It was an ace weekend at The Cube in Bristol on 13th and 14th October! The hellfire video club screening on the Friday evening was also very enjoyable - 'Warriors of the Wasteland' dir. Enzo G. Castelari, 1983, was a kitsch cracker that made us all laugh out loud, with a pretty snazzy poster to boot!
A massive thank you to Sarah for organising the Super 8 workshop, to all the Cube volunteers who were there for the weekend, and to every single one of you who came to the workshop for making it such a good atmosphere - it was hugely enjoyable and I felt so inspired by it!
The Cube feels like a very special communal and warm place to be, where people were discussing all kinds of cinema, and I am truly sad that I don't live nearby. Leeds sorely needs a Cube-esque creation. The Leeds International Film Festival is coming up in November, so Leeds folk will get their chance to see loads of ace cinema, but after that... what, wait another year? The dedication of the volunteers who run The Cube is huge, and it's obvious just how much energy goes into running the venue and keeping the spirit alive! Basically, I just want to say you Cube-shaped people are brilliant, and I love love LOVE what you're doing!!!
Sarah Acton who organised the workshop has even had the great idea of setting up a filmmaking cine club at the Cube to meet once a month to process Super 8 films! I have just sent Sarah all the email addresses of those who attended the workshop so she can coordinate this - I would love to attend a Super 8 screening event in the future made by Cube-ites!
As promised, here are the details of what we did on the workshop to help you remember exactly what we did and how we did it!
Remember - if you're using daylight-balanced film (any film with 'D' in the name rather than 'T'), you must set the camera to the lightbulb setting, but shoot in the daylight!
We used Ektachrome 100D, by Kodak, which you can buy very cheaply here: www.7dayshop.com
You can also buy Tri-X (black and white) by Kodak at the same place. Cheapest source!
You can also buy direct from Kodak - if you wanted to buy a large number of films, I'd go with Kodak, because shipping would be carefully registered and they'd all come at once, whereas buying from 7dayshop.com means you get the films in individual packets posted through your letterbox - 20 films = 20 mini packets (some kind of loop-hole to do with how they can keep their prices low I think).
Here's what Ektachrome 100D looks like!
And here's what a Braun Nizo looks like! (I tend to prefer the macro models, which have macro in their title, because they always also have the 'auto B' function for shooting in dark conditions - very useful and can be used very artistically!).
And here is lots of info about camera-less filmmaking, followed by instructions for shooting with Braun Nizo cameras:
Super 8 film can be put in strong household bleach in a bucket to wipe the image. The best way to do this is put the film in a bucket, squirt bleach over it, leave it for a short while (5 mins ish) and then, wearing rubber gloves, begin to rub the bleach into the film, helping to wipe off the emulsion. Don’t get too close and don’t breathe in the bleach!
Rinse well, and hang up to dry. Alternatively, you can leave Super 8 film in a bucket of water for some weeks and the water will erode the emulsion. You can stop this partially by removing the film from the water at whatever stage you choose, or you can let it go until all the emulsion has been washed away by the water, leaving clear film.
I have found the best inks to use are acrylic artist inks (in glass bottles with droppers). They come in many different colours and generally have a very strong, saturated pigmentation that is somewhat transparent, so it works great on film. They’re not always cheap, so expect to pay between £2 and £5 for one bottle (or try your luck on ebay).
This is opaque black ink, and if applied to film, it will block the light. You can also mix Indian ink with pvc glue and paint it onto film, then dry it with a hairdryer and you can get a crackled effect (like a dry river bed).
These are permanent markers (often used for writing on cds etc) and they also work well on film.
You can stick things to your film using sellotape, just be sure to keep the sprockets clear (or pin them through afterwards) and don’t let the film strip become too thick or it might get caught in the projector and melt! You can stick all kind of things to the film – the general rule is that as long as it can bend and is quite thin, it’s ok! You can also use superglue, but try to cover it with sellotape too, so it doesn’t come off in the projector.
You don’t need the expensive CIR guillotine splicers (although they are nice – get one if it crops up for less than £40!). You can use any budget splicer just to cut the film in the right place, and then apply a thin strip of sellotape by hand, wrapping it around the film so it covers both sides.
Sound and Silent
You can only buy silent Super 8 film now, but you might find that a lot of found footage you come across is actually sound film, with a magnetic sound strip along it. You can play this sound on sound projectors only, and some sound projectors let you re-record over it, so you can make your own soundtracks!
The Eumig projectors are good – well made, and often with different settings. I like the Eumig 624D or 610D, because these give you the options for projecting at 3 frames per second (fps), 6 fps, 9 fps, 12 fps, 15 fps, and 18 fps.
You can also scratch into film that already has emulsion on it. This can work really well just using a small sharp pin, or you can use sandpaper to get multiple scratches at once.
A few interesting filmmakers to look into, who have used cameraless film techniques, are:
Storm de Hirsch
Stan Brakhage (see his painted and inked films, and also ‘Mothlight’ where he applied moth wings and dried flowers to the film strip by hand)
Emmanuel Lefrant (buried film, and inks)
Happy camera-less filmmaking!
Film decomposition and Camera Functions!
A great book on the topic of decomposing and fragmenting film, with a DVD of examples, is Steven Woloshen’s ‘Recipes for Reconstruction’. You can order a copy direct from the filmmaker here (it’s about £26): firstname.lastname@example.org
You can bury film in the earth, and the layers of emulsion will be progressively eaten away by micro-organisms in the soil. You can use all kinds of film to do this with – film with images, unexposed film, exposed and processed film, colour or black and white, Super 8 or 16mm or 35mm, etc. I often use colour film which is black (i.e. has not been exposed) but which has been processed in chemicals so the colour dyes in the emulsion are latent and ready to be revealed by decomposition. Covering parts of the film in sellotape before you bury it can have great results too. Rich soil is great because it is very ‘active’! You can also add some cooked rice or icing sugar to the film before burying it, to speed up the processes of decay. Also, you can ‘drown’ film by leaving it in water (or other liquid solutions) for periods of time. Check on your film often, as sometimes the process can suddenly speed up!
Standard 8 or Single 8
Don’t mix up Super 8 with Standard 8 or Single 8! Even though they are all 8mm wide, their sprockets are different, and the way they run through the camera is also different. If you’re looking for a Super 8 camera on ebay, make sure it’s Super 8 and not just advertised as ‘8mm’.
If you’re bidding on a camera, ask these questions:
- Is the lens free of scratches?
- Is the lens free of fungus?
- Is the battery compartment complete and un-corroded?
- Er, does it work?!
Good Super 8 cameras to look out for
There are sooooo many, so have fun with your search! I really like the Braun Nizo cameras, as they have loads of different functions and are well made. Canons are also good, and Nikons too.
Braun Nizo camera functions
Light meter – two possible settings: automatic and manual. I usually set mine at automatic.
Light meter batteries – takes two 625 hearing aid type batteries (1.5v). You can get these cheaper than Jessops at Claas Ohlsen, on North Street in Leeds (opposite North Bar).
Intervalometer – the dial that lets you set time lapse exposures.
Auto B – set this when there are low light conditions, and expect blurs and traces. If shooting at night on this setting, also open the shutter lever (the red lever at the bottom of the camera). But don’t forget to set it back to normal if shooting in daylight.
Single Frame – the black square dot!
Fps (frames per second) – 18, 24 or 54.
Slow motion – 54 fps. Remember not to use this speed when the film counter dial is before no. 12 or after no. 3. Never run the camera at any speed over 18 fps without film in it.
Setting the camera to your eye – Set the focus ring to infinity, and zoom right in. Look at a vertical sharp line at least 50 metres away from you, and adjust the diopter (the focusing ring by the eye piece) so that the vertical line is continuous as it runs through the split focusing circle mid-point horizontal line. The image doesn’t need to look in focus – what is important is that the vertical line is continuous and smooth as it moves through the horizontal line in the circle. Your camera is now set to your eye, and you can zoom and focus as you wish (just leave the diopter setting where it is).
Auto zoom – two speeds. Only works when camera is in a certain setting (like macro).
Macro – camera needs to be put into macro gear. Focusing depends upon continuous lines again, but focusing is actually carried out by adjusting the zoom ring, not the focus ring, which should be set at infinity while you’re using macro. Remember to click out of macro when you’re done.
Film counter dial – a countdown! It resets itself automatically if you remove the film from the camera. You’ve got approx 15 metres = 50 feet = 3 mins 20 seconds (when played back at 18 fps on a projector)
Little red run lock lever – different to the shutter lever (which is red too, but slightly bigger), this little lever allows you to push it up and forward to lock the trigger down so it runs without needing your finger on it. To stop this function, simply move the lever back to its normal position.
Shutter control lever – this is bigger than the above, and sweeps across about an inch. You lock this open if using Auto B at night. You can also lock this open in combination with setting the intervalometer, to get long exposures. You can also lock this open and put the camera on a tripod for filming in a dark place, eg inside a church or something. If the scene is still, there shouldn’t be any blur.
Fade out – hold the camera with your right hand (or left if you’re left handed!). Use your free hand to pull back the shutter control lever smoothly. This will fade out.
Fade in – do the opposite as for fade out. Before filming, pull the shutter control lever so it is back, and as you begin filming, smoothly move the lever towards the front of the camera. This will fade in.
Lap dissolve – this is basically a combination of fade out and fade in, using a rewind function. Essentially, it means that one scene ‘dissolves’ into the next. Do it like this: at least one second before the end of the scene you’re shooting, press the ‘R’ button for at least one second before the end of a scene with the camera running. After that, you can let go of the ‘R’ button as well as letting go of the trigger. Then the camera does some things automatically – over a period of 3.5 seconds, it fades out over 63 frames and rewinds this number of frames. Then, to complete the dissolve, you need to press the trigger of the camera (filming your next scene) and also the ‘R’ button together (for at least one second).
‘R’ button – used for lap dissolves (as described above).
Double exposure – Unfortunately you can’t do straightforward double exposures with the ‘R’ button (this is because the lap dissolve system is mechanically interlocked with the variable shutter), so if you want to do them you would need to do them manually using a black changing bag, and manually changing the aperture (making the aperture more narrow for both exposures, i.e. using a higher number).
LOADING FILM INTO TANKS
To load the film, break the middle part while keeping a firm grip on the tail end of your film, which you have untucked from its hiding place. It should have 'exposed' written on it.
Then start pulling the film out of the cartridge, and grabbing it at each pass, as if you are looping wool or something.
Shove it into the tank, around the light tight tube (which must be sitting on its broad end) and when it's all in, try putting the lid on, fitting the protruding tube part into the light tight tube. Remember to click the lid shut - this is really crucial! Also make sure it is sitting properly on its thread, and not skewed. Then put on the water tight lid, and turn on the lights!
So, we used this kit - the Tetenal Colortec 3-bath E6 kit. Here it is:
The cheapest place to buy it I've found is Firstcall Photographic, who are based in Cornwall I think. The 5 litre kit will process up to 60 Super 8 colour reversal films. The 1 litre kit will process up to 12 Super 8 colour reversal films. The 5 litre kit is therefore way more economical, however... chemistry does 'go off'! Recommended times for keeping chemicals are:
mixed and ready to use = lasts up to 6 weeks (stay within 4 week margin if possible)
opened concentrates = last up to about 3 to 4 months.
Best to squeeze air out of the chemicals (either mixed or as concentrates) while storing them if poss, or fill up with glass marbles, which will displace the air. It is the oxidisation that makes the chemicals go off, so bear that in mind for optimising their shelf life!
We used a basic photography processing tank - Patterson type, used for processing 2 x 35mm films. Remove the spirals, but keep all the other bits to the tank.
Ok, so you've loaded your film, now the developing part!
Mix up the chemicals according to the instructions that come with them. Here is the bit you need:
Remember - if you're only mixing 500 ml, half the top amounts all the way through. However, I'd suggest mixing 1 litre at a time, because then you get to fill up the tank as much as possible and minimize those bits that don't quite get processed.
Heat up the chemicals, in plastic bottles, in a bucket of hot water, to about 41 degrees Celsius. This is a tiny bit hotter than we need, because the chemicals will lose heat during the process.
Follow the instructions for the processing. Here is the bit you need in the booklet, and remember to increase times accordingly:
Remember to rinse everything you use between different chemicals! This is especially important between chemical no.1 (first developer) and chemical no.2 (colour developer). These two are highly incompatible and mess each other up!
Continue all the steps, including the recommended rinsing times. After chemical no.4 (stabiliser) you are ready to hang up your film to dry. Don't rinse it, because the stabiliser has a rinsing aid in it and you don't want to wash it off.
Note of caution - be responsible about wearing gloves... just in case you've never done any washing up, here's what they look like... ;)
Don't risk your health - these chemicals are serious business.
Always process in a well-ventilated area too. You can pour chemicals 1, 2 and 4 down the drain with 25 times the same amount of water, but chemical no.3 should never go down the drain as it contains silver (i.e. heavy metal) which is awful for the environment. This picture says it all...
You should always drop this off at your local skip and tell them it's photographic chemistry.
With all your chemistry, be sure to mark the bottles very carefully so that nobody confuses them with something to drink! Be super careful about that - they can be deadly if ingested. And of course don't leave them unattended anywhere near kids.
WHAT WE LEARNT ABOUT COFFEE PROCESSING
As an experiment and a last-minute addition to the workshop, we processed Jelena and Marko's 2 films in Caffenol, but made with cafetiere coffee instead of instant. I have only ever used instant coffee before, and actually we found that the experiment with brewed coffee (Feral Trade Coffee, naturally! Sold at the Cube!) didn't work! I think, on reflection, that it is because we didn't brew the coffee anywhere near strong enough. I will definitely stick to using instant coffee for this process, for now. If anyone wants to experiment with the brewed version, let me know how you get on! You can buy the washing soda required from the self-named 'Best Supermarket' on the main road just before where Kino Cafe is - very convenient! Processing using instant coffee really does work brilliantly for black and white film, so do give it a go! You can find full instructions on a blog post I did last November or December (2011) called 'Processing Tri-X film in coffee'. Aptly. !
Take the end that says 'exposed', and put it in the plastic spool with the sprockets closest to your body. Reel it up so that the reel is being turned anti-clockwise and the film itself is travelling in a clockwise direction. Splice leader onto the beginning of your film and it is ready to watch!
Here's a picture of the leader I use from Kodak, in case you want to buy it in bulk from them. You get 1000ft for about £23.
You can use most Super 8 splicers you find on ebay, and just use sellotape to join the film, making sure you poke through the sprockets with a small pin to make them clear for the projector. Simple!
Here are some links that will be helpful to you:
A nice printable pdf document of absolutely loads of DIY filmmaking techniques, compiled by Helen Hill - http://www.angoleiro.com/cine_texts/recipes_for_disaster_hill.pdf
Cherry Kino's DIY filmmaking booklet online - http://en.pleintekst.nl/Cherry_Kino.html
Worm's filmmaking booklet 'To Boldly Go', online - http://www.filmlabs.org/docs/toboldlygo.pdf
Film Labs website with lots of ace info about film processes - http://www.filmlabs.org
7 Day Shop for buying cheap film stock - http://www.7dayshop.com
Firstcall Photographic for buying chemistry - http://www.firstcall-photographic.co.uk
Best wishes for your Super 8 filmmaking endeavours!
... and here are some extra photos of The Cube!