With the new semester comes new assignments. The photoblog assignments are no more. I can’t say they were that beneficial to the class anyway, we never really discussed anything or critiqued work there, just breezed through the pictures and that still took up half the class period. At least it helped me as far as writing prompts go, gave me content to publish on a weekly basis so this blog didn’t just die away while I focused on other matters. For this semester, we are tasked with reading photography-related stories that the instructor finds for us, and reflecting on two of them.
I think the main tone of this article is one of positivity, definitely comes from the business aspect of it; it’s apparent that the writer doesn’t know much about photographic technology, but cites several examples of success in other related fields where outmoded technology isn’t crushed by the relentless tide of progress, but is able to adapt into a niche market. I’ve been following this news since nearly a month ago when it first broke, and there are several aspects to this that haven’t been quite covered.
First of all, Kodak is going back to one of their old business models with super 8 film, that of the all-in-one package deal: they’re putting infrastructure in place to be able to process the film, scan it (at 4K res!) and will upload the digital files online for the customers to access. The projected cost of this will be $50-75, which I sometimes wonder about: it’s extremely competitive, almost like a shot across the bow to the processing facilities and mastering houses. I’m going to be paying around $125 per reel for film, processing, and scanning, so it’s really attractive thinking that a year from now I (and everyone else) will have to pay only half that. How do you keep up as a processing facility when you’re competing against the company that makes the chemicals you use? Of course I don’t know how it will all work out, and what percentage of business super 8 film makes up from a typical processing/mastering facility. Phil Vigeant from Pro8mm seems very positive about this publicly, but just how it will affect his business, I can only speculate. It seems that Kodak is really wanting to exercise more control over super 8 film. Will that be bad? I dunno.
As far as manufacturing cameras and things go, Kodak, for the last 50 years or so, has been primarily concerned with consumer-level products, low-quality and cheap. I don’t expect them to resurrect their Ektar lens lineup (it would be nice), but just looking at the number of features this new camera will have, I’d call it at least couple steps up from the last one they made:
-9,12,18,24,25fps speeds, all with crystal sync
-integrated sound recording
-accepts c-mount lenses
-automatic and manual exposure modes
-digital video assist/viewfinder
-rechargeable battery with USB connectivity
-price tag is $400-750
The Canon 1014XLS I use features none of those. It does, however, have a 36fps speed for slow-motion, and quite a nice time-lapse feature as well…I suppose it’s not quite obsolete yet! In looking at this new Kodak camera, it seems to me that it’s almost a scaled-down version of the Logmar that came out just last year. There have been rumors that Logmar had a hand in designing/building the prototype, which I hope is true, because otherwise, that’s more toes Kodak is stepping on. The Logmar originally sold for $2000, evidently was a one-off batch of 50 units. Pro8mm still has some for $5000, but I think they’ll be keeping them a long time. I can’t see spending that kind of money for super 8 when you could get a 16mm camera for a fourth of that.
So I see a story here between the lines, one where the giant corporation is starting to stomp on some of its small-time competition, and it reminds me that as much as I root for Kodak and want them to succeed, they are still a faceless juggernaut to some degree.
Does it matter to me? No. Personally, I’d rather see film continue to be manufactured, and if that means that a few small businesses are sacrificed along the way, I’d call it an acceptable loss. I’ve read a few theories about the best way to make for Kodak to make money in the new digital age, and something like abandoning its current distribution method would go a long way, I think. One can already buy motion picture film directly from Kodak (I’ve never done it yet, but maybe I should; Freestyle and B&H do take their chunk). I wish that the still photography side (I suppose that’s Alaris now?) did the same thing. Off the middleman! Still, with Fuji making a concerted effort to get out of film by the end of the decade, I’m happy to see Kodak doing so well: their film business broke even in 2015 and is expected to turn a profit this year. That, along with the new super 8 camera and infrastructure, plus the fact that Ferrania should start making film again this year, really heralds 2016 as being a real renaissance for film.
If the women don’t find you handsome, they’ll at least find you handy!
The guy builds his own bullet-time rig, makes his own pinhole cameras to use it, processes the film in caffenol? Impressive! In fact, almost too impressive… If I didn’t know that he was making this for a masters thesis, I’d kind of think that this is a bit much, even for me. Because I read this earlier today after seeing it on Facebook, and wondered: what’s the point? Aaahhh, it’s to get a good grade! But then that makes me think about why I bother with film in the first place, and how digital photographers must see me: not much differently, I’m sure. Still, after watching the finished video, I think it’s a gorgeous work of art (dunno about the music though; it doesn’t feel connected to the images, more like it was merely dropped in). The handmade aspects of it really do come through in the final product, you can see how imprecise the cameras were aligned, the subjects getting closer and further away and the sprocket holes appearing and disappearing, the film having different exposures, etc. But this isn’t The Matrix. I don’t want it to be slick. It has all the dirt, grit, imperfections, and ultimately the tactility and uniqueness of being an analog work. It really makes me want to step up my own game! And also compose something different for that video…