Practice Formats
by James Jaeger

Super 8 is a good learning system for the mini mogul who wants to train and work in film rather than video tape. The resolution of Kodachrome Super 8, if carefully lit and shot with an Elmo 1012s camera, or its equivalent, is excellent. In fact, if Kodachrome Super 8 original is transferred to tape, using a flying spot scanner, the resulting video image looks clean, detailed and richer than material originating on all tape formats: 1/2", 3/4" and 1" highband. I know of only one Rank Cintel flying spot scanner in the country that is adapted for Super 8. It is located at Versatile Video, 151 Gibraltar Court, Sunnyvale, California 94086, phone 408/734-5550. They charge professional 35mm transfer prices however they do a beautiful job, and the Super 8 is easily ready to edit.

Editing in Tape

If you go this route, I suggest you transfer to 1" tape and pull a simultaneous 3/4" or 1/2" tape for offline editing. Make sure the 1" and the offline copy are synchronously timecoded. The exact step by step method is in "Super 8 to 1-inch Tape".

Once Super 8 is transferred to tape, it can be very nicely edited in that format for release as a television product. It is the cheapest way of getting the film look for prices approximating those of video. Editing Super 8 single system is easy with a good editor, such as the Elmo editors, however editing Super 8 double system is a nightmare. Don't even attempt it. The super 8 film is like spaghetti as it is. To work with two or more strands of spaghetti (dialogue, music and effects tracks) is increasingly difficult and really not better than doing post production on 1/2 or 3/4 inch tape.

Film VS Tape

Unfortunately, Kodak and other super 8 manufacturers, by raising the price of Super 8 film from 1980 onward, have made it increasingly difficult for new filmmakers to work in the film medium. Thus film students have been forced to migrate to tape as their learning medium. Now years later, when students become skilled enough to embark on feature length films the following things occur:

1. Producers may be initially reluctant to hire them because it will be realized that their basic training has been tape oriented. The reasons for the reluctance is two fold: a) tape trained filmmakers have a greater chance of screwing up the budget, since tape training breeds shooting in MUCH higher shooting ratios due to its relatively low expense and b) tape trained cameramen are used to lighting within the narrow contrast range of tape thus closing themselves off from the training of dealing with film's larger contrast latitude - an advantage that has the potential to make movies look incredibly rich and aesthetic. In other words, tape trained cameramen, until they learn film, do not know how to beg the most out of it - hence we have an era of flat lit movies.

2. Tape oriented filmmakers may decide that tape looks better than film and to hell with film - electronics is where it is at and where we are going in the future. If this attitude prevails, film sales will diminish to zero someday and all production will be tape, thus KODAK will have no 35mm sales and only tape sales. Thus they will be forced into the tape business - which they have already had to enter.

If KODAK had continued selling Super 8 at about $5 per 50 foot sound cassette, even at a loss, they would have made it possible for hundreds of thousands of new filmmakers to afford shooting film stock in the terrific Super 8 cameras that were starting to come out in 1979, such as the Elmo 1012S and the Beaulieux 8000s. These hundreds of thousands of future filmmakers would then be trained in film, oriented to film and able to make the most of film's look. KODAK would have thus planted more seeds for greater future sales of 16mm and 35mm film stock and the viewing audience would be looking at richer cinematography, most of the time.

Yes, I feel the general quality of feature film's cinematography has dropped.

This is not to say that tape will not someday have the look of film - but that day is just not here at 1989. Film has an easier time taking on the "real time" look of tape when it is run through a camera three times the normal speed) than tape has in looking like film. This shows the versatility of originating in film.

Having started as a film editor, I would say tape is the better medium to edit in. The act of editing in tape, which is by far the fastest way to go for the decisive mind, no matter what format you shot in, can save enough in production dollars to provide the extra money in the budget to shoot in the more expensive film stock, whether it be Super 8, 16mm, 35mm or 65mm.

Editing on random access systems is another step in the right direction. This will eventually be done in computer memory entirely, as chip (or laser disc) storage increase.

PLEASE NOTE: This article has been revised and updated with information on mini DV and non linear editing which make much of the advice herein obsolete. We will replace this article ASAP, however if you wish to get the information sooner you might consider getting a copy of the Mini Mogul Manual available at the bookstore.

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