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Should I use Super 8?

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Forgive me if this thread seems unnecessary or in the wrong place. I was confused as to which thread to post this.


I make movies for my church and I use a canon GL2 and Adobe cs5 production premium. I'm not very skilled in the ways of photography but I get by.


We are planning a new movie that is kind of a homage to the twilight zone(i love that show). So not only do I want the look of an old b&w film, but I want to at least try my hand at film. I need a S8 camera that is clear but retains the look I want. Here are my concerns:


Can I record sound separately or is the camera to loud?


Does it cost too much money for film?


I've seen people add rails and create camera rigs with digital LCD screens. How hard is that?


Is it hard to keep in focus? Can I operate the camera by myself?


Do I need to add different lenses?


Will I be able to sync sound in premiere?


Should I shoot with my GL2 at the same time just encase?


How much will a good camera cost and where should I buy one?


I automatically want to think it's as easy as shooting with my GL2 but I know I'm wrong. So how hard is it? Should I really bother? MAybe I should just buy one to practice with all summer and if I don't like it I can re-sale it.


Thanks for the help.

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"hard" and expensive are relative terms. We need to know what you think "expensive" is. While I love the look of S8mm film, were I you, I'd look into going for a 16mm camera purchase which will be much better at sync sound. Something like a trusty Eclair ACL or NPR will treat you well and be "easier," to trick out than a S8mm camera.

You will need a light meter and need to know how to use it, what it means.

Yes, you can work the camera by yourself, if you need to. As for focus, a lot will depend on what stop you're at. It is nothing like working with video. You will need to practice, but there is not much more fulfilling than shooting on film.

For a "cheap" film camera system, be prepared to spend in the neighborhood of 2000-3000 for camera/tripod/lenses/service (get it working 100%).

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See that sounds more expensive and difficult than I thought. I was thinking you could get the camera for around 500. At those prices I could get a good digital rig. Is 16mm the same price as S8mm and easier? I would have never thought that.

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Same price; not in the least; but it is easier, inasmuch as more post places will support it, for development and telecine later on. Plus, it's a larger format, so it's higher "quality," in a few ways. S8mm has a certain aesthetic, and unless you really want that vintage-like look, you're better off looking at 16mm. Plus, there are more quiet sync cameras out there for 16mm than there are for 8mm.

You could, conceivably, find a camera for $500; but you need more than that to shoot with.

It sounds as though you are really just starting out as such I'd recommend a good amount of reading up before you get into anything film-related. I recommend looking into the books here:




before sinking a few grand into a camera system (digital or film)

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  • 1 month later...

1. Sound depends on the camera, but it don't think it would be a deal-breaking problem. If anything, you could wrap the body of the camera in a scarf or something to muffle the sound a bit.


2. I'd budget about $30 for raw stock, processing, and standard-definition transfer for each 50' cartridge you shoot (one 50' cartridge is about 2:45 of runtime at 24fps)


3. There would be no purpose for rails that I can see on a super 8 camera, and I've never seen a super8 with a video assist (though one probably exists).


4. Because the super 8 negative is relatively small, maintaining focus shouldn't be super difficult. If you have a smartphone, there's a Kodak app to calculate what will be in focus in case you don't feel comfortable judging though the viewfinder


5. Most Super 8 cameras (like the Canons I mentioned) have built-in zoom lenses that cannot be removed (like your GL2), so no need to worry about additional glass


6. YES. I'm sure there's a video tutorial somewhere on how to do it in premiere; I've been doing it in FCP for ages and I sort of enjoy it.


7. You could shoot with your GL2 as well, though the footage from the GL2 would look drastically different from the super 8. You could definitely use the GL2 as your audio recorder, though.


8. I've shot quite a bit with Canon 514's and 814's, and I like them. You can get one on ebay for $100-$200.


9. I wouldn't say it's harder; it just requires a little more coordination and forethought. Compared to even super 8, DV tape is basically free, so you'll have to learn to plan what you're going to do a little more and think a little bit more before you roll. It's a good discipline to develop, and it will make you a better video shooter.


If you've never shot any kind of film before, I'd also suggest buying an old 35mm SLR still camera and shooting some film, just to get a handle on the basic consequences of the exposure decisions you make.


good luck

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  • 2 months later...

I have a LOT of Super 8 experience - I even shot a feature on that format!

Over 350 rolls of experience.


I would highly suggest NOT shooting on it for what you are doing.

The reasons?


1. ALL Super 8 cameras with the exception of the Nizo 6080 are VERY noisy.

I've shot with all the high-end S8 cameras, and I've tried everything to quiet them down, and nothing works!


2. There is no such thing as sound film anymore, so you will have to record sound separately. You can sync audio in your editing software, but DO NOT use an analog device to record audio. You will have problems.

Also, the only non-modified S8 cameras with crystal sync are the high end Beaulieu's, (which I don't particularly like that much, but some do).


3. Only 2 makes of S8 cameras take lenses - all the others are built in (Some Beaulieu's, and I can't remember the other make - an obscure make, takes them. All the Canon's, Nikon's, Bauers, etc. have built-in lenses).


I would shoot in 16mm if I were you, IF you really want the film look and have the budget.


It's infinitely easier to get a quality image, they are generally quieter, it's easier (and usually cheaper) to get your film processed and transferred to video, etc.



Matt Pacini

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I am going to take a stance that is strange because it means, for once, disagreeing with Matt and Adrian.


Matt does have a great deal of experience shooting on S8 but he is wrong in that Nizo is not the only quiet camera. My old Sankyo and my old Elmos were all quiet enough for sound shooting indoors with nothing more than a blanket wrapped around them. I challenge anyone to say they can hear camera noise in the audio if they use an overhead boom pole and shotgun mic.


Adrian is right that 16mm is an overall better system for shooting a feature (I assume you meant a feature?) because you can buy short ends, recans, and even expired film stock that can look good and actually be cheaper than new S8 stock. Problem is: 1) you must have a 16mm camera package that takes 400' loads and this isnt cheap. Bottom of the barrel is CP-16 and those arent always cheap either. 2) Loading a mag is not an exceptionally easy skill to learn on the fly, especially when you consider the paranoia of knowing that if you f*uck up that you just blew up to potential $150+ of stock. 3) Other costs go up like having to have a good tripod to support the beast of a camera you have instead of just getting a garage sale tripod for $10 that can hold your Super 8 camera.


Super 8 is an easy way to get into film shooting and it is fun. I'm just to the point where I'm outgrowing it and need more and better alternatives. The sync sound issue is solved by shooting 24fps and doing head and tail slates. People don't always believe that this method works because of the idea that tracks can drift in inconsistent ways. This is true but the likelihood of people picking up on nanosecond drifts is just not proven scientifically, at least not that I have known. If they could, then cartoons would never be so compelling.

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A thousand foot (305m) magazine is $630, just for the film, for 11-22 minutes of shooting!



Is S8 expensive? No. Compared to video maybe marginally so.




My biggest issues would be lack of suitable stocks (what, Tri-X, E100D, 200T, and 500T?) I'd only really personally want to shoot with the 200T or Ekta 100D. Issues with transfers, marginal processing (format isn't taken seriously at some labs), dust, etc.


S16 is far more expensive, but there is a definite quality advantage.




It really depends on what you are going for though! Look at YouTube, the stuff that looks best on it was the television programming shot in the '50s, '60s! Shoot tight up close, and the quality is just fine for the internet. The more things change the more they stay the same> I would say that smartphones are actually HURTING HD right now, go figure.


So it seems like a whole new market is opening up for standard definition formats. I'd say only the 100D, MAYYYBE the 200T reach a resolution that actually crosses into HD thresholds. Some of the older, slower stocks, sure, but again, I am really disappointed in the meager selection offered these days.

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