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Low volume, affordable Super 8 processing/transfer?

Nick Collingwood

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Hey everyone!


So I live in NYC and I've been shooting Super 8 as a fairly serious hobby since last summer. I love it. This forum has been a source of so much info. I've already bought several cameras, shot vacations, field trips, events, etc. Problem obviously is it ain't cheap! And even more of an issue is minimums. Given that I don't normally shoot 4+ rolls at a time, I've been forced to wait for weeks if not months while I slowly shoot more rolls until I meet the minimums.


I've gotten developing from Spectra with their film+processing packs for ~$40/roll but that of course doesn't include shipping to/from costs then I have to ship it out for HD telecine unless I do it somewhere in NYC but to be honest, I prefer the pro places as their quality and turnaround is been way better than local in my opinion. Moving on, I've also just bought film locally at B&H/Adorama for ~$38/roll or Du-All for ~$32/roll then sending for processing/scanning at CineLab. That's probably my cheapest method I've found since Spectra scanning is pricey!!


Anyways, even with that, I run into the minimum issue with CineLab and Spectra. With $ minimums around 200ft for processing and $150 for HD scanning, that's around 6 or even 8+ rolls before I hit the minimum. I've gotten as low as 6 rolls telecined at CineLab for around $125 which is below their minimum but I guess they just shrugged their shoulders and did it when I mailed the package. All in all, if done right and hitting minimums, I can get a roll bought/processed/scanned for around $70 if not a little less including all the shipping.


I know Spectra has their "Rank-A-Roll" packages but those are pretty steep in price in comparison to doing it normally. (~$105/roll) And Yale has its "Reel Deal" packages which are $125/roll. I've also (early on in my tests) gotten 2 rolls developed and scanned as a "Test Roll" from CineLab for around $90 but I'm not sure they'd let me do that every time.


So all that to say... you guys have any advice as far as best quality/price balance for low volume Super 8? Does no one else run into this issue? You guys just always shooting 10 rolls at a time? haha. Help a budget filmmaker/enthusiast out!! I know I'm kinda asking for the moon here with film costs these days but the cheaper I can get my methods, the more I will shoot! And I'm always itching to shoot more film! (Also I am very eager to hear more details about Kodak's new S8 packages in the fall. Seems like that would fix my issues if the price is right)


Sorry for the wall of text. Slow day at work haha.

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Cine Film is a slow process in general. Spectra and Cinelab are really great labs and we're lucky to have them. I have a special cabinet where I stuff all my shot film and hold on to it until it reaches critical mass then I send it off (I recently sent off 13 cartridges to Spectra). Maybe you'd have enough at the end of the summer?


You're not going to beat processing prices at Spectra or Cinelab really (nor do you want to cheap out on that), so it comes down to the transfer.


Many years ago I had this company run a giant roll of Super 8 for me. Fairly decent results although you'd do better quality-wise with Spectra, Cinelab, Gamma Ray or several other places...but a decent price for ProRes 422.




You could even go with a lower-res 720p transfer, then if there's something you really like, send that to a higher-end service. Part of the charm of Super 8 is it's "low fidelity" anyway...if you want perfection you'd be sliding up to Super 16 and 35 anyway.


Run the numbers, you may find it worth it to invest in an inexpensive transfer unit like from MovieStuff.tv. It would be an investment to start, but you'll save money over a long period.


For me, it's worth it to work with good colorists. This time around I'm considering a quality flat transfer and working with an excellent local colorist.

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We don't charge minimums for scanning. Well, we do, but it's only 50' for 8mm and 100' for 16mm, so it's not really a minimum most of the time. Many of our clients process at a lab they're comfortable with, and have the film prepped and sent to us for scanning. For 8mm, that means Cinelab, Spectra, Pro8mm, and Dwayne's Photo. They all do nice work.


Cinelab is physically close to us (and you in NY), so shipping to/from each location is reasonable. UPS Ground is within the overnight zone for NY to Cinelab, and from Cinelab to us. So it's pretty quick as well.

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  • 10 months later...

glanced at cinelab prices before buying film and decided i could (barely) afford to play with super 8. didn't look closely though, as minimum orders are going to be a huge problem for me too. non-pro, can't write this stuff off, don't even know if the camera is properly exposing film. determined though. will figure something out.


reached out to you through gamma about pricing, perry.

Edited by Eric Cepela
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Recently i've been buying the Pro8mm film kits off of Amazon. Like you, I only shoot a roll here and there, so this seems to be a good option for me. The kit includes a prepaid envelope to mail out to Pro8mm, SD processing, and the digital file sent via dropbox. They also mail you the film reel. I like the connivence of it all...



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It's nice to have options. I've been processing my own films, both movie and still (except for KODACHROME back in the day) since 8th grade. As I've said many times over the years, if a kid can process film and get professional results, so can an adult. I know this isn't for everybody of course. But that's why for many years, there were places that sold equipment and chemistry and instructions to process your own movie film and do all kinds of lab related stuff. With the Color Negative films, the situation is more complex but can be done. Many have processed their own Color Negative films using C-41 still film chemistry, and used Borax solutions after processing to remove any remaining remjet backing. Some have substituted the Color Developer and gotten good results as well. Some do their own scanning, anything from a lower end SD camera to a higher end HD setup, and then tweaking their work in software on their computers. The 8mm format has always had a large DIY side to it, just as 16mm filmmaking did in the first decades since it was introduced; and some 16mm filmers still do a lot of DIY today.


With EKTACHROME 100D coming back this fall, you can learn to process your own film, and maybe even do B&W as well. It's quite possible to get the per roll cost down to under $10 for Color Reversal or Neg and under $6 for B&W. The remaining expense is your own time and expertise (the latter having to be learned via practice). There's quite a bit of outdated stuff for sale on EBay at times, and while not fresh film, it can be used to learn how to load Spiral Reels or Developing Racks etc, learn how to process film and so on. If you decide to stay with Super 8mm, and do much of it yourself, you can process 8 to 10 rolls yourself for within $100 on average. Shave off the postage costs and you factor in more savings.


Some here will protest at my even mentioning all this, but it's fair to say, that many have processed their own films over the years. I'm not trying to take away work from the labs, far from it. The majority will send their films out for processing and scanning (for those that want that done elsewhere), just as it is in the still film world. But, necessity is the mother of invention and innovation. Many of us that got into photography and film at a young age, needed to save money since we didn't have it and couldn't afford much. I used the bulk of my newspaper carrier money and income from cutting grass and snow shoveling to pay for photography interests. By learning how to do some or all of it myself, I saved a lot of money that I didn't have, as well as allowed myself to do more with the little I could afford. This same formula has worked worldwide for many in various pursuits. For many years people living in the former Eastern Block nations had these options, and film was sold to reload into reloadable Super 8mm cartridges, film in bulk, home processing equipment and chemistry right up to the time of the political change in those regions. Then of course, things there became more like elsewhere, sending film out became more common amongst the new generations of budding photographers and filmmakers and hobbyists.


Anyhow, so, the bottom line is, save where you can however you can. If you have ever processed any still film before, with some care and learning, you can process your own movie film. With the equipment, you can transfer your own films. You do not need high end gear. In the beginning, even doing a chain type transfer with a good variable speed projector will get you in the ballpark. Do what you can afford, and as you stick with it, when you can afford it, buy some better gear; plenty of used stuff shows up all the time. Someone mentioned the WorkPrinter, still a good gizmo, despite having now been discontinued as that company has moved on to other designs. But, it's a tool, and if whatever it is works for you, and you're happy with it for now, well, that's fine. As a buddy texted to me earlier today, when I sent him some pics I took with my cheap 2mp Tracfone of some snowy mountain scenary. He said, it's always amazing that to a large extent, it's the photographer and not the equipment. One can be as professional as one can, within the limits of the equipment. This applies also to type of film, camera, processing, transfer, and individual technique. I say, do as much as you can on your own and save where you can, as you learn and have fun. Just my two cents here.

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Ha it's great to see this old thread of mine from last year revived. Glad more people like myself are getting into Super 8, Eric! I can provide a bit of an update to my own process in a budget minded sense. Super 8 is worth it. The image is just too amazing.


First, some of it is just getting used to the price of motion film overall. It's just not cheap especially compared to still film. Period. With that said, savings can still be had. And sadly never through Pro8mm UNLESS you can buy their stuff on sale. In the fall I bought a total of around 15 rolls of their stock w/ 4k scan at 50% off at $75/roll and I just received it back and it looks great. But normal prices are WAY more expensive than my method below...


Film stock I buy from www.buy8mmfilm.com as many people here do or from http://www.ebay.com/usr/riverwestradioauction who sells film at roughly the same prices. ~$26 for color neg and ~$20 for Tri-X and $5-10 for shipping depending on amount which is overall cheaper than Kodak's $20 shipping minimum.


Processing I always do CineLab now. They are the cheapest and solid quality. Never had a processing issue with them. $15 for color neg and $18 for B&W I believe but I've gotten varying invoices over the years haha. Also they don't have processing minimums and they lowered their scanning mins to 2 rolls for 1080 and 4 rolls for 2k.


Scans I now pretty much exclusively have had done at CineLab since that saves on shipping. I did the 1080p telecine best light for $17.50 for a while but then tried a 2k flat scan $25/roll and was blown away by the crispness enough that I always do 2k now. You DO have to do a bit of work with color correcting but it's worth it. With that said, I've occasionally had scanning issues like flickering (which was possibly my own camera but questionable) or once they scanned several rolls at half frame rate (i.e. only 1 out of every 2 frames was scanned). Both times they've rescanned for free. They definitely aren't the most responsive on emails which is frustrating but they get the job done.


So depending on if you used prepaid USPS bubble mailers ($7).. for say 4 rolls it'd be around (4x$26+$7 shipping for stock, 4x$15 + $7 shipping to CineLab for processing and $4x25 for 2k scan +$10 for reel and $10 for return shipping) = $298 TOTAL = $74.5/roll at 2k. or at 1080p $268 = $67/roll.


I currently have a 2 rolls 200T, 2 rolls Tri-X (processed at CineLab) and 5 rolls of a friend's grandfather's old R8mm that I had sent to Perry at Gamma Ray Digital since their 2k scans are only marginally higher at $27.50/roll and I've heard amazing things about their scans so I'll see next week. Feel like I can't go back down in scan quality after seeing what 2k shows.



Martin, I actually have had my hand at a bit of home processing via Mono No Aware workshops here in NYC and have had good results. This was a BW reversal, bucket processed and this was a 500T color reversal and these are caffenol negative scans. And a little flatbed scanner test from another caffenol roll or kicks. All solid results but I haven't had the time or mental capacity this past year with my own wedding to delve into it more, Hopefully 2017 is the year for that! I've been eyeing an UPB-1A tank for a while. I also just got back my first ever Ektachrome roll and a Pro8 Provia beta roll and it is INCREDIBLE projected so looking forward to shooting more of that in the fall. Got a roll in the freezer currently.


I've also starting shooting weddings and working out deals with people as an excuse to shoot more Super 8. Love it! Keep shooting! I shot 30+ rolls last year! 20 for my wedding and honeymoon alone haha.

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