How do I start?

getting started in Super 8


I’m in, how do I start?

The first thing to remember this isn’t video. You need to know exactly what you’re doing when you pull that trigger. Secondly each time your trigger finger’s getting itchy, also remember it costs you money! That said the images you’re about to get will be wonderful and you’re going to learn how to make films properly. The best place to start is find a local workshop or taster session, they’ll have equipment and loads of practical knowledge and help. You might also get to see your film really quickly if they process too.

There are no workhops near me, I need to go it alone.

Beg, borrow or buy (but don’t spend to much) a camera, and one that’s compatible with all film types. Get yourself a roll of film (Ektachome 64T is readily available) and start reading. Read every article you can, learn about the principles of photography, learn about exposing film, learn about depth of film and most importantly learn about every single function on your camera. Not until you’ve got the basics of loading the film, focusing the image and check for exposure should you even think about shooting.

Can we start now?

One of the biggest mistakes newcomers to Super 8 make is thinking like they’re shooting video. Get into the mindset of thinking about light. There’s no point in running off a cartridge in your front room in Winter and then being dissapointed when your roll of Ektachrome comes back all dingy. Wait for a bright day and shoot outdoors. Make sure you’re getting good mid-range exposure on your light meter for all your shots. For your own amusement shoot something meaningful – a micro-short story, or somewhere you know and love – something with some meaning to you. It will help you appreciate the images.

How long have I got?

If you’re shooting at 18 frames per second you’re going to have aorund 3 minutes 20 seconds, at 24 frames per second about 2 minutes 30 seconds. Plan what you want to shoot and always think about exposure. Set up each shot in your mind – is the subject framed right, is it well lit, is my exposure good? Check, check and check again. You’ll notice the footage counter on your camera moving from 0 (feet) to 50 (feet) as you shoot. Keep an eye on it so you know how much you’ve got left.

Now what?

Now you’ve shot your film, have a look in the film window in the cartridge, the film will have a printed ‘Exposed’ on it. That means you’re done. Find a laboratory near you who can process it for you. Some places will also telecine it for you so you’ll get a DV tape or data file back so you can see your footage on a Mac or PC. Send it off and wait!

How long will it take?

Depending on the type of film, wether you want telecine, and how much backlog they have – it can take anywhere between a week and around 3 weeks to get your film and data file back. Don’t worry, it’s part of the fun – waiting for your ‘rushes’ as they say in filmmaking!

My film and data is back, what now?

Keep the film somewhere safe, you can telecine film a virtually unlimited number of times, so take care of it. You should also have data either on tape, on disc or hard drive. Import the data into your computer and watch the footage. Is it what you expected? Is it well exposed? If it is great – you’re a proper filmmaker now! If it’s not, don’t be disheartened – try and learn from your mistakes. Is your camera working properly, did you focus properly, did you expose you’re shots correctly? Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone can always learn.

This is cool, what else can I do?

Shoot a short film, make a documentary, take part in a single cartridge festival. The sky is your limit. Super 8 can do anything any other format can do – it’s just a different visual medium. Mix it up with video, shoot it on its own, it really doesn’t matter. Welcome to the wonderful and frightening world of Super 8!

Confused? Check out our Glossary of Super 8 terms…