Sunday, 14 February 2016

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS: THE NEW KODAK SUPER 8 FILM CAMERA

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS

64. THE NEW KODAK SUPER 8 FILM CAMERA

14/02/2016

It has been over a month since Kodak announced the biggest surprise at the CES 2016 electronics show but, in an age where vinyl record sales are racing upwards, and with Polaroid returning to instant cameras, it is the latest in a trend. My taking time to mention it here is down to finally getting over my not being likely to own this item, outside of a lottery win, or a very hefty salary increase.

When Kodak exited bankruptcy protection in the US, it went looking for its next big innovation. Asking around the film industry, it became clear that the Super 8 format of film, still made by Kodak, but not processed by them since 1992, was still being used by film schools and colleges, along with amateur and semi-professional filmmakers. The goodwill and nostalgia of the film industry was also behind it, with Stephen Spielberg and J.J. Abrams, makers of the film "Super 8," among those voicing their support. For Kodak, the route was clear - there was still a viable business in Super 8.

Going on sale this Autumn, the new Super 8 camera, Kodak's first since ending their camera production in 1982, incorporates modern technology as much as possible - an internal battery sets it apart from the old models for a start. 

It has a camcorder-like LCD screen instead of a viewfinder, which also controls focus, speed and the rest, while also recording sound on a SD card, so you can add it to the picture later - with film literally eight millimetres across, and eighty frames per foot, there has never been space for a separate soundtrack. As on previous cameras, the film is contained in a cassette for ease of use, and when you send it to Kodak to be developed, you will be able to download a 4K digital copy of it from the cloud to edit on your computer.

I was overjoyed when I heard all of this. If I had the choice of making a film on actual film, there would be no contest - over processed digital and video, a filmed picture just looks better to me, having an air of having taken time and energy to put together - a simple search of Super 8 films on YouTube will prove this. Film makes any production look more prestigious, like a lot of money has been spent on it...

...and this is the problem. The base model of the new camera is likely to cost nearly £300, and the film will continue to cost the industry standard of £40 per cassette: at fifty feet of film per cassette, and 24 frames per second, that is £40 for two minutes and forty seconds of film. Plan meticulously, and be very careful indeed.

To achieve the look of film, you don't want to rely on Instagram-like filters if there is no need for it. Advances in technology mean the ability to look professional in your work can be achieved for much less money. But with this new camera, even if the cost seems too much now, the fact it exists will make dreams for a few people come true that little bit faster.



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