It’s been nearly two years since Kodak announced their plans at the Consumer Electronics Show to make a new Super 8 Camera, so there’s been a lot of curiosity about the developments so far. Apart from showing a working prototype in this year’s show, Kodak has also released an update where the bright minds involved — project management, design, production, and testing — talk about the challenges, initial results, and future plans for the Super 8 camera (which could go for up to $3,000).
The biggest challenge so far
The bold plan was to make a new Kodak Super 8 Camera attuned to today’s generation of filmmakers who are still passionate about analog movie-making and keen on experimenting. It was announced to have several additional features, such as an LCD flip out monitor, audio record input, and a C-Mount lens. This goal, of course, comes with several challenges that Kodak’s own Super 8 Camera Program Director, Steve Parsons, and Product Manager, Holger Schwarzel, have explained in the update.
“Our biggest challenge has been rebuilding the engineering knowledge that’s been lost over the last few decades since the last Super 8 Cameras were produced in volume,” Parsons said. “Our design engineers have had to re-learn lessons that at one time were common, accumulated knowledge in the industry, so there’s been some trial and error as we’ve gone through that process.”
“The last Super 8 Cameras [made] in mass production have been produced [in the] middle of the 80s and all those assembly lines and production companies have closed down their workshops and that’s why we really started from scratch when we decided to produce the super 8 camera again,” Schwarzel said.
One of the main challenges, therefore, is to find suppliers that can manufacture the precise parts that would accommodate the improvements, the core of which is a better mechanical film transport. These suppliers, Holger noted, should be able to deliver parts and elements that are in a “very tight tolerance.”
“When you think about it, film has to be transported 24 times in a second and pulled down, expose the next frame, pulled down, expose the next frame — that’s really something where the heart of the camera is being challenged and where the performance has to be outstanding to really have a good image quality.”
Prototype testing by filmmakers
To make sure the new Kodak Super 8 Camera will live up to the expectations of the eagerly waiting market, the company has been allowing filmmakers to shoot with the prototypes and getting their feedback. Will Mayo and Ian Scott MacGreggor, who recently shot their latest film with a Super 8 prototype, have said it’s been as easy to use as a DSLR, and the flexibility it offers is “vitally important to the creative community at large.”
Likewise, Cinematographer Nick Green expressed positive feedback following his experience shooting with the prototype and working with Kodak for a collaboration with Girl Skateboard.
“Usually when you’re shooting a Super 8, you’re looking through this tiny, little eye piece, so small that you constantly wonder if you got it. But when you’re watching it through there [the Kodak Super 8 Camera], you’re so much more confident, like ‘Okay, I know I got this for sure.’ You can get lower, you can get higher. And then the interchangeable lens option is amazing. And it has the pistol grip in the front and then that grip on the bottom. So, if you wanted to do a follow line it was way easier. It’s just insane.”
Kodak also mentioned working on the KODAK Darkroom, a new online platform for purchasing and developing film, which will be launched at the 2018 CES. Filmmakers can ship their Super 8 cartridges to a lab that will process and scan them. They will be notified once the scans have been uploaded into the Darkroom so they can access their imagery before getting back the physical film.
The exact price for the Kodak Super 8 Camera hasn’t been established yet, but Kodak estimates around $2,500 to $3,000 for the unit cost. The camera will be available for purchase on the Kodak website and select retailers in 2018. Visit Kodak’s Super 8 page to stay updated.