Super 8 mm film is a motion
picture film format released in 1965 by
Kodak as an improvement of the older "Double" or "Regular" 8 mm home movie format. The film is nominally 8 mm wide, exactly the same
as the older standard 8 mm film, and also has perforations on only one side.
However, the dimensions of the perforations are smaller than those on older 8 mm
film, which allowed the exposed area to be made larger. The Super 8 standard
also specifically allocates the border opposite the perforations for an oxide stripe upon which sound can be magnetically recorded.
Unlike other "super" gauges such as Super 16 and Super 35, the film stock used for Super 8 is not
compatible with standard 8mm film cameras. There are several different varieties of the film system used for shooting,
but the final film in each case has the same dimensions. By far the most popular
system was the Kodak system.
Super 8 film comes in plastic light-proof cartridges
containing coaxial supply and take-up spools loaded with 50 feet (15 m) of film,
with 72 frames per foot, for a total of approximately 3,600 frames per film
cartridge. This was enough film for 2.5 minutes at the professional motion
picture standard of 24 frames per second, and for 3 minutes and 20 seconds of
continuous filming at 18 frames per second (upgraded from Standard 8 mm's
16 frame/s) for amateur use. A 200-foot (61 m) cartridge later became available
which could be used in specifically designed cameras, but that Kodak cartridge
is no longer produced. Super 8 film was typically a reversal stock. Kodak makes two types of reversal
film in this format today; one color (Ektachrome 100D/7285) and one black and
white (Tri-X/7266). The Ektachrome 64T stock has recently been discontinued
along with the 100d stock. In addition to reversals, Kodak also offers two
negative stocks (Vision3 200T/7213 and Vision3 500T/7219). In the 1990s Pro-8 mm
pioneered custom loading of several Super 8 stocks, and their current inventory
mirrors closely what is currently available to the professional cinematographer
from Kodak and Fuji. Today Super 8 color negative film is available directly
from Kodak for professional use and is typically transferred to video through
the telecine process for use in television advertisement, music videos
and other film projects.
The Super 8 plastic cartridge is probably the fastest loading film system
ever developed, as it can be loaded into the Super 8 camera in less than two
seconds without the need to directly thread or even touch the film. In addition,
coded notches cut into the Super 8 film cartridge exterior allowed the camera to
recognize the film speed automatically. Not all cameras can read all the notches
correctly, however, and not all cartridges are notched correctly (such as Kodak
Vision2 200T). Canon keeps an exhaustive list of their Super 8 cameras with
detailed specifications on what film speeds can be used with their cameras. Usually, testing one
cartridge of film can help handle any uncertainty a filmmaker may have about how
well their Super 8 camera reads different film stocks. Color stocks were generally available
only in tungsten
(3400K), and almost all Super 8 cameras come with a switchable daylight
filter built in, allowing for both indoor and outdoor shooting.
The original Super 8 film release was a silent system only, but in 1973 a
sound on film version was released. The sound film had a magnetic soundtrack and came in larger
cartridges than the original because the cartridge had to accommodate the sound
recording head in the film path. Sound film also requires a longer film path
(for smoothing the film movement before it reached the recording head), and a
second aperture for the recording head. Sound cameras were compatible with
silent cartridges, but not vice versa. Sound film was typically filmed at a
speed of 18 or 24 frames per second. Kodak discontinued
the production of Super 8 sound film in 1997, citing environmental regulations
as the reason (the adhesive used to bond the magnetic track to the film was
Kodak still manufactures several color and black-and-white Super 8 reversal
film stocks, but in 2005 announced the discontinuation of the most popular stock
to the decline of facilities equipped for the K-14 process. Kodachrome was "replaced" by a new
ISO 64 Ektachrome, which used the simpler
E-6 process. The last roll
of Kodachrome was processed on January 18, 2011 (although announced last date of
processing was December 30, 2010) in Parsons, Kansas, by the sole remaining lab
capable of processing the format.
Super 8 film stocks other than Kodachrome—from color and black and white
reversal, to color negative—can be processed same day in several labs around the
In April 2010, Kodak announced the
discontinuation of Plus-X and E64T. In the same press release, they also
announced that they would be replacing E64T with a Super-8 version of Ektachrome
100D, a popular reversal stock available to 16mm and 35mm users. Previous to
Kodak's announcement, the stock had been supplied by third-party vendors such as
Yale Film & Video, Pro8mm and Spectra Film and Video in the United States,
and Witter Kinotechnik in Germany.
Kodak does not offer processing for its black and white Super-8 films,
preferring instead to refer its users to third-party processors.
Kodak has also introduced several Super 8 negative stocks cut from their
Vision film series, ISO 200 and ISO 500 which can be used in very low light. Kodak reformulated
the emulsions for the B&W reversal stocks Plus-X (ISO 100) and Tri-X (ISO
200), in order to give them more sharpness. Many updates of film stocks are in
response to the improvement of digital video technology. The growing popularity
and availability of non-linear editing systems has
allowed film-makers to shoot Super 8 film but edit on video, thereby avoiding
much of the scratches and dust that can accrue when editing the actual film.
Super 8 Films may be transferred through telecine to video and then imported into
computer-based editing systems. Along with the computer editing option a number
of enthusiasts still choose to edit super 8 film with a viewer and rewinds and
then project their edit master on a film projector and movie screen.
In December 2012, Kodak discontinued the last 'official' colour reversal
stock for Super 8, Ektachrome 100D, and released Vision 50D negative to the
Super 8 format. This can be printed to a Super 8 positive by Andec or
transferred to digital. The cost of printing negative is higher than developing
reversal for shooters who wish to project their movie. The only 'official'
reversal film still being manufactured by Kodak is Tri-X which is a monochrome emulsion.