Magazine article American Cinematographer

A Test Case for Professional Super-8

Magazine article American Cinematographer

A Test Case for Professional Super-8

Article excerpt

A determined film-maker on an almost non-existent budget proves that professional Super-8 makes possible certain kinds of productions that otherwise would be completely unfeasible from the economic standpoint

One of the greatest advantages of professional Super-8 is that it makes certain kinds of low budget productions possible that would otherwise never get off the ground in the larger formats. Such was the filming of "A SECOND CHANCE".

I became interested in perceptual motor training, which is a type of occupational therapy used to develop body movement in delayed, autistic and retarded children, largely through a friend, Katheryn Porter, who was working in the field. We decided that a film which could visually demonstrate the training process in a positive way would help therapists in communicating with parents, and as training aids.

My decision to use Super-8 for the project was largely due to economic considerations, as I simply didn't have the money to rent a full complement of 16mm equipment. And as I had been pioneering professional Super-8 production techniques and equipment designs for years, I already owned the complete production facility to do the job. All that remained for budgeting was film and laboratory costs, transportation and pay for the crew. As I did most of the photography myself, and my technical collaborator also recorded sound, the budget was even further reduced.

Educational films are seldom projected in anything larger than a small auditorium or conference room, for which purposes the Super-8 image is adequate to the requirements of the non-professional audience. All in all, I ended up with a couple of Super-8 composite prints, an internegative, a 16mm blow-up and a transferred video cartridge of a twenty-minute sync-sound color film for about one thousand dollars. With these I can now easily raise the money to distribute the film myself by sending a brochure out to prospective interested parties.

The first major decision to make was the choice of film stock. I made a film test using one cartridge of Super-8 7242 and had it post-flashed (cost-$7.00). But, whereas I achieved the low contrast image I was used to in 16mm production, it was obvious that the granularity would never make a good 16mm blow-up or quality video transfer. I wanted the latter two formats in order to distribute the film to schools for programming in whatever projection system they used. The only answer was to use Kodachrome 40, because of its image sharpness and fine grain structure.

Kodachrome, however, presented its own set of drawbacks. The first is its relatively slow speed, which is compounded by the fact that an 82A filter must be used to balance its 3400°K emulsion to tungsten 3200°K color temperature. The 82A reduces the film speed only one-third stop, however, bringing Kodachrome's effective ASA down to 32. An even greater problem was that the 7-80mm Schneider lens on my Nizo S-800 eats up about three stops more light. I had to make special ASA markings on my spot meter to get a correct exposure reading!

As Kodachrome is a high contrast film intended for projection, I needed a low 1½:1 lighting ratio to offset contrast build-up through the internegative. Facing all of these rapidly compounded problems almost made me give up and go back to 16mm flashed 7242! …

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