Trying to dispel the perception of Super 8 as the “crappy” format

Recently I’ve seen some new Super 8 films come out that are by some pretty prominent artists, like Spike Lee’s quarantine music video and Katy Perry’s pregnant music video.  And I look at their footage and I’m not that impressed by what I see there: pixelated footage, colors that make me cringe occasionally, nothing in focus, just on the whole not too fond of this style yet these videos are probably going to end up with millions of views (edit: since my first draft the Katy Perry video has become the most successful super 8 music video ever).  And that is what people are going to think of when they think “Super 8,” which also makes me cringe.

But then again whenever the format has been used in movies in the past it is with this mentality, and when movies have been put out on DVD, blu-ray, etc, it is I think in every case scanned with 35mm elements, however many generations removed from the original negatives/positives.  With the technology having improved so much in the last few years digitally scanning super 8 can look better than ever but it’s almost never used to its full potential.  I was reading an article recently from Criterion where the head of the restoration went to painstaking lengths to make the crappy ca.1999 digital video footage look as good as possible instead of just scanning the 35mm film-out, the way they would have done if it were a super 8-originated footage.  I just hope that in the future small-format film will get the same kind of loving treatment from Criterion and others that 20-year-old digital files currently enjoy.

Until then try to get the best out of the format, don’t settle for crap with the reason that “it’s just super 8,” see what the format can really do: it’ll surprise you!  edit: Now that’s more like it: Spitzbergen: Guardian of the Arctic (trailer)

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