Super-8 live action test.

Last month I ran Super 8 film tests with 7213, a medium speed Kodak Vision3 negative stock.  Most of the tests were boring… resolution chart kind of boring, but very telling about the mechanical and optical integrity of my three newly-purchased used Leica Special Super 8 cameras and their lenses (the lenses are interchangeable on these cameras).  To see how the cameras/lens and, more importantly, the 7213 stock would perform in an actual situation, I shot some beach footage.  Not having seen the resolution tests results yet, I just chose the camera that seemed to have the least wear.  Turns out, according to the tests, all three cameras produced about the same picture quality.

Leica Leicina Special

To process the film, I used AlphaCine in Seattle.  I chose LightPress (also in Seattle) to do the film-to-file transfer.  The processing of the film was “normal” (no push or pull processing) and the negative was scanned with almost no color and exposure correction, outputting to a 10-bit 4:2:2  uncompressed Quicktime file.  From the uncompressed file, a ProResHQ 4:2:2 copy was made and brought into a Avid Media Composer in it’s native ProRes format.  After some editing, the footage sequence was exported “as source”, in other words, still in its native ProResHQ 4:2:2  file format.  This file was then taken into After Effects where I did some modest grain reduction and sharpening and exported that as a H.264 file for uploading to Vimeo.  Here are the results.  To playback in HD, be sure the the “HD” is red.  Oh yes, there isn’t any sound.

Beach from Steven Holloway on Vimeo.


• The negative on a couple of the shots (the girl on headphones) was underexposed by about two-thirds of a stop.  An error on my part.  Generally with negative film it is always better to overexpose when in doubt to protect detail in the shadows of the image.  Underexposed shadows quickly begin to look “milky”  and lose detail as an exposure decreases.   When overexposed, highlight detail can generally be retained up to about two stops.  To my surprise, the 7213 held up well to this slight underexposure of the negative.

•  Sharpness was better than expected but the grain (particularly in the sky areas) was a bit higher than expected.  A technique sometimes used to reduce grain is to overexpose the negative and under develop the negative in processing.  This is called “pull processing”.  I plan to try the technique and post the results later this fall.

• I was hoping for a bit more steadiness in the image (some of the shakiness was due a few shots being handheld shots).  A jumpy frame is very common in footage shot with most Super 8 cameras but considered by some to be an important part of the “Super 8 look”.   I would prefer it be more rock steady but then the footage might for some start looking too much like 16mm.  For me the grain structure alone is enough to set it apart.

As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions!