Shooting video with 8mm film is one of the most intriguing and fascinating ways to record video footage. It brings you back to a past time that is not easily replicated and the final product will fill you with pure joy and awe.
To learn about shooting Super 8 film, I went online and did my research on equipment (cameras, film, batteries), how to get started shooting, and how to actually shoot Super 8 footage without wasting my time, money, and memories. I learned a decent amount from my research and was able to decide what camera I wanted, what film I wanted to shoot with and how to get started, but I still didn’t have any experience so all of this information was just suggestions and recommendations to me – nothing was set in stone.
I think this is something to always remember while learning a new skill or trade while online – other people are giving you their opinion and their advice, not the correct answer. Always look for multiple sources of information to see what the general consensus is, not just what one random guy on reddit said.
After you’ve done some research, you’ll need to gather your supplies. When you first start shooting Super 8 you shouldn’t need too many supplies – I started out by buying a camera and some film. If your camera didn’t come with batteries you’ll need to buy those and then load them up so you can get ready to shoot.
Now that you have your supplies (or even if you don’t), let’s take a look at how to get started. To film my videos, I’ve got a Canon Canosound 514 XL-S that I purchased off of eBay for around $50. Many other cameras from Canon and Nizo are great options, make sure to do your research on what you are looking for specifically to know which camera is the best option for you.
Next, before you shoot, get to know your camera. Take a look at all of the knobs, levers, and switches that cover your camera – these are all there for a reason and it only benefits you to know what they do/how they can help you.
Many cameras will have a meter that shows how much film you have shot/how much film is left. These tend to be very useful in order to let you know how much time is left in your video; however, if you take your film out at any point, your meter will more than likely reset, making it harder for you to track how much time you have available.
Frames Per Second Switch
Many Super 8 cameras will also have an FPS (frames per second) switch with different options such as 18, 24, and for some, even 36 fps. This will dictate how fast or slow you are recording, allowing for more/less key frames every second. For example, 36 fps is 2x faster than 18 fps which means your footage will be 2x shorter. This is something to be wary of before you shoot so that you know how fast or slow your film will be gone.
Almost all Super 8 cameras will also have a zoom and/or auto-zoom feature. Often times you will find the main zoom feature to be the outer ring of your lens or a small knob with a rotating movement somewhere on the lens. Rotating this knob or switch to the right will zoom your lens in further, while rotating your lens to the left (counter-clockwise) will zoom you back out to infinity.
Many cameras will also have a zoom-in/zoom-out button or lever somewhere on the camera to allow for a more steady, controlled zoom. These zoom buttons are very useful and will open your eyes to many new and unique frames that you may not have seen without the zoom feature.
The next setting to be mindful of is the exposure lock trigger. This feature allows you to lock in on an exposure setting regardless of the lighting situation. For example, say you are shooting in a dimly-lit office and you are going to be panning to an outdoors scene where it will be brighter. If you’d like to use the same exposure for the whole scene, all you will do is hold down the exposure lock trigger, allowing the whole scene to be shot at one exposure rather than switching mid-scene.
Many of the Super 8 cameras will auto-expose your shots, allowing you a free range of exposure and most of the time the cameras do a great job exposing the scene correctly as long as the light meter is working properly. However, a general rule of thumb while shooting Super 8 film or 8mm film is that you never want to under-expose, but if you over-expose it is not the end of the world. The reason behind this is because if you do under-expose a shot you will have a high grain concentration and almost a fuzzy-feel to your film. You also don’t want to over-expose, but if you do it is not as noticeable and doesn’t have as much of an affect as under-exposing does.
Another important setting to always think about before shooting is the focus ring. This is the ring on the outside of your lens usually and it does exactly what you think it would do – focus the subject.
One thing to utilize while focussing your subject is the zoom feature. It will help you a great deal to zoom all the way in before filming to make sure everything is in focus. After you’ve set your focus, go ahead and zoom out and begin recording.
The last button or lever to know of is the record trigger. This is the small trigger usually located underneath your lens and relatively close to the center of the camera.
Using this trigger, you will start your camera’s motor to record your footage. Once you let go of the trigger, you will stop the motor, thereby stopping the film.
Go ahead and load your film into your camera and put your director shoes on because you are now ready to shoot.
To test out my Canon Canosound 514 XL-S, I decided to take my camera with me around the city (Boston) during a run one day. I made up my mind that I would shoot some cityscapes, some street scenes, and just do my best at documenting what I saw while out for this nice Fall run.
Here’s what I was able to capture.
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