The Lomo philosophy can sometimes be set into motion! With movie film formats such as Super 8mm and 16mm, Lomography can take on an entirely different nature, introducing time as another variable to be played with. (And the equipment just looks cool!) Allow me to explain and show you…
Lights! Camera! Action!
If you thought the Lomo philosophy strictly adheres to still photography, I’m here to tell you otherwise. The principles of Lomography have served me as useful tools in my analogue lifestyle, at 18 and 24 frames per second. I’m talking about movie film, more specifically, Super 8mm and 16mm. As an experimental film student of CU in Boulder, Colorado, I’ve been privileged with the experience of shooting these film formats, as well as editing them by hand and projecting their incredible results.
CU Film School teaches a unique and rare approach to artistic filmmaking in a technologically advanced world. Students must begin their studies of film production with simplistic Super 8mm cameras, and gradually work their way towards higher end formats such as 16mm and HD digital. In the traditions of the great experimental filmmaker, Stan Brakhage, students (including myself) are encouraged to play with film and explore aesthetic values such as color, focus, form, and composition. Curiosity and experimentation are highly encouraged, and often bear the most memorable results. Emulsion scratching, hand processing, and superimposition are some examples. The beauty of it, much like the beauty of Lomography, is the absence of rules.
After two years of practice, I have discovered techniques and methods in my filmmaking that are pretty cool (if I do say so myself). Old movie cameras kick ass because they look pricelessly vintage and can often be integrated with modern day Lomo tools and techniques. For example, the cable release that I frequently use for still photos also attaches to my Canon Super 8, allowing me to single-frame shoot, enabling animation and experimental visual effects. When working with 16mm, a cable release also allows one to do time exposures for each individual frame. This technique allowed me to use light painting for my title sequences in recent films, as well as time-lapse sequences in low light scenarios.
The ultimate advantage to shooting movie analogue is the projected image. Courtesy of eBay, I’ve been able to track down some operating projectors that allow me to watch my own films. There is a common misconception that digital formats offer the finest in resolution and clarity, however, I disagree. When a film is well shot, professionally processed, and projected onto a screen, the results are breathtaking, and the equivalent of many digital high resolution formats. In my opinion, it is the most effective form of time travel, taking me back to the moments of shooting. 16mm offers the finest in resolution that I’ve been able to play with, but there are always higher formats such as 35mm, which is professional gauge. There are complications that arise with projectors however, including burnt out bulbs, and loud running motors. In the end though, these difficulties are just part of the entire experience. As far as digital exhibition goes, digital transferring is an option. CU’s film department offers digital transfers of Super 8 and 16mm for its students so that the work can be shown in more modern day manners, however, the quality of these digital transfers is a few steps down from the actual projected image.
Unfortunately, the days of analogue filmmaking may very well be close to end. In just the past two years, I’ve noticed availability of film decreasing and prices rising. This is nothing too shocking for Lomographers, as we all understand the challenge of analogue in the digital world. My work with 16mm was by far the most rewarding, however, it was the most financially draining. A lab should usually perform film processing, and this can be expensive. Super 8 is the most financially practical of the movie films. Super 8 cameras can be found on sites such as Craigslist and eBay, and there are still a few emulsions (B&W and Color) in circulation. Processing for Super 8 can be done independently, but this also gets expensive. If you are a Lomographer who is ready to take the Lomo aesthetic into motion, I strongly encourage you to explore Super 8 options. Who knows? Maybe we could begin our own Super 8 revival! If you seriously consider Super 8, feel free to drop by my home for tips and suggestions.
In a world where movies sometimes get churned out like factory products, its important to understand the moving image and its roots. Super 8 and 16mm have provided that understanding for myself, and have given me an appreciation for filmmaking beyond the conventional. In any case, whether it be still or moving analogue photography, keep in mind the words of the late Brakhage: “Art is a sense of magic”