2013 celebrates 20 years since Pro8mm invented Super 8 Color Negative film, a product that changed the way the industry used Super 8 film forever.
We had a customer from Russia who was a student filmmaker. He was studying film at a college in Boston, not far from our Cambridge office. Every few months he would go back to Russia for a visit. One day, he brought back a re-loadable super 8 cartridge. We asked him if he could get more re-loadable Super 8 cartridges, and he said he would try. Cartridges would be the first challenge in figuring out how to manufacture our own film.
Next, we started to think how we could utilize the machinery we already had to make the film from Kodak’s 35mm motion picture formats. We had a slitting and perfing machine, which we had been using to make Super 8 full coat (a market that ceased by 1992.) If we could take our slitting and perfing machines and put them in the dark, then we could use them to slit and perf film instead of full coat.
The next challenge was how to process the film. We couldn’t afford, nor could we fit a new processing machine in our facility. But, we had an Ektachrome processing machine that would soon be obsolete if Kodak discontinued the Ektachrome film. If we could convert our Ektachrome machine from VNF to ECN2 and process color negative, we would have the three major components needed to create the film. But would it work?
And so it began. A year-long journey to figure out how to make color negative film for Super 8. We were able to get 2,000 cartridges from our Russian customer, which was enough to get started. We built a dark room in the lab and moved the slitting and perfing machines into the dark so they could be used to slit 35mm into 3 strands to make Super 8. Then, we took the risk of discontinuing our Ektachrome processing and converted the machine to ECN2. One year later, we were ready to go.
We came out with 4 color negative stocks to start, made from the very same film Kodak was using to make major motion pictures. In the beginning, you could only use the stocks with the Beaulieu 7008, because that was the only camera that didn’t use the notching exposure system (it took us another year to figure out the notching system for your average Super 8 camera but we will save that story for another time.) Also, the new film was a little thicker than the Ektachrome, so it needed a camera that could pull the old 200 ft cartridge in order to work (so we thought.)
In September 1993, we sold our first manufactured Pro8mm color negative film. It was the only color negative super 8 on the market. It caught on fast, as the Super 8 community embraced a new technology for thei
r beloved format. We sold about 200 rolls the first month. Over the next few months we tried new stocks until we had the entire 35mm Kodak line in the Super 8 format. From this point forward, the Super 8 market made a huge shift. It re-invented itself as a viable production medium because now filmmakers had all the tools they needed to do production-style filmmaking in a more affordable and accessible way. We knew we were on to something big, and that Super 8 film would be around for many years to come.
The Super 8 Film Kit is an accessible and affordable way to try analog super 8 film experience in a digital world. The goal is to give the average person with an interest in motion picture film access to all the resources they need by providing a consolidated product. The Super 8 Film Kit is all-inclusive of film, processing, mailing envelope, digital scanning, and digital file with email delivery. You can also enhance your Super 8 Film Kit with music, titles, end credits, and professional 23.98fps upgrades at www.super8filmkit.com. Most importantly, we are working with several photographic retailers around the country so that the product is accessible whever you are. We want you to be able to walk into your local photographic store and find the Super 8 Film Kit on the shelf.
The Super 8 Film Kit is about giving new opportunities to the next generation of filmmakers. With all the digital products out there, we find photographic enthusiasts are looking for an alternative analog experience. We hope the Super 8 veterans out there will encourage the next generation to try film, and share their knowledge and experiences. After all, Super 8 film has been the gateway to some of the most prolific careers in Hollywood. The best way to ensure film will survive is to get the next generation interested in the process. It’s a timeless, photographic tradition where you can preserve memories in a unique way.
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