Super 8 film

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Super 8 and 8 mm film formats. Magnetic sound stripes are shown in gray.
Kodachrome 40 KMA464P Super 8 Cartridge

Super 8 mm film is a motion picture film format released in 1965[1][2][3] by Eastman Kodak as an improvement of the older "Double" or "Regular" 8 mm home movie format.

The film is nominally 8 mm wide, exactly the same as the older standard 8 mm film, and also has perforations on only one side. However, the dimensions of the perforations are smaller than those on older 8 mm film, which allowed the exposed area to be made larger. The Super 8 standard also specifically allocates the border opposite the perforations for an oxide stripe upon which sound can be magnetically recorded.

Unlike Super 35, the film stock used for Super 8 is not compatible with standard 8mm film cameras.

There are several different varieties of the film system used for shooting, but the final film in each case has the same dimensions. By far the most popular system was the Kodak system.

Kodak Super 8 system

Nizo film-camera

Launched in 1965, Super 8 film comes in plastic light-proof cartridges containing coaxial supply and take-up spools loaded with 50 feet (15 m) of film, with 72 frames per foot, for a total of approximately 3,600 frames per film cartridge. This was enough film for 2.5 minutes at the professional motion picture standard of 24 frames per second, and for 3 minutes and 20 seconds of continuous filming at 18 frames per second (upgraded from Standard 8 mm's 16 frame/s) for amateur use. A 200-foot (61 m) cartridge later became available which could be used in specifically designed cameras, but that Kodak cartridge is no longer produced. Super 8 film was typically a reversal stock. Kodak makes two types of reversal film in this format today; one color (Ektachrome 100D/7285) and one black and white (Tri-X/7266). The Ektachrome 64T stock has recently been discontinued along with the 100d stock. In addition to reversals, Kodak also offers two negative stocks (Vision3 200T/7213 and Vision3 500T/7219). In the 1990s Pro-8 mm pioneered custom loading of several Super 8 stocks, and their current inventory mirrors closely what is currently available to the professional cinematographer from Kodak and Fuji. Today Super 8 color negative film is available directly from Kodak for professional use and is typically transferred to video through the telecine process for use in television advertisement, music videos and other film projects.

A Super 8 film cartridge beside a compact audio cassette for scale

The Super 8 plastic cartridge is probably the fastest loading film system ever developed, as it can be loaded into the Super 8 camera in less than two seconds without the need to directly thread or even touch the film. In addition, coded notches cut into the Super 8 film cartridge exterior allowed the camera to recognize the film speed automatically. Not all cameras can read all the notches correctly, however, and not all cartridges are notched correctly (such as Kodak Vision2 200T). Canon keeps an exhaustive list of their Super 8 cameras with detailed specifications on what film speeds can be used with their cameras.[4] Usually, testing one cartridge of film can help handle any uncertainty a filmmaker may have about how well their Super 8 camera reads different film stocks. Color stocks were generally available only in tungsten (3400K), and almost all Super 8 cameras come with a switchable daylight filter built in, allowing for both indoor and outdoor shooting.

The original Super 8 film release was a silent system only, but in 1973 a sound on film version was released. The sound film had a magnetic soundtrack[5] and came in larger cartridges than the original because the cartridge had to accommodate the sound recording head in the film path. Sound film also requires a longer film path (for smoothing the film movement before it reached the recording head), and a second aperture for the recording head. Sound cameras were compatible with silent cartridges, but not vice versa. Sound film was typically filmed at a speed of 18 or 24 frames per second.[6] Kodak discontinued the production of Super 8 sound film in 1997, citing environmental regulations as the reason (the adhesive used to bond the magnetic track to the film was environmentally hazardous).[7]

A Super 8 film cartridge with a close-up of the film

Kodak still manufactures several color and black-and-white Super 8 reversal film stocks, but in 2005 announced the discontinuation of the most popular stock Kodachrome[8] due to the decline of facilities equipped for the K-14 process. Kodachrome was "replaced" by a new ISO 64 Ektachrome, which used the simpler E-6 process. The last roll of Kodachrome was processed on January 18, 2011 (although announced last date of processing was December 30, 2010) in Parsons, Kansas, by the sole remaining lab capable of processing the format.[9]

Super 8 film stocks other than Kodachrome—from color and black and white reversal, to color negative—can be processed same day in several labs around the world.

In April 2010, Kodak announced the discontinuation of Plus-X and E64T. In the same press release, they also announced that they would be replacing E64T with a Super-8 version of Ektachrome 100D, a popular reversal stock available to 16mm and 35mm users. Previous to Kodak's announcement, the stock had been supplied by third-party vendors such as Yale Film & Video, Pro8mm and Spectra Film and Video in the United States, and Witter Kinotechnik in Germany.

Kodak does not offer processing for its black and white Super-8 films, preferring instead to refer its users to third-party processors.

Kodak has also introduced several Super 8 negative stocks cut from their Vision film series, ISO 200 and ISO 500 which can be used in very low light.[10]Kodak reformulated the emulsions for the B&W reversal stocks Plus-X (ISO 100) and Tri-X (ISO 200), in order to give them more sharpness. Many updates of film stocks are in response to the improvement of digital video technology. The growing popularity and availability of non-linear editing systems has allowed film-makers to shoot Super 8 film but edit on video, thereby avoiding much of the scratches and dust that can accrue when editing the actual film. Super 8 Films may be transferred through telecine to video and then imported into computer-based editing systems. Along with the computer editing option a number of enthusiasts still choose to edit super 8 film with a viewer and rewinds and then project their edit master on a film projector and movie screen.

Some feature films have been shot on Super 8 mm and most that have current distribution today were edited on video. Some titles include Colony, Brand Upon the Brain!, Things, Since I Don't Have You, Beasties, Nudist Colony of the Dead, Nekromantik, Bleak Future, and Curse of the Queerwolf.

Negative stocks, however, must be transferred to video in order to be viewed and edited properly. Unlike 16mm and larger formats, the capability to make a film-based work print does not exist for Super-8 in the U.S., because it would be cost-ineffective. The German company Andec Filmtechnik offers a printing service for Super-8 negative in Germany, but it is unknown how much longer it will continue to do so, given the relatively low usage of it. In addition, projecting the processed film would produce a negative image, and would also damage the film itself.

Kodak Super 8 mm cartridges cannot be reloaded; however, a reloadable cartridge was manufactured in the Soviet Union.

Kodak discontinued reversal print stocks several years ago. Andec Film in Berlin now makes prints from Super 8 negative film, although optical blow-ups to 16mm or 35mm are available at other labs.

In December 2012, Kodak discontinued the last 'official' colour reversal stock for Super 8, Ektachrome 100D, and released Vision 50D negative to the Super 8 format. This can be printed to a Super 8 positive by Andec or transferred to digital. The cost of printing negative is higher than developing reversal for shooters who wish to project their movie. The only 'official' reversal film still being manufactured by Kodak is Tri-X which is a monochrome emulsion.

Wittner Kinotechnik still takes reversal still films and slits them for use in the Super 8 format, plus a special lubricant to allow it to be used without jamming due to the stock's thickness. This does not harm the processing chemistry as it is inert. Wittner formerly offered Fujifilm Velvia 50 and has, at times, also made Velvia 100 and Astia available in this format.

Wittner presently offers Agfa Aviphot colour reversal film in the Super 8 format. It is a daylight balanced 200 ISO film which processes to E6. This is slit from fresh aerial photography film, a specialist product still made by Agfa in Belgium. Aviphot has the same emulsion as the discontinued RSX-II slide film.

Fujifilm Single-8 system

Fujifilm of Japan developed an alternative format called Single-8, which was released in 1965 as a different option to the Kodak Super 8 format.

Single-8 cartridges without a press plate are of a different design from a Super 8 cartridge, resembling a cassette-style design (supply and take-up reels side by side) as opposed to Super 8's coaxial cartridge design (one reel on top of the other). Therefore, Single-8 film cartridges can only be used in Single-8 cameras. However, the film loaded in a Single-8 cartridge has exactly the same dimensions as Super 8 (though it is made of a thinner & stronger polyester base, rather than the acetate base of Super 8 film), and can be viewed in any Super 8 projector after processing. Fuji, however, recommended that only tape splices be used when combining Single-8 footage with Super-8, as cement would cause damage to the Single-8 footage. Also, when jammed, Single-8 footage had a tendency to stretch in the projector, unlike the acetate-based Super-8 film, which simply broke.

Although never as popular as Super 8, the format existed in parallel. On 2 June 2009 Fuji announced the end of Single-8 motion picture film.[11] Tungsten balanced 200 ASA Fuji RT200N ceased to be manufactured by May 2010. Daylight balanced 25 ASA Fujichrome R25N remained available until March 2012. Fuji's in-house processing service was available until September 2013.

Polaroid Polavision

An instant 8mm film released in 1977 by Polaroid, Polavision uses the same perforations as Super 8mm film. It can be projected through a Super 8mm projector if the film is transferred from the original cartridge to a 8mm reel. However, because of the additive process, the picture will be much darker.

Double Super 8

Double Super 8 film (commonly abbreviated as DS8) is a 16 mm wide film but has Super 8 size sprockets. It is used in the same way as standard 8 mm film in that the film is run through the camera twice, exposing one side on each pass. During processing, the film is split down the middle and the two pieces spliced together to produce a single strip for projection in a Super 8 projector. Because it has sprockets on both sides of the film, the pin-registration is superior to Super 8 film and so picture stability is better.

Super Duper 8 (AKA Max 8)

Super-Duper-8, or S-D-8 was created out of the need for widescreen compatibility without having to use expensive optical adaptors or excessive cropping. Since magnetic sound-striped film is no longer available, the creators of Sleep Always[12] experimented with widening the camera gate to expose into the sound track region to achieve this. The result is a 20% wider image than previously possible which also gives better clarity to the image.[citation needed] Pro8mm sells Max-8 widescreen cameras, which are remade Super 8 cameras.[13] These cameras have an aspect ratio of about 1.58:1 (which among common aspect ratios is closest to 16:10 aka 1.6:1, and second-closest to 1.66:1 classic European widescreen aka 5:3 aka VistaVision), so less cropping is needed to convert the image to widescreen (especially 16:9 aka 1.77:1) than the traditional 1.33 ratio.


A spool of developed Super 8 Film, with a protective white leader.

The last major manufacturer to produce Super 8 cameras was the French company Beaulieu. Beaulieu cameras have been the basis for several newer cameras offered by the U.S.-based Pro8mm company. Older Super 8 cameras are available from specialized retailers and auction sites such as eBay.

Kodak, ADOX, and Foma (in DS8 only) are the only companies currently making Super 8 film stock of their own. Kodak offers some of their latest Vision 3 color negative stock. One or more other Super 8 specialists (such as Pro8mm, Spectra (both in Los Angeles), Wittner Cinetec (in Hamburg, Germany) and Kahlfilm (in Brühl, Germany) slit raw 35 mm film stock from Fuji, Kodak and ORWO, perforate it, and repackage it in Kodak Super 8 cartridges. Due to Kodak's discontinuation of Kodachrome 40 in 2006 (the one stock that for four decades used to be almost synonymous to Super 8 as a medium itself), the Super 8 market opened for new stocks and competing film manufacturers. There are now more varieties of Super 8 film available than ever before, but ironically very few retailers still stock Super 8 film, as there is virtually no demand from "ordinary" consumers.

One country where it remained widely available well past the 1990s is the UK, where the chain Jessops carried one film: Kodak Ektachrome 64T. Until 2002 it was also available in Boots, a British high-street chain-pharmacy. In 2007 it was reported that Jessops were scaling back their film stocks and would no longer stock Super 8 film.

There were rumours of Super 8 cameras and films being manufactured and sold in North Korea, partly to be found in specialty photography stores in a few Southeast Asian countries, by a company named Kim Chek, and indeed this has been confirmed by North Korean embassies, but the only way to buy such products is to visit those countries.[citation needed]


The super 8mm system was one of the few film formats where the requirements of sound were designed in from the start. The sound track was added on the edge of the film opposite to the perforations (see the illustration at head of the article). Standard 8mm had the stripe between the perforations and the edge of the film which made good contact with a magnetic head problematic. A balance stripe was sometimes added on the opposite edge to facilitate spooling of the film. Projectors that could record and play sound appeared before sound cameras. The sound was recorded 18 frames in advance of the picture (as opposed to 56 frames for standard 8mm). This short distance of just 3 inches facilitated the relatively compact size of the later sound cartridges. Some projectors used the balance stripe to provide a second channel and hence stereo sound.

Super 8mm was also specified with an optical sound track. This occupied the same location as the magnetic track. Picture to sound separation in this format was 22 frames. Projectors and cameras obviously could not record sound in this system, but optical sound package movies became briefly popular, particularly in Europe (mainly because they were cheaper to produce - though the projectors cost more). Although the optical sound should have been inferior in quality to magnetic sound (running at 3.6 inches per second for 24 frames per second), in practice it was often much better, largely because packaged movie magnetic sound was often poorly recorded.

Packaged movies

Although the 8 mm format was originally intended for creating amateur films, condensed versions of popular cinema releases were available up until the mid-1980s, for projection at home. These were generally edited to fit onto a 200 ft (61 m) or 400 ft (120 m) reel. Many Charlie Chaplin films, and other silent movies were available. The Walt Disney Studio released excerpts from many of their animated feature films, as well as some shorts, in both Standard and Super 8, some even with magnetic sound. New releases of material were not stopped by major studios until the mid-1980s in the U.S. Releases of trailers, shorts, and a few feature films still continues in the U.K.[citation needed]

In-flight movies

Starting in 1971[14] In-flight movies (previously 16 mm) were shown in Super 8 format until video distribution became the norm. The films were printed with an optical sound track (amateur films use magnetic sound), and spooled into proprietary cassettes that often held a whole 2-hour movie.


A frame from So tell me again by Jesse Richards

Amateur usage of Super 8 has been largely replaced by video, but the format is often used by professionals in music videos, TV commercials, and special sequences for television and feature film projects, as well as by many visual artists. For a professional cinematographer, Super 8 is another tool to use alongside larger formats. Some seek to imitate the look of old home movies, or create a stylishly grainy look. Many independent filmmakers such as Derek Jarman, Dave Markey, Sean Pecknold, Jem Cohen, Damon Packard, Sam Raimi, Jesse Richards, Harmony Korine, Teod Richter, Jörg Buttgereit, Nathan Schiff and Guy Maddin have made extensive use of 8 mm film. Oliver Stone, for example, has used it several times in his more recent films, such as The Doors, Natural Born Killers, Nixon, U Turn, and JFK where his director of photography Robert Richardson employed it to evoke a period or to give a different look to scenes. The PBS series Globe Trekker uses approximately five minutes of Super 8 footage per episode. [15] In the UK, broadcasters such as the BBC still occasionally make use of Super 8 in both drama and documentary contexts, usually for creative effect. A recent example of particular note was the 2005 BBC2 documentary series, Define Normal, which was shot largely on Super 8, with only interviews and special timelapse photography utilising more conventional digital formats.[16] Most recently, John Mellencamp's 2011 documentary film, It's About You, was shot entirely in Super-8.

Thanks to over a dozen film stocks and certain features common in Super 8 cameras but unavailable in video camcorders–notably the ability to expose single frames and shoot at several non video standard frame rates, including time-exposure and slow motion–Super 8 provides an ideal inexpensive medium for traditional stop-motion and cel animation and other types of filming speed effects not common to video cameras.

Another visual effect uncommon in video cameras that certain high-end Super 8 cameras can do in-camera is the lap dissolve. Upon activation of the lap dissolve feature, the shot being filmed fades to black, the camera back-winds the film to the beginning of the fade and, at the beginning of the next shot, fades in.

Film festivals

To give further support to filmmakers dedicated to shooting on Super 8 mm film, many film festivals and screenings—such as the Flicker Film Festival, and Super Gr8 Film Festival—exist to give filmmakers a place to screen their Super 8 mm films. Many of these screenings shun video and are only open to films shot on film. Some require film to be turned in undeveloped and thus not permitting any editing, providing an additional challenge to the filmmaker. These include such the Bentley Film Festival and straight 8, which runs screenings at the Cannes Film Festival and many other festivals and events worldwide, where a sound track is required to be supplied with a completed but unprocessed cartridge. In the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, a Super 8 short film (The Man Who Met Himself) by British filmmaker Ben Crowe, shot on the now discontinued Kodachrome 40 format, was the first Super 8 film to be nominated for the Short Film Palme D'Or in the Official Selection.

In the UK, the Cambridge International Super 8 Film Festival,[17] with the support of the film industry, runs a competition programme of more than 60 films every year. The festival also features work of Super 8 filmmakers, industry talks, and a workshop.

The United States Super 8 Film + Digital Video Festival receives close to 100 Super 8 entries every year.[18]

A number of experimental filmmakers continue to work extensively in the format and festivals such as the Images Festival (Toronto), the Media City Film Festival (Windsor, ONT), and TIE (based in Colorado) regularly project Super 8 films as part of their programming.

In June 2010, the Super8 Shots film festival was launched in Galway, Ireland, the first Super 8 festival to occur in Ireland, and included classes on basics and uses of film through to processing your own film.[19]

Chicago 8: A Small Gauge Film Festival started in 2011, and will feature yearly programming of small gauge film from around the world.[20]

Educational use

Several post-secondary institutions in the United States continue to utilize Super 8 in Film and Cinema programs. For example, both City College of San Francisco's Cinema Department and the University of North Texas' Radio, Television and Film Department require the use of Super 8.

This experience gives students the basics of film production and editing. Importantly, it also emphasizes the need for detailed pre-production planning, especially for in-camera edits. Further, the use of Super 8 leads students into the Regular 16 and Super 16 films shot in higher level courses.

Until 1999, the University of Southern California's famous School of Cinematic Arts required students to shoot some of their projects using Super 8, but digital video is now favoured instead.

In popular culture

Madonna's music video for her 1992 song, Erotica, used Super 8 film to make the footage look aged and gritty to mesh with the song's atmosphere.

The backdrop of the 2011 film Super 8 involves a group of teenagers in the fictional Ohio town Lillian filming their own Super 8 movie depicting their experience with a landlocked alien in the summer of 1979.

Some of the sequences in the film were actually shot in Super-8, using Pro8mm stock and cameras.

The 2012 film, Sinister contains Super 8 shots used to depict the various gruesome murders.

See also


  1. Lenny, Lipton (1975). The Super 8 Book. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Books. p. 11. ISBN 0-87932-091-5. In May 1965, super 8 in its stubby, coaxial plastic cartridge arrived loaded with Type A indoor balanced Kodachrome II, billed as a universal film.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Lipton, Lenny (1973). Independent Filmmaking (5. print (revised) ed.). San Francisco: Straight Arrow Books. p. 26. ISBN 0-87932-010-9. After several years of research, Kodak offered super 8 format film in Instamatic cartridges in 1965.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Kodak. "Super 8 mm Film History". Kodak. Retrieved 12 February 2013. In April of 1965, this revolutionary new format was introduced...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Canon Camera Museum | Camera Hall - Movie Cameras". Retrieved 2012-07-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Popular Mechanics - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-07-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Popular Mechanics - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-07-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "". Archived from the original on 2004-11-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "40th Anniversary of Super 8 film". Archived from the original on 2007-11-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Kodachrome's road ends at Kansas photo lab".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "シングル-8用フィルム「FUJICHROME R25N」「FUJICHROME RT200N」販売および現像終了のご案内 : お知らせ | 富士フイルム". Retrieved 2012-07-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Sleep Always
  13. "Super 8 Film - Super 8 HD Scanning - Super 8 Cameras - Super 8 Processing". Pro8mm. Retrieved 2012-07-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Inflight Entertainment
  15. Videography. "Globe Trekker: Around the World With PBS' Travel Series".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Define Normal on the IMDB".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Cambridge Super 8 Film Festival". Retrieved 2012-07-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Rutgers Film Co-op | New Jersey Media Arts Center". Retrieved 2012-07-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "The first Super 8 picture show", Irish Times, June 19, 2010
  20. "CHICAGO 8: A Small Gauge Film Festival". Retrieved 2012-07-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links