images. Depth collimation is measured in microns, so we're talking very tight specs here.

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Also the physical size of the grains in a 40 ASA film stock versus a 400 ASA film stock are not proportional to the difference in size from the Super-8 frame to the 16mm frame. But it may be close -- however, you were talking abou approaching older 35mm quality, which is not possible with Super-8.

 

But really, the problem isn't so much grain as it is sharpness of optics focusing on such a small frame (they'd have to be BETTER optics than something for a 35mm movie camera) and the registration of something that tiny. All of this works to reduce sharpness. Plus on top of that, you lose sharpness in most methods of reproducing that image to another medium, for example, a telecine.

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There certainly is an enormous handicap to get over with such a tiny frame, but I must admit, I was surprised at the quality and sharpness I was able to get with my Nikon R-10 camera and Kodacrhome 40 film.

Far better than the footage I shot on most of the other high-end Super 8 cams out there, including the Canons, Beauliue's, Bauer's etc.

 

Great Nikon glass, good resolution, and I never had any steadiness problems with the camera.

It may be because of the dual pulldown claws of that camera, and how well made it is, but it seemed rock steady to me.

There was a HUGE loss through telecine though.

I hope to get over some of this with the S8 version of my film scanning setup (still testing!).

It will be interesting to see what a 2K scan of well shot S8 K40 gives me.

Hell, I might just toss my 16mm stuff and start shooting Super 8 again.

Maybe David will join me!

har har!

 

Matt Pacini

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Pete, I am not saying generally that today's best super16 equals

70's 35mm. I am saying that in the model I used for comparison the

resolving power is about the same. This means the maximum resolution

is similar, but what matters to one as a viewer is not the maximum resolving power

(you never get to see that on screen), but sharpness (MTF curve) and granularity.

And this is something depending on a lot of things. Yes, in theory the resolution

of these compared systems are similar, but what you would see on screen could be something totally different.

 

It is all measurable, so you could do some research yourself and see what you

get. (I't talking about resolution mostly here)

 

Grain size differences between slower and faster films are not so huge

like those between super8, super 16 and 35mm. So I am not sure

that you can say something like that. (use slow speed super8 to match high speed

35mm)

 

Oh and one more thing:

Slower films have finer grain, and usually finer detail, but you can not say that

film speed is reverse-proportional (or whatever it is said in english) to resolution.

Resolution depends on more things than just grain size.

For example, 5212 is said to be the sharpest MP film evern, but, 5245 is still finer

grained.

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I recently watched some Super-8 (both KODACHROME 40 and VISION200T) blown up to a 35mm print via Digital Intermediate (scanned on a Spirit). It looked very good, but no mistaking it for 35mm or Super-16. Size DOES matter.

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Guest Pete Wright

Thanks everyone,

 

So Kodachrome is sharp. But it is too contrasty. The Nikon R10 is good and it was probably made in the 70's. No more development since then, I suppose. That's 30 years. If S8 equipment development did not die; if beter type of cartriges were made, and thinner film, I'm sure the quality would be better than on that old Nikon.

 

You can always make a small format lens resolve more than a large format lens.

 

Film stock development is still going on and there is steady improvement with time.

 

Maybe if video did not replace S8, maybe we would have a good viable small format now that would look as sharp as Varicam, and that would be good enough for 35 mm projection.

 

Filip said that you can get 3.2K resolution out od S16. That means that if everything was optimized in S8 development, you should be able to get 1.6K resolution out of S8, and you have basically F900 resolution, with grain, of course.

 

So i think that theoretically, if there was as much development in S8 as there is in S16, we would have a viable shooting format for up to medim size theater screens.

 

Lets look at it another way. If S16 originated films are shown on the largest screens, S8, if optimized, could be shown in smaller theaters with similar results. The soundtrack would be played off of a CD. I think Dolby or another one of the surround systems is projected that way anyway.

 

Unfortunately development in S8 stopped. If it continued maybe in the future it would be good enough for large theater screen projection.

 

Who would care about saving money using HD on low end indies. I would not. S8 would always be film, never video.

 

Pete

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Actually Pete, development did continue. Wittner still produces a Super8 camera, which has a stock C-mount lens, so you can use the latest and greatest optics with Super8. I know I'd love one of Wittner's new cameras. (they bought out Beaulieu's old film department and are putting them back into production, according to their press releases)

 

I've been debating building myself a Super8 camera using a C-mount so I could take advantage of the variety of C-mount lenses I already own. Probably hacking it out of an old, worn-out 16mm camera.

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Don't quote me so literally. The resolution I mentioned was for aperture of about f/3.5 without ANY abberations, and glass made by aliens or something. In reality, the resolution of the lens would be less than what I took as an example. (400lp/mm would be limited only be the diffraction of light at that aperture).

Other than that, this goes only for highest contrast detail. Detail like branches of a

leafless tree shot agains the sun. When shooting normal contrast detail you would

have half the resolving power of that. And third thing, the camera is not a perfect

machine made by gods.

All considered, this 3.2K resolution from the tables ends up somewhere

closer to 2K , or 2.5K at best.

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Guest Pete Wright

Downix, is there a website for the S8 camera?

 

Filip, what's the max resolution of 35? S16 would probably be 1/2 of that and theoretically S8 half of that.

 

I still think that S8 has a theoretical potential to look as good as Varicam overall and that is great. Unfortunately the development stopped and if someone is rescuing Beaulieu now, it's still 30 years old technology. But I'm surely glad.

 

pete

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Guest Pete Wright

Downix,

 

That's fascinating. now we need kodak or Fuji to start making some better S8 films. maybe John pytlak can enlighten us on this a little.

 

pete

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Guest Pete Wright

It's all in German. I don't understand it. it seems that they remanufacture ar sell remanufactured 4008 ZM for about $1,500 euro.

 

pete

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Pete..

 

You can't really take a number and say, Ok this is the resolution of 35mm film.

And even when you come up with a lp/mm number, it is not the same as pixels.

Two lines (separated by white) resolved on film is not the same thing as 4 pixels.

A film system can record two lines small as that in any angle or position.

Digital systems can only record horisontal or vertical lines and on fixed position,

everything else is less than accuratly recorded. So this is why it is hard to

translate lp/mm from film into pixel equivalents, but if we are folowing

the sampling tradition and consider one lp/mm to be two pixels (like I did in the previous example for super8 and super16) it would be like this:

 

The aperture "sweet spot" depends on the lens and who you are talking to, but

let's take f/4 as a "sweet spot" on a lens with minimum abberation (the less abberation the lens has, the closer the "sweet spot" is to wide open) . f/4 is a

big enough aperture to have the diffraction limit at 370 lp/mm (if the lens is only diffraction limited at that aperture, read state-of the art) . Let's take 5245 again as our film stock, and let's say again that it can resolve 200lp/mm (I won't go of the chart, the MTF curve ends at 200lp/mm in the specs, there is no data after that). Combining these two, the result is about 130lp/mm or a little bit over 6K by the nyquist theory.

 

If by "resolution of 35mm" you mean the maximum resolving power at high contrast, then you can say the results might vary between 5K and 6K

for stocks like 5245 and similar in super35.

 

Of course, the detail at that resolution would be very low in contrast,very soft and

half-eaten by grain.

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Guest Pete Wright

Hi Filip,

 

So S35 is something like 5.5K, S16 some 2.75K and S8 has a potential of being 1.37K. That is excellent. I wonder what is the actual best S8 camera capable of producing? Probably half of this, with the best color negative. Does anyone know?

 

S35 and S16 are optimized as far as possible. S8 is not; it's quality is probably close to S4, if there was such thing. That is a shame.

 

Does anyone see any possibility of better S8 cameras, lenses, projectors, telecine, negative film stock, etc. in the future? I guess not. It was abandoned by the manufacturers. Unfortunately.

 

Pete

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We'll you don't have to be so specific with these numbers. I always think of it in intervals rather than specific numbers. so for super8 I'd say between 1K and

1.5K

 

The word "potential" is the right word. With the advance of technology,

lens design could take full advantage of resolution, up to the diffraction limit,

which is a constant. All the numbers i came up with here are just that,

the maximum potential. For the actual results in reality, you would have

to seach for tests of specific lenses tested at targets of 1000:1 contrast.

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Jeez, Pete, what's with this obsession with numbers??? You should try just looking at how these various formats and systems look to your EYES and forget the numbers. You just have to hold a strip of Super-8 film in your hands to immediately understand why it will never approach 35mm in terms of technical quality or resolution.

 

I get this feeling you have a limited amount of money and think there is some magic bullet out there that will get around price-performance ratios and give you 35mm quality for Super-8 prices, or pro HD quality for consumer DV prices.

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I agree with David--it sounds like you're looking for a magic bullet (you should have been on the Warren Commission). You asked a question, theoretically, and you keep going around in circles because you're not getting the answer you wanted.

 

People shoot Super8 because it is Super8, not because of the resolution factor, or how it shapes up to 35mm film from 1970. Oliver Stone doesn't use Super8 in his films because it cuts down on the budget or has a similar lp/mm, its done because its Super8. Super8 has an aesthetic quality all of its own. When people shoot something on Super8 its because they want that Super8 look and feel.

 

And when it comes down to it, its not as cheap as you really think. Its comparable to 16/S16 if you're going to have a long project telecined (fewer places that have S8 gates and so you don't have a lot of options price wise as to where you get it transferred). At least it is in my research.

 

You're right, there isn't a lot of research done to push forward the S8 movement. Why? Because it was a home movie format, made for people who didn't want to have to worry about loading film in the dark (as with Regular 8). You pop the cartridge in and go for two minutes. When video came along the S8 home movies movement kind of died out (after all, who wants to go through the trouble of processing and everything when you can buy a video camera and BAM! there it is right there, and you had longer recording time on tapes). Nothing you're going to say or ask or pose is going to change the fact that development in Super8 is pretty well done with and its not going to progress that much more.

 

If you want to buy a good Super8 camera (Beaulieu, Canon 8/1014XL-s, Nikon, Nizo) and go shoot, thats great. More power to you for using film! Go out and do something artistic or funny or dramatic, but don't expect it to rival 35. Its going to be Super8, and everyone who sees it is going to know its Super8. Just like everyone who saw 28 Days Later knew it was video (sorry, just watched it again tonight on DVD).

 

I think this whole thread is like Ultra Definition and the like. "What if this and this and this were to happen, then it would look like 35mm." And its all theory anyway. There should be a whole theory board opened.

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That's fascinating. now we need kodak or Fuji to start making some better S8 films. maybe John pytlak can enlighten us on this a little.

 

The Kodak VISION2 200T and 500T Color Negative films are available in Super-8, as well as two new B&W reversal films:

 

http://www.kodak.com/US/en/motion/super8/f....4.10.4.4&lc=en

 

As good as these new Kodak films are, Super-8 falls far short of Super-16 or 35mm origination, especially if you intend to distribute using HD or 35mm prints. Size DOES matter!

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The new Tri-X is absolutely amazing there John. I just got back my first test reel, and it blows the old Tri-X out of the water for grain, saturation, and contrast. The new Plus-X is ok, a bit weaker in some areas, but not enough to really matter. But the Tri-X, absolutely beautiful. I'm switching my production from Plus-X to Tri-X after these tests.

 

But yes, it's Super8, and will look like Super8, and that is exactly the look I want.

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The new Tri-X is absolutely amazing there John. I just got back my first test reel, and it blows the old Tri-X out of the water for grain, saturation, and contrast.

 

Thanks! :D

 

I'll pass your comments along to the Kodak team that developed the new B&W reversal films.

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