What is Super 8mm?

March 18, 2022

What is Super 8mm?

Super 8 was the first easy-to-use motion picture format that your grandparents could pick up and start shooting home videos! Before the camcorder was invented, everything was still captured on actual analog film, like Super 8. Like, the stuff you can’t expose to light, or else all of your images will be wiped away with the sun. Your parents probably remember your grandparents taking home videos of them on super 8 cameras. And if you’re lucky enough, you might be able to find that footage in an old film reel stuffed away in the attic.

The film is available in both colors and black and white. At the time of Super 8’s release, most Super 8 film was color reversal film stock, meaning that you could project the film onto a white sheet in the living room and watch your videos. There was a short 8 year period when Kodak wasn’t producing any color reversal film for Super 8 (gasp!), but now there’s only 1 color reversal film stock left- Ektachrome. It’s my favorite film stock to shoot super 8mm wedding videos on because of its vibrant colors.

elopement camper van super 8 wedding video

Who invented Super 8mm?

Eastman Kodak and his company, Kodak (go figure), invented the legendary Super 8, both the cameras and film. Launched in the 60s at the 1964-65 Worlds Fair, Kodak was the only company making motion picture cameras for amateur use. At the time, no one had been able to create a camera that was easy to use and almost foolproof for the average person. Unless you were a professional videographer at the time, you most likely didn’t have any videos of your life until the Super 8 camera release.

When was Super 8mm used?

Super 8 was at its prime in the late 60s through the 70s. Although it was released in 1965, it didn’t really take off until around 1969 (when my mom was born). During the mid to late 80s, you start to see a subtle decline in the use of super 8 because around this time, people began to transition to using VHS camcorders. But that doesn’t mean super 8 was “out of style” for long. In the 90s, Pro8mm picked up the torch of continuing to provide Super 8 cameras, films, and services to all who knew and loved the format. In fact, I send my Super 8mm wedding video film to Pro8mm for all of the processing, development, and scanning because they’re the best in the business.

couple hiking grand tetons super 8mm

How long is a Super 8mm reel?

Well, that depends on what frame rate you’re shooting. A-frame rate is how many frames are captured per second of shooting. A super 8 reel is 2.5 minutes long when shot at 24fps and 3 minutes and 20 seconds long at 18fps. Typically, most home videos and amateur videographers shoot at 18fps, and professional super 8 videos are shot at 24fps (which is standard for higher quality videos).

What does Super 8mm look like?

Imagine soft and vibrant colors with subtle or heavy grain sprinkled with light leaks, dust, and scratches. It’s a unique motion picture format that can’t be replicated by digital LUTs/edits because of its unpredictable nature. When you shoot Super 8mm, you really never know what you’re going to get until you receive your scans- but that’s the beauty of film, isn’t it?

To get an idea of what Super 8mm looks like, check out the screenshots and videos below:

Watch Super 8mm Videos

What’s the difference between Super 8mm vs. 8mm?

There are a few distinct differences between Super 8mm and 8mm film; the main difference is the sprocket hole size. 

The 8mm film sprocket is slightly larger than super 8 sprockets, and there are generally more of them. This is because 8mm film is actually 16mm, just cut in half! When shooting an 8mm film, you expose one side of the film, flipping it and then exposing the other side. When your 8mm film goes in for processing and development, the 16mm is cut in half right down the middle, and you are left with 8mm film reels!

Super 8 film is already sized at 8mm and comes pre-wound in a 50ft plastic cartridge. (side note: you cannot manually “wind” unexposed super 8 films onto a spool). And because it is intentionally sized for 8mm images, the actual image frame is slightly larger than 8mm film. 

Does Super 8mm have sound?

Unfortunately, Super 8 does not have sound. For a short period, Kodak released a Sound Super 8 camera and film, which allowed sound recording on the same reel of film as motion pictures. By adding a short magnetic soundtrack (called Ektasound by Kodak) on the side of the Super 8mm film, you could record sound on only Sound Super 8 cameras. Sadly, this film is no longer being produced because the adhesive needed to attach the sound strip to the film was environmentally toxic.

How do you shoot Super 8mm?

It’s as simple as loading your film, pointing to the camera, and pulling the trigger! Super 8 cameras were designed to be easy to use, and coincidentally, it’s the most straightforward film camera to load film into. Make sure your subject is in focus, your in-camera light meter works, and you’re off to the races!

However, it can be somewhat tricky and complicated to get started when shooting Super 8. First, you have to find a Super 8 camera that works, has the correct batteries, and you finally have enough money to have the Super 8 film developed and scanned. It can be pretty pricey after all is said and done, but it’s absolutely worth every second of footage #shootfilmstaybroke

super 8 wedding videographer

Is Super 8mm film still being made?

Yes! Kodak still makes Super 8mm film, although they have discontinued a handful of film stocks. The two kinds of Super 8mm film stock you can purchase are color reversal and color negative. Color reversal means that the image imprints itself on the film exactly as you see it. If you were to project a color reversal roll of film, you would see the image just as you shot it! The same cannot be said for color-negative film. 

With color negative film, you must invert the image and remove the orange “mask” on the image in photo editing software. Sadly, you cannot project this film stock, but the upside to shooting color-negative film is the flexibility if you accidentally overexpose your footage. You’ve gotta get your exposure correct with color reversal film, or your footage will be hard to recover. On the other hand, color-negative film makes it easier for you to recover the highlights and, in some cases, recover the shadows.

Over the lifetime of Super 8, there have been a handful of discontinued film stocks. One such film stock was the color reversal Kodachrome, and it was widely regarded for its beautiful colors and rendering of light. Today, however, you can pick up a box of Ektachrome and get almost the same feeling as you would have with Kodachrome.

Buy your Super 8mm film from these fantastic companies below:

Pro8mm

Film Photography Project

What are Super 8mm cameras used for?

Well, kind of anything and everything. Amateur filmmakers and artists have been shooting music videos, short films, independent movies, and in the ’70s, most in-flight movies were shown on Super 8. But most of Super 8’s popularity grew from families making home movies.

Today, Super 8mm videos are rising again in popularity, and more and more filmmakers are returning to this vintage film format. Maybe it’s because of its unpredictable nature or wanting to dig into their love of film! 

As for myself, I shoot Super 8mm wedding videos because I think it’s the most timeless way to document a timeless day. The colors from Super 8mm film have already stood the test of time and have aged so beautifully that I can’t think of a better way to remember a wedding. The camera itself is also so simple that it strips away any need for technical know-how. I can focus more on composing a scene, creating a beautiful shot, and spending quality time with the couples I’m documenting rather than fighting my camera to get it to do some fancy trick. 

What is the best Super 8 camera?

As a super 8 wedding videographer, I have to have a reliable and high-quality Super 8 camera. If I’m documenting people’s wedding days, I need to know that my camera isn’t going to crap out in the middle of the ceremony or not be able to capture the drunk laughs on the dance floor.

I choose a Nikon R10 Super 8mm camera as my gear of choice. It comes with a Nikkor lens, but it also opens up to a crazy f/1.4 aperture!! Perfect for low lighting scenarios and creamy bokeh for close-up scenes. It’s also made out of metal, instead of the flimsy plastic many Canon Super 8 cameras are made out of.

There are not many of these cameras out on the market, so if you find one in good condition, buy it asap.

We are super 8 wedding videographers.

My partner, Alex, and I document couples in love for weddings, elopements, and sessions on this vintage and restored Super 8mm cameras. We live in a converted 2019 Sprinter van and travel all around the country (the globe) with these old cameras, and we’ve been doing it since 2017. 

We’d love to document your story on Super 8mm!

Send us an inquiry here, and let’s start this journey together.

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