The current innovations in terms of technologies used in cinema are mainly due to the production companies’ certainty that 3D, IMAX and 360 degrees will allow them to maintain a difference between the big screen and TV. But such a pursuit of innovation is not without underlining an eternal debate between filmmakers, a question that every one of them has ever heard: “do you shoot on film or in digital?”
The difference between the two formats is easy to understand. On one hand stands the original film format, which consists of printing the actual scene taking place in front of the camera through still pictures that, when shown at a certain number of frames per second, create the illusion of movement. On the other hand is the digital format, allowing other kinds of camera to artificially recreate the scene using pixels as much as possible, limited by the colours and light available.
It is clear that the format is becoming increasingly democratized each day due to the technological progress of digital film-making. Indeed, anybody now has the capacity to realize a perfect slow-motion with a single smartphone (thanks big apple!). This rise in popularity of home-made videos is the modern equivalent of another, older, iconic method, which was also pretty mainstream when it was released: the Super 8 camera. Indeed, back in 1965, it was the first time the man in the street had the possibility to film anything in a cheap and easy way. Make no mistake: Super 8 definitely doesn’t belong to the past, quite the opposite…
Indeed, more and more creative minds are still employing this format to give a special touch to their project: the grain, coupled with the 4:3 size of picture, and most of the time the nostalgic slow-motion rendering, which are characteristics of Super 8. Many music videos are using it to illustrate the feeling of a track: Lana Del Rey obviously, but also Madonna, The Cure, or David Fincher in the ones he directed. And naturally, many of the big filmmakers began (and sometimes continue) shooting in Super 8: Steven Spielberg, Pedro Almodovar, Claude Lelouch, Jim Jarmusch, Andy Warhol, Nanni Moretti, or Steve McQueen (II) to name a few. The director of Hunger, Shame, and 12 Years a Slave also insists on another reason why Super 8 is more accurate than ever. Indeed, he remembers that “at the time, it was all about expense, meaning that I had to know what I wanted to shoot or at least edit it in my head before I shot it. It taught me how precious an image is and can be”.
The price of every frame, that’s what film format and Super 8 are all about. Not only the financial price, but the importance of thinking about it twice before pulling the trigger of the camera. The importance of imagining something, at least a way of filming it, so that the result can be appreciated for its beauty or emotional power. This also gives the film a chance to be artistic, rather than being part of the flood of random images that internet and social media are often made of. The 3 minutes and 20 second limit of a Super 8 cartridge is a guarantee of that.
Anyway, as you would have guessed, Super 8 definitely has no place in an antique shop. And many filmmakers of today understand the importance of its resurgence. Proof of such popular demand: the new Super 8 camera released by Kodak this year, more than 30 years after the last model.