The Cost Of Shooting A Feature On Super 8mm Motion Picture Film

I’ve often toyed with the idea of shooting a feature film on Super 8mm, and have broken down exactly what it would cost below.

As crazy as it sounds to shoot a movie on Super 8mm in this day and age, the format is very much alive and well.

Super 8mm is being used more than ever (even if in small doses) on major TV and film projects, and just about every notable film festival has recently shown films shot on it.

Part of the resurgence of Super 8mm can be attributed to our collective nostalgia for the analog look. But it’s also in large part due to major advancements in scanning technology, and low grain motion picture stocks in recent years.

A Super 8mm film shot today on a roll of 50D and data-scanned to 4K+ can look better than 16mm film from the analog days. By the same token, newly shot/processed/scanned 16mm looks a lot like older 35mm film. You can squeeze more data out of each frame today than ever before.

There are of course many challenges and drawbacks to shooting a feature on Super 8mm, though. Just one example: Two and half minutes of runtime per roll means you can say goodbye to long takes.

You have to be doing something pretty experimental in order to warrant shooting a feature on Super 8mm, despite the obvious perks. But if you’re like me and can’t help but still wonder what it would cost to go this route, read on.

Below is a full breakdown of all costs associated with shooting, processing, and scanning Super 8mm film for a feature.

Purchasing Super 8mm Film Stock

You have three options when it comes to purchasing Super 8mm film:

  1. Buy it from Kodak
  2. Buy it from eBay
  3. Buy it from a lab

I don’t recommend buying film from eBay, at least not in the type of quantity you would need for a feature. You might find a few rolls here or there, but it’s very unlikely you fill find the kind of volume you’re going to need for a full length movie.

That leaves you with either buying it directly from Kodak, or from a lab.

The going rate for Super 8mm color film stock is about $30 per 50′ roll. This applies no matter where you purchase the stock.

That said, some labs (like Pro8mm in Burbank) will sell you the film, processing and scanning all as one package.

So instead of paying $30 for a roll of film, you will pay anywhere from $58 – $258 per roll (depending on what resolution you scan to), but that will include everything. Not just the film stock, but also all the processing and scanning to digital.

Below I’ll further break down the cost of each option, and we’ll see which is more cost effective.

Feature Film Shooting Ratios

You must first determine your film’s shooting ratio in order to know how much raw stock you’ll need.

Most filmmakers today are used to shooting digital with extremely high ratios. 20:1 or even 100:1 are not uncommon. That means for every minute of runtime, 20x – 100x the amount of raw footage was captured on set.

When shooting with real film, you definitely don’t have the kind of luxury. Even on Super 8mm.

Depending on the style of your film and how much coverage you like to shoot, the absolute bare minimum you need is about 3:1 or 4:1. This will allow for 1 – 2 takes of each shot at most, with minimal coverage.

For the sake of this example though, let’s use a shooting ratio of 5:1. That’s enough to get your movie in the can while still keeping costs down.

Let’s also assume our feature film screenplay is 90 pages, and we are anticipating a 90 minute final runtime.

Each Super 8mm film roll is 50′ and will get you about 2.5 minutes of footage when shooting at 24fps.

At a ratio of 5:1, that means we will need 180 rolls of Super 8mm:

(90 min runtime / 2.5 min rolls x 5 = 180)

Multiply that by the $30 price per roll, and we’re looking at $5400 just for the raw film stock.

Processing & Scanning Super 8mm

Outside of purchasing the film stock, the only additional mandatory expenses are the processing and scanning. These services are typically done together at the same lab, but can be done separately too.

The lowest cost I’ve found for processing is about $24/roll. This factors in prep, cleaning the film, and lab time.

Once the film processed, it is then scanned at an hourly rate. This is usually $400 – $450/hour, so we will use $425/hour for this example.

Keep in mind though, these scanners don’t work in real time. An hour of scanning time doesn’t mean an hour’s worth of footage. Roughly speaking, you can scan 10 rolls of Super 8mm film (25 minutes worth), in a one hour session.

So to determine the standalone cost of processing and scanning, we would be looking at –

Processing: $24 x 180 = $4320

Scanning: $425 x 18 = $7650

Labs also offer additional services for film processing such as pushing & pulling, as well as color correction. I am going to omit those services from this breakdown though, as I typically do all color grading work myself.

Total Cost

Let’s now tally up the full à la carte cost of shooting Super 8mm for our 90min movie:

Raw Film Stock: $5400

Processing: $4320

Scanning: $7650

Total: $17,370

Earlier, I mentioned that you can also purchase the film, processing, and scanning all together as a package through Pro 8mm. If we were to go this route, and choose their 2K “Production Scan” option, we would pay $98/roll all-in.

That gives us a grand total of $17,640 for the end to end package. Nearly an identical price to in à la carte film stock, processing, and scanning.

Either way – It’s a big chunk of change, especially if you’re an independent production looking to get this done on a budget.

It is possible to get that number down a bit by reducing your shooting ratio further, or by shaving some pages off your script. But you’re going to pay at least $12K – $13K, even if you start cutting corners.

Unless we see these prices drop in the future, I doubt we’ll see much use of Super 8mm as a feature format, even experimentally. It’s a shame though, because the technology is there and the images hold up.

Super 8mm Vs. Digital

There are a lot of ways you could spend $17,640 on your movie.

You could buy a used Arri Alexa, shoot the movie on it, and re-sell it for nearly the price you paid.

You could shoot the whole movie on an iPhone, and spend the $17K on better locations.

You could use the camera you already have, and allocate those funds to marketing.

Most of these options will be more appealing to the vast majority of filmmakers, as opposed to spending it all on what was once an amateur film stock. And for those who are willing to spend that kind of money on film alone, why not jump to Super 16mm? The cost wouldn’t be much more.

My hope is that in time new home processing/scanning options will emerge that make Super 8mm more affordable.

For now though, it’s still a fun idea to think about. Despite the big financial toll it may take on low-budget productions, some would still say it’s worth it.

Super 8mm has an unmistakable look, and is so much fun to shoot. It creates and entirely different process on set, and one that can inspire all sorts of creative ideas.

If you’ve never shot Super 8mm, I recommend trying it. Even just a single roll.

See what you think and leave a comment below!

And for more exclusive articles like this every Sunday, sign up for my newsletter here.

About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!


  • You can stay warm and stylish with the mens winter trousers from Tempo Garments. Our line, made with high-quality fabrics, provides excellent insulation on chilly days. You can rely on Tempo Garments to deliver the ideal balance of comfort and style, keeping you warm and looking great all winter long, whether they have traditional or modern designs.

  • St Livingstone Ekanem

    Interesting read. Are there grants for feature length films that Africans can access?

  • Hi Noam,
    I enjoyed your article. I could not find a date on the post anywhere but I wanted to say that through the years 2013-2017 I wrote, produced, acted in, and directed a feature film shot entirely on Super 8mm. It was a cop/comedy set in 1977, meant to emulate older B Movies, Drive -in fare from that time. It is currently available on Amazon Prime and the title is “Hot Lead Hard Fury”. I purchased my film direct from Kodak, shot it on a Canon 814xl-s, with a bit on an Elmo Super 110 ( great camera). The cost was approximately $25k, so we obviously used a lot of the local resources, friends, etc. Yes, the majority of the cost was in film. The biggest problem was of course the sound of the camera, so much of the films dialogue was done using ADR. Another tough thing was not knowing what was captured on film until weeks later. However I used a Panasonic DVX 100 to record on set sound and also view playbacks, this allowed me to better synch up the visual film, once I got it back to the audio, even though we would re record much of the dialogue. I didn’t use a slate as I felt that eats up too much film-especially on a 50ft cartridge, and we had such a micro crew anyway. I used Cinelab for the process and scan. These days Ive been using Nicki Coyle at “The Negative Zone” for scanning but Rob and the guys at Cinelab were really great for this project. Anyway, thought I’d mention it here for readers (yes, shameless self promotion too) in case they would like to see a feature on Super 8 and share some details about it. Thanks Noam!

  • Charles

    Great Website. I shot the making of A Bridge Too Far with this BEAULIEU camera in 1976, which was shot in the Netherlands where I live.
    In those days you just walk around on the set. I stood next to the camera operators from Hollywood behind their imposing Panavision cameras. The BEAULIEU was synchronized to a Uher Report tape recorder. Awesome time!

  • Chris O'Brien

    Wanted to shoot a music video on Super 8, and this has pretty much shown me it’s impossible… which is very helpful 🙂

    Thanks for the amazing breakdown.

  • This is an amazing coincidence. I am thinking about the possibilities of shooting an entirely Super8 feature, and on the exact same camera you show. I budgeted it out to approx. $21,000 film and scanning, but that was at a 7:1 ratio.

    If the feature budget can handle the film and processing, I recommend this idea to everyone.

  • ronely

    Great job !!!
    Can you make courses on super 16 mm filmmaking? Because it is really difficult to find any informations about shoot on film , especially in no budget film . Thank You . Peace from Paris , France

    • I will absolutely consider it. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Nathan

    Great article! My partner and I were debating whether or not we should shoot on Super 16 or not. We just couldn’t justify the price even though we didn’t know what it would fully cost… this breakdown is a great example.

    Would love to shoot on the format though! I have an old Canon 1014 that’s an absolute beauty

    • Thanks for checking it out! And glad it was of some help to you… Hope you find a way to shoot some film, it’s a great experience to have.


Leave a Reply