Today at the CES trade show in Las Vegas, Kodak made a very interesting and unexpected announcement – they are releasing a brand new Super 8mm film camera. While Super 8mm film was once the gold standard for home movies and ultra-low budget student films, it really hasn’t been used in any significant capacity for the last 30 years… But that may actually change thanks to today’s news.
You might be wondering why the prospect of a new Super 8mm film camera matters in any way. After all, digital cinema technology has come so far and even the lowest end digital cameras will surpass Super 8mm film in terms of resolution and other technical characteristics by a long shot…
But it’s not just about technical merit – it’s about whether or not film is going to stay alive for years to come, and this is a step in the right direction.
For many years digital was just playing catchup with film. The focus was on whether or not a digital camera could have as much dynamic range as film, or would be as high resolution, and so forth. But over the last few years digital truly has caught up with film, and the landscape has changed to a large degree.
Cameras like the Arri Alexa have shown us that digital no longer needs to be a compromise, as digital has already surpassed Super 35mm film by certain technical standards. Yet still, many of the world’s best filmmakers are still choosing to shoot on film, at least some of the time.
The great thing about today’s filmmaking landscape is that we have choices. If you want to shoot digital you can pick from dozens of incredible digital cinema cameras, but if you want to shoot on film you can still choose to go down that path. It’s a choice, a creative decision that informs the tone, mood, and aesthetic of the project you’re working on, and it’s nice to have both options… For now at least.
The fear that I’ve had recently is that film will disappear completely. Kodak almost went out of business a few years back, and it becomes more challenging with each passing year to get your hands on film stock, and get it processed in many cities.
For that reason, I’ve actually decided to shoot my next project in part on Super 16mm film. I won’t go into detail on that now (I’ll save that for another post), but the point is that the continued existence of film has been in jeopardy for years now, and we are at somewhat of a crossroads.
Ten years from now there’s a good chance that film simply will no longer be a viable option to shoot on, if it even exists at all. At the same time though, it may very well stay alive, at least for a niche community of artists – much like how vinyl has resurfaced in the audio world.
Whether or not film will continue to exist, even on a micro scale, is largely dependent on companies like Kodak continuing to push out new technology. And I certainly hope they do, as there is truly no substitute.
Shooting on film requires a lot of discipline, including the simple fact that you have a finite amount of film to work with on most projects. That means your ideas need to be perfected, your actors need to be on their A-game, you have to rely more on instincts, and you approach your film with a stronger sense of immediacy.
So with all that in mind, I’m quite excited to see what Kodak has in store for us. Whether this new Super 8mm camera is used professionally, educationally, or just for nostalgic purposes, it’s exciting that a cost-effective film camera will once again be available to the masses.
JJ Abrams released a statement about Kodak’s new camera, which I think sums it up best:
While any technology that allows for visual storytelling must be embraced, nothing beats film. The fact that Kodak is building a brand new Super 8 camera is a dream come true. With a gorgeous new design, interchangeable lenses and a brilliant scheme for development and delivery of footage, this camera appears to be the perfect bridge between the efficiency of the digital world and the warmth and quality of analog.
There haven’t been a whole lot of details released yet with regards to this new Super 8mm camera, but below is a first look at their prototype.
The camera will supposedly cost between $400-$700 to purchase and each roll of film will cost between $50-$75 to develop, including a digital copy. Kodak has also stated that there will be a lower cost version available by 2017, and have described this initiative as a “filmmaking ecosystem”. I can only speculate as to what that means, but I would assume it will involve an end to end solution for shooting on film, developing it, and possibly even projecting it.
Personally, I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these and shoot a few rolls for fun.