The Crazy People Left at Kodak Are Launching a Crazy Camera. Super8 all over again?

This is NOT the camera that Kodak is introducing. This is a Nikon R10. It is Super 8 as well.

In the early 1990's I was commissioned to make a video for a company called, TechWorks. They made computer memory products and they wanted a big, dynamic video to show at MacWorld. We used my favorite model of the moment, a bright script and a transition from grainy, black and white film to saturated BetaCam color video to tell the client's story. We had a lot of fun doing it and the video project was very well received. Even the tagline was fun: "Byte Me!" The ad agency made "Byte Me!" candy bars to give away. It was good, old school marketing. 

We wanted the first half of the project to be edgy and contrasty, moving images of a beautiful girl having to work on slow computers because of the lack of affordable memory. Clocks ticked by, screens froze up and our dejected and frustrated actor slumped around and dispassionately drank a lot of coffee. Things were more upbeat in the second half; after the discovery of fast, cheap memory modules!

As the creative director I borrowed from what my film friends were doing at the time and shot the first half in black and white, Super 8 film. We shot a lot of footage with wide and tight shots of everything. We went through probably 20 x 50 foot rolls of film. We had the film developed and transferred onto video tape. We edited from the tape. 

The character of the grain and tonality of the film showed through even though this project preceded HD TV by years. I'm still thrilled we shot it this way. 

My memory of the R10 (which I still have) was that it worked flawlessly and, as long as you knew your way around an incident light meter you could come away with some really nice material. 

We went on to other things and forgot all about trying to shoot on motion picture film after Nikon introduced video-in-our-DSLR cameras with the D90, which was quickly copied by Canon in the 5Dmk2. Well, it seems like nostalgia, hipsterism and sentiment have conspired with Kodak to try and bring back the past. 

Just yesterday Kodak announced, at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show), their newest imaging device .... a Super 8 film camera. The genre has been updated a bit to include some digital video help in the finder department, along with some direct sound support, but the camera seems to be pretty bare bones otherwise and the single focal length lens on the front isn't awe inspiring.

The big issue (as always) is price. The price to buy the camera (estimated around $750) and the price to shoot (about $75 per roll for 90 seconds of shooting time --- included development and scan to digital service at Kodak) seem steep for most applications. If you are a working pro looking for an effect, on a paying project I guess that twenty rolls of film with processing will only run you about $1400 but if you are a hobbyist just plain around then it's going to cost you $$$ FOURTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!

I'm looking forward to seeing one of the cameras in the flesh. It may be interesting enough to be worthwhile. But I'm going to guess that sticking six fresh alkaline batteries in the old R10 is going to be at least as interesting and perhaps a bit more effective. I can't blame Kodak for trying and I wish them all the best in this endeavor. Maybe eventually they will get back to re-inventing digital still cameras. Here's a link to Kodak's microsite for this: THE FUTURE OF OLD SCHOOL FILM


Frank Grygier said...

Does it come with KodaLog?

Noons said...

They kill themselves on film with no R&D for ages, ensure no one else can commercially do slides as they have stopped all supplies of E6 chemical replenishment.
And now they come back with this, which presumably won't be Kodachrome and hence has to be E6 (development of a positive film)? It'll be at least $30 to develop each roll!
Dang, time really flies: I blinked, a quarter of the year is gone and it's April 1st!
Is anyone at the helm of this company or whatever is left of it?

Peter said...

My guess is that they think that enough hipsters will go for this to make it viable.

amolitor said...

This strikes me more as a positioning move than as a real product. It's a halo product, which makes a statement about Kodak. 'We're the film guys, we believe in film for motion pictures'

They seem to have a great deal of support in the relevant industry. It's quite possible the industry is simply getting sick of dealing with heavy digital effects as much for business reasons as aesthetic.

It is a fact that digital effects houses implode at a higher rate than hedge funds, and not always at convenient times.

I'm not saying we're going to see Hollywood returning en masse to film, but there's no doubt the industry wants the film option and they're willing to pay for it. The only question is whether they're willing to pay enough for it.

theaterculture said...

The way they've surrounded it with celebrity film-maker endorsements to make me think that one of the target markets is film schools.

When I was at NYU in the late 90s, most of the production classes were taught using Arri 16BL cameras that were allegedly Korean War surplus. Even then the Steinbeck cutting tables that the program owned were getting long in the tooth, but it was hard for the programs to justify investing in new ones when an increasing amount of finishing was being done digitally. If you want your students shooting and still learning to cut physical film, 8mm actually looks like an economical alternative to 16mm, especially if the "ecosystem" they're promising also includes relatively inexpensive tabletop cutting solutions and automated telecine devices (or Kodak telecine processing that costs less than 16mm...).

Steve said...

What in the world is in the water up in Rochester?

Given that the product announcement has little more than rough specs, and a gaggle of rough renders of something that might one day be a product, I wonder if this is nothing more than tossing a little chum in the water to see if anyone bites.

Could have been a nice product, oh, about 15 years ago. Maybe.

Michael Matthews said...

Don't know if it's available for purchase today, but this idea looks to be at least as interestng: a digital implant shaped to fit the super8 camera. Try this url -- hayesurban.com -- or Googlr "nolab super8".

Michael Matthews said...

Add to comment on nolab super8 device: This guy's apparently in Austin.

Jason Hindle said...

I'm curious. How much did Super 8 film cost, back when it was fashionable?

Lee McCurtayne said...

Everything that is old, is new again. If Fuji can still do and instant film camera, there's a market for anything.
Ad agencies "wet dream" the Super 8 look, all over again. Lord not again.