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8 Tips for Shooting Modern Super 8 #7 18 vs 24 fps

#7    Shooting at 18 or 24 Frames  Per Second.

frame rate knob from Canon 814All super  8 cameras were designed to film at 18 frames per second.  While many  better cameras have  a variable  filming speed feature,  18 fps  was the norm, particularly in the day when Super 8 was used primarily for shooting home movies.    When you shoot the film cartridge at a slower speed, it will  last longer and thus,  saves on the cost of film stock.    When your camera is running at 18 fps , you get a little over 3 minutes of running time from a   super 8  cartridge.    The better super 8 cameras that have the option of filming at 24 frames per second will get a little over 2 minutes from a super 8 cartridge.  There are some good reasons for using either speed but you have to be aware of the consequences of what you are doing and what issues it will present in certain types of production.

Because Super 8 cameras were designed to work at 18 fps, they tend to work their  best at 18 fps.  18 frames looks completely professional when properly transferred to interlaced video in standard or high definition i.e.  (1080i)  Some filmmakers prefer the look of 18 frames per second super 8 film.   24 frames per second is the establish film speed of 16mm and 35 mm professional film, as well as  many high definition formats.  When you go to a movie theater, the film  is being shown   at 24 fps.   Because it is the established production  standard, there are many devices and procedures that revolve around images shot at 24.  In fact, many fundamental devices used every day in the professional film industry will just not work with film shot at 18 frames per second.  Simple things,  such as double system sync sound are not possible with film shot at 18 fps.    This means that if you originate something at 18  frames per second you will not be able to use certain tools of the professional film trade or easily insert your footage into a 24 frame project.   For example, if you shot something in Super 8  for a theatrically released feature film at 18 fps you have created a huge mess.  There is no easy or clever method that can create 24 frames of film from 18 frames of original for 24-frame projection.  There are ways of doing this, but they create artifacts in the image or motion.  I have been involved with major  feature film productions that loved the look of super 8 so much they shot hundreds  of rolls of it for their project and then dumped every frame because they did not want to deal with the artifacts and non-conforming problems of using an 18-frame original in a 24-frame project.

When you send super 8  film into a post facility to be scanned to digital, you have to tell the facility what speed you want the scanning done at.   In 16mm or 35 mm it is assumed you are working at 24 .   As we said, there are many good reasons to work at 18.  It has a great look when done in interlaced video and transferred at the proper speed.   However, there are strong technical issues to working in 24 that are critical to getting a good look for theatrical and HD projects working in 24 fps and 24P.  All it takes is a little awareness on your part as a filmmaker to make this a smooth use of the great aesthetic of super 8 or create a nightmare that makes professional productions reluctant to use the  super 8 format.   It is all up to you.

If you do have Super 8 shot at  at 18 fps or  Regular 8 shot at 18 or 16  fps  that you want in  a 24 P project  I suggest you scan it at 24 fps.   This will create a frame for frame relationship with digital and film .  You will have no interlacing problems because the scan is frame for frame, but the  motion wil be sped up.  Then you will have to evaluate each shot and use digital techniques to achieve  the slower speed  when needed  in the material.   Ever notice how often times older  small gauge film  looks sped up when used in new production?   It is because the production company  did not want to work this out and just used the footage at the wrong speed. As more and more projects move to high definition, you as a filmmaker will have to decide if you want to shoot 18 fps or 24 fps.   You can use either 18 or 24 in   interlaced video projects  but can only use 24 when you are working towards 24P or projects that will go theatrical  (c) Pro8mm ™ Phil Vigeant 2009


This point bears repeating.  It you shoot at 18 fps and want real motion, you must scan in  “i”, not in “p” . Even though a roll shot at 18 fps will last longer in your camera, it will takes longer to transfer.  The longer scanning session will add to your overall production costs.  It is no longer much of  budget consideration to work at 18  and more of an aesthetic choice – Rhonda

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