Shooting with Pro8mm’s 16 X 9 System was a fun and interesting experience. I found it really took us back to doing a shoot in a very natural and organic way… and with no video assist, the communication was between our minds eyes. But like any format or style of shooting, there are a few little things that can trip you up if you are not careful, and as always with any project, I would shoot tests up front no matter what the camera is or where it came from… but due to our schedule, we didn’t have that luxury on this one, so it fell back to my experience with film cameras in general to make sure we were covered.
1. Super 8mm Shutter Speed at 24 fps?
2. Crystal Sync at speeds other than 24fps?
3. Variable speeds / High Speed
4. Do lenses provide true “T” stops?
5. Scratch testing (no mags on Super 8mm)
6. 16X9 Coverage areas on Super 8mm
7. Super 8mm Rental Camera Options
8. Film Stock testing
9. Lens resolution, contrast, vignetting, and flaring
10. Wide Angle Lens options
11. External filter stacking (vignetting?)
All of these things… and more, are very important and should be checked out up front if possible… and not knowing the various modern camera models available (I hadn’t shot 8mm since high school), I turned to Pro8mm in Burbank. They were very helpful in helping me to determine which camera model was best for our needs, the 16:9 Super 8mm format restrictions and what the various pros and cons of the various models were. I spent a day at their facility to check out the cameras, lenses, etc, but had no time to shoot actual film tests.
After many years of the 4:3/16:9 broadcast issues for television commercials, and after careful consideration, we decided to go with the 16:9 format as we didn’t want to give up the real estate of the wider format for a more cinematic look and we just didn’t want to go back to 4:3! Now, we understand that there are Super 8mm purists out there that will protest this choice, but with the wide angle restrictions of the 16:9 Super 8mm format and the lack of wide angle coverage, (we were already couldn’t be as wide as we wanted), we decided the 16:9 ratio was the best way to go. We also needed to shoot variable rates up to 60fps along with our standard of 24fps with HMI’s, (luckily we had all flicker free lights with our crystal sync generator, as the only crystal sync speed is 24fps), and so we decided on the Classic Professional Camera which is Pro8mm’s rebuild of the legendary Beaulieu 4008 model, with a C-Mount Angeniuex 8-64mm lens.
Again, since there was no time to adequately test the camera by shooting actual film and checking the results, we relied on my experience (as I already knew the various films stocks from 35mm and 65mm), as well as Pro 8mm’s advice on the ins and out of the different formats (regular Super 8mm and 16:9 Super 8mm) and the cameras available. (There is more to it than one would think). Pro8mm custom modifies and widens the gate with their “Max 8” set up to create a larger gate so less cropping is necessary for 16:9, plus it has the 16:9 ground glass marking with is very helpful when shooting this style of quick handheld, on the go type shooting.
Their packages include the camera rental, the film stock of your choice (most Kodak stocks available… but order in advance as they sell out of popular stocks quickly), processing and film transfer to tape or digital files on their 2K High Def Da Vinci color system. We used 2 cameras at times and there were some slight differences in the looks between the contrast and color on the 2 different Angeniuex lenses, so testing, if possible would be advised. (Also they are the only transfer facility that can handle the 16:9 gate in Super 8mm).
We did our “best light” film transfer with Pro8mm last week (we were very pleased with the results) and next week we will take the footage to Lightpress in Seattle for our final “color sweetening” with Jeff Tillotson and then on to editing in 2 weeks with editor, TJ Nelson. The spots won’t be released until next spring, with a great soundtrack from The Drums, so we are really excited with what we’ve got. I’ll try and put up a few still frames down the road when we get the final color completed.
Writer/Director: Matt Hodgson
D.P.: Matthew Williams
Producer: Jeff Miller / Vineyard Productions
Editor: TJ Nelson
Music: The Drums