What does Pro8mm do Giles?
We take cans of 35mm motion picture film - Kodak stock, split it three ways into 8mm widths, reperforate it with Super8 sprocket holes, cut it into 50 foot lengths and load it into Super8 cartridges. It's now possible for people to shoot any of Kodak's professional colour negative emulsions in a Super8 camera.
How long has this been going on?
Well they've been cutting and reloading it for about 8 years now.
So this is the UK branch of an American company. How long have you been operating?
Just since December.
The American company has been operating for what, 25 years?
Yeah about that. It's been through a few changes in that time. The company started off being called Super8 Sound and they did a lot of things with sound film and sound products so that people could shoot sync sound with super 8 cameras. You'd have a camera plugged into a tape recorder which was laying sync pulses on one track of the audio so you could sync it up afterwards.
Gradually all that kind of thing died off and people weren't really using the sound stuff much and the shift turned from using Super8 in an amateur way; to make amateur short films and home movie stuff, over to the professional side of it. So many broadcasters and TV companies were using it, feature filmmakers as well, but none of those people were really using with sound.
Then a couple of years ago Kodak discontinued production of all Super8 sound film so it wasn't possible to shoot the sound for them anymore anyway but the company was left with the name Super8 sound. So because they were still getting load of calls from people saying "so why do you call yourselves Super8 Sound if you don't do sound products anymore?", they decided to change the name to "Pro 8mm because that's the main use for it now, professional broadcast.
I imagine you get the whole spectrum of the media industry coming to you.
We do, yeah. I mean everyone from students shooting one roll of black and white film to documentary production companies shooting 100 rolls for a documentary series. They're not shooting the entire documentary on 8mm, it's just they're shooting on DigiBeta or High Definition, or 16mm and they're using the Super8 as either archive reconstruction or for flashback sequences, dream sequences or just to shift your mind into different gear. Cutting between archive stuff, modern interviews that are shot on video and just to have a third type of image to make it interesting.
Can you give us any examples?
Sure, I mean a good example is the series I love the 1980's or I love the 1990's, I think they did the seventies as well, but they used a ton of Super8 in there.
I take it they came to you?
Yeah. Because, obviously they've got archive material from those era's - the 70's and the 80's - which that they can use but when you're cutting into video interview s of people talking about what it was like in the 80's with this band or whatever it's too abrupt. Also, with traditional documentaries you've got those two things, you've got the interview and you've got the archive footage and then you've got still photos which you do rostrum camera shots on. So you are constantly cutting to black and white photos with the camera panning into the photo or panning across to the photo, and there are only so many zooms or pans across a photo that you can take in a documentary. It just isn't interesting if you don't have moving images on TV, it's just not interesting. So to get round that and to keep the programmes interesting they go out and they shoot things like
. I'm trying to remember this, one of the 80's programmes they're talking about fashions and the Green Goddess on G.M.T.V. When breakfast TV started they went to this sort of ballet rehearsal stage area and shot on a grainy Super 8 film lots of women doing this aerobics type thing. When it first started in the 80's, wearing the 80's costumes, like the lycra and the legwarmers and all that kind of thing and the hairstyles were done in the 80's style. So when you watch the programme, it just looks like archive footage from that time but in fact it was shot a week ago in the studio. Because it was shot on Super8, there is very little you have to do to it to make it look like archive film because it instantly looks like archive film, that's the main idea.
How do the prices compare to 16mm?
If you compare just the cost of stock and processing alone, then one 50 foot cartridge of colour neg Pro8 film, which is equivalent to 100 foot of 16mm in running time, is approximately £12 per roll cheaper for the stock and processing. That's taking into account buying the 16mm film at the lowest student discount prices you can find.
Do you cater to students wanting one roll of film?
Yeah sure, I mean we sell the traditional reversal film as well, films that you can project. We actually sell 12 different types of film for Super8 cameras. There are four of the traditional ones that Kodak still make, which are reversal films that can be projected or transferred to video. There are two colour, two black and white but they're quite limited in what you can do with them. The stocks aren't very flexible because they're all stock from the 60's so for a start you've got to have very good light to shoot them in, you've got to be very accurate with your exposures because they don't tolerate extremes of exposures. They're not good in very bright or very dark locations, it either burns out or it goes to black and there are very few mid tones in it.
The colour meg film is extremely flexible, you can be 3 stops over or under exposed and still get a completely presentable image at the transfer. What we see is people who are still shooting reversal film and when they come to us to transfer to video, they're getting on average 50-60% usable material off a roll of film. Whereas you shoot colour neg film you're getting 80-90% usable material. Sure the colour meg film is a bit more expensive but actually, relative to the usable amount of stuff you're getting for your edit, it works out cheaper.
The main thing people have to bear in mind when buying one roll of colour neg film as a test, if you haven't shot it before and you're thinking of trying it out, you've got to bear in mind that it can't be projected. When it comes back from the lab it's a negative image, so you can't run it through a Super8 projector, a lot of people don't realise that, they think "Super8, I'll stick it in my projector" - you can't do that. It's only for video transfer. So when you buy, for instance, a Pro8 colour neg film for £24.99 plus VAT that includes the processing but nothing else. You've got to bear in mind the other costs involved in getting it on to videotape.