Posted on August 24 2021
It’s from the 50 years experience we have had working with Super 8 and 16mm filmmakers that we see time and time again how common problems with the cameras and even artifacts on the film can be avoided by following these simple steps to properly outfit your movie camera. These are not camera accessories, but NECESSARIES!
Nothing in Super 8 filmmaking can happen without the cameras. If you look back to when optics, electronics and mechanics combined together to produce a dynamic image, you will see that a traditional analog camera is more of and instrument that needs a bit of protection.
Unlike modern equipment such as Go Pro’s that can be thrown off cliffs, or iPhones which can be dropped, analog movie equipment must be properly cared for and shielded from excessive bumps and bangs which will damage the equipment. So once you settle on your choice of camera, the first most important accessory is the CASE. The main purpose of the case is impact protection. Most devices of this vintage are not very tolerant to impact. Unlike your modern devices like your cell phone which you can regularly drop and rarely has an impact on its function, if you drop a Super 8 camera there is a very good chance it will not longer function properly. For this reason we recommend a case for impact protection when shipping, storing or transporting your camera. If you are just tossing your cameras in the back seat of the car or shipping it cross country you have to protect the basic integrity of the optics and the mechanical elements. A hardshell case provides most of what you need. A foam insert, cut to fit the cameras’ shape is the best way to cushion it. These cases also provide some dust proofing and water resistance but impact is the goal.
The ND Filter
There are a few necessaries that can really make a difference in your Super 8 shooting experience. The neutral density filter is one of these. Remember that super 8 was designed to shoot primarily outdoors with Kodachrome 40 which needed an 85 filter so effectively the camera system is designed around a 25 ASA film . Modern Super 8 film can be up to 500 ASA and most common are stocks that are in the 100 to 200 ASA range. This means that to get back to what Super 8 was designed to be , you typically need a to drop down the amount of light when shooting outdoors. 25 ASA to 100 ASA is 2 stops so if you want to use 100 ASA film in the sweet spot outdoors in bright sun you need a ND of 2 Stops. If you're shooting 200 ASA you would need an ND of 3. Having an ND of 2 or 3 Stops is extremely handy when you are outdoors, and by having slightly higher ASA film you can more easily shoot where there is less light. It’s always easiest to have a higher ASA film and a filter than having a lower ASA film and not enough light .
The Gate Brush
Film is a physical medium and when it transports through a cameras there is some debris that can accumulate from the emulsion in the gate of the camera. There is always a certain degree of dirt , dust and hairs that will often get stuck in the gate of the camera. This leaves areas of the image frame imposed with the dirt and a grungy look to the edges of your frame. A simple couple of swipes of a soft bristle brush between rolls will make all the difference in clean up this situation. Here is a great demo we put up many years ago, but still relevant today https://vimeo.com/9633159
The Lens Cloth
Before you start shooting it is always a good idea to clean off the lens with a microfiber lens cloth to take off any fingerprints or other deposits on the lens. We do not recommend that you use a lens cleaner, dust off or windex, as this can leave streaks or other residue.
Never EVER leave batteries in your camera when not in use. Over time batteries will corrode and this corrosion effect with eat away at the contacts in your camera such that it will no long make good contact with new batteries and no longer function. Corrosion, once it begins can travel inside your camera through the wiring and switches that make your camera function. Next to being dropped, corrosion from batteries left in a cameras is the number one cause of a functionless camera.
Always use fresh Double A batteries when you shoot. Your camera’s speed, exposure function and transport all depend on the correct battery voltage, so using weak or old batteries can cause all kinds of technical issues . Again, just a reminder that you should never store your camera with the batteries left inside.
(c) Pro8mm 8/21. Do not repost without permission from Pro8mm. Thank you .