Many filmmakers of a certain age—think Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, and J.J. Abrams—built their careers on the Super 8 film camera, and if Kodak gets its way, so will the next generation of auteurs. At international tech bazaar CES, the 127-year-old company is unveiling a prototype of film mechanisms merged with modern tech created in collaboration with designer and fuseprojects founder Yves Behar.
Powered by electricity and outfitted with a USB port, SD card slot, built-in mic, digital viewfinder, and various cable slots, this isn't your dad's hand-cranked hunk of gears. It fits in the hands easily, and simultaneously captures a digital copy for easy viewing and quickly putting together a rough cut. Like an iPhone, it comes in pristine black or white plastic. “Our design aspires to express [innovation that is approachable while delivering the craft of filmmaking]," says Béhar. "We are designing the Kodak Super8 camera with robust materials and new ergonomic features to serve the needs of Super 8 fans,whether shooting action or static scenes.”
The Super 8 Revival Initiative, as Kodak is calling it, marks the first new Super 8 camera the company has produced in over 30 years. The dramatism of a CES preview of the prototype suggests they're convinced they have the solution to the oft-debated-in-college-dorms argument over film vs. digital production. To back up the new camera, they enlisted the aforementioned Hollywood titans to wax eloquent on the value of film, and thus their new initiative.
"I want our century‐plus medium to keep its filmic look and I like seeing very fine, swimming grain up there on the screen," says Spielberg. "For me, 8mm was the beginning of everything. When I think of 8mm, I think of the movies.”
Tarantino is a bit more poetic. "On film, there's a special magic on a set when you say ‘action' and to the point that the take runs until you say ‘cut,' that's a sacred time. I’ve always believed in the magic of movies and to me the magic is connected to film," he says. "When you’re filming something on film you aren’t recording movement, you're taking a series of still pictures and when shown at 24 frames per second through a lightbulb, THAT creates the illusion of movement. That illusion is connected to the magic of making movies. The fact that Kodak is giving a new generation of filmmakers the opportunity to shoot on Super 8 is truly an incredible gift.”
Abrams goes the technical route. “While any technology that allows for visual storytelling must be embraced, nothing beats film," he says, fresh off the monumental release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. "The fact that Kodak is building a brand new Super 8 camera is a dream come true. With a gorgeous new design, interchangeable lenses, and a brilliant scheme for development and delivery of footage, this camera appears to be the perfect bridge between the efficiency of the digital world and the warmth and quality of analog.”
Kodak also got sign offs from Steve McQueen ("Super 8 taught me how to be a filmmaker"), Patty Jenkins ("There are plenty of looks, feelings and qualities that only film can do, and you simply cannot capture digitally"), Christopher Nolan ("The news that Kodak is enabling the next generation of filmmakers with access to an upgraded and enhanced version of the same analog technology that first made me fall in love with cinematic storytelling is unbelievably exciting"), and many more. Under the weight of that magnitude of celebrity endorsement, what the hell can we do but buy, buy, buy?
If you're at CES, check out the demo of Kodak's new Super 8 camera at South Hall booth #20618.