New Work – Super 8 Music Video for Tom Millichamp

April 28, 2018

Earlier this year I was approached by Quay West Studios in Gosport, Hampshire with the proposal of shooting a music video with singer, songwriter, Tom Millichamp. I had worked with the Quay West and Tom previously, creating a set of images for press and his online content. That shoot was about a year prior and his music had developed incredibly in that time.

This music video was to be for his debut single If I and the really exciting part was that they wanted to shoot the video on Super 8 film for a raw, nostalgic and intimate feel. I hadn’t shot Super 8 before despite growing up when it was still just about available during the rise in popularity of VHS cameras. I did, however, have a couple of recently purchased Super 8 cameras, a Canon 514 XL and Canon 514 XLS. I decided that the latter would be ideal for the video with the 24 frames per second feature meaning it would be easier to sync sound in post.

For the film, I was keen to use Kodak Vision 3 500T 7219, a high-speed tungsten balanced film that would perform well as the shoot was to take place indoors in part of a historic museum with dark tunneling and exposed brick. I sourced the film from Gauge Film, a Birmingham based company that specialises in the distribution of Super 8 as well as processing and very high-quality telecine. They are really helpful and reasonable on price.

In all, we shot only four rolls of film at approximately 2 minutes 30 seconds per roll. We had a fairly concise shot list for wide angle, medium, and close-up shots as well as a roll designated for more free form shooting. We kept the setup very simple without lots of different scenes. It is essentially a performance video but with a lot of feeling and mood.

What I am about to describe is pretty simple but certainly different from shooting with a DSLR or cinema camera. Sound sync when shooting on film without audio capture or timecode can be pretty daunting if you have not done it before and this was a major consideration going into the project. Modern Super 8 no longer captures sound so we had to take care to manage reference audio on set so that it would be as easy as possible to sync in post. We had the track on audio playback for Tom to perform with and we slated every shot with sticks. We used a Zoom audio recorder to capture the slate info leaving me with both the visual and audible references for the start of each take.

Additionally, the camera we used does not have a crystal sync motor so this means that the motor can have some variation which could lead to the sync drifting which would be noticeable in the edit. To get around this we shot verses and choruses as separate segments as opposed to doing long takes. We had fingers crossed this would limit any drift in the timing.

Once the shoot was complete the film was sent to Gauge Film for processing and digital transfer. Upon receiving the film back along with the flat scans, everything looked good. The edit was fairly straightforward given the prep and careful shooting. The great thing I found with the film is that the colours were very true to how we lit the scene and the scans had a fair bit of latitude for grading. For this, I used Colour Finale’s Rec 709 profile set for Vision 3 along with some curve adjustments to bring out the contrast and tones.

It was a really great project to work on and has given me the bug to shoot more Super 8 and I’m already thinking about exploring 16mm. As a medium, it is really accessible with lots of cameras to be had for a relatively low cost. The film and processing are quite expensive when you are used to shooting digitally but there is no mistaking the unique product you are left with. I would wholeheartedly recommend any filmmaker to try it if they never have. Take a look at the film below, what do you think? Have you shot any Super 8 projects yourself? What are your thoughts on the new Super 8 camera coming soon from Kodak? I know I’m excited by it!

On the day of the shoot I worked with Tom on some portraits to go alongside the release. These can be seen along with the video below. I used a Mamiya RZ67 with Kodak Porta 400 Film.