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Goodbye Kodachrome

kidachrome Real film lovers of the world probably shed a tear today as Kodak announced the retirement of KODACHROME film. From a moving image standpoint Kodak discontinued Kodachrome Super 8mm stock back in 2005 which wasn’t a real surprise. Super 8 is only shot these days for that specific look and feel and for those film people who really want to be nostalgic. I bought a Super 8 camera from a yard sale a few years ago that was in very good shape. I never shot a frame since the cost to buy, process and transfer the stuff properly just wasn’t worth the $$. The film-lover in my soul sank as I proceeded to shoot on DV and apply lots of film-like flashes and edge fog. One paragraph that stuck out to me in the Kodak press release was this:

While Kodak now derives about 70% of its revenues from commercial and consumer digital businesses, it is the global leader in the film business.

It’s amazing to think how a global leader in the film market could see such a shift in their core business. I guess it goes to show that no matter how much better film really is, be it still or motion picture, the added cost really isn’t worth the benefit for many most. But film as an acquisition medium for motion pictures is not dead yet. There will always be the those who insist on shooting it as long as Kodak and Fuji make it. And it will always be gorgeous with a dynamic range that digital has yet to reproduce. A Kodak rep was recently in the office talking about 2-perf (as in 2-perforation) 35mm film as a new format to nearly cut the cost of shooting film in half. At least in half from shooting 4-perf. Not a bad idea but 2-perf isn’t new, it’s been around for many years. I guess it’s just a matter of Kodak beginning to push it more and more as film is shot less and less. Here’s some 2-perf discussion if you are interested: Is 2-Perf the new 3-Perf?, Panavision Proposes 2-Perf Film System for Indie Filmmaking, Film at Half the Price, 2Perf – the film format for the digital chain (pdf link). You can’t just shoot 2-perf on any film camera as they have to be modified but some are available. But I digress … goodbye Kodachrome (I will not insert a Paul Simon pun). My dad shot a whole lot of stills on you over the years. For reflection here’s a nice little 4 minute You Tube video about the “end of Super 8 Kodachrome film processing.”

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  • Lenny Studebaker

    Super 8 vs Video, or 35 mm vs digital – it is sad how quickly we forget. I do not remember the last time I heard someone say, or for that matter I even saw, “depth of field”. I think am going back for some out of focus backgrounds. Dig out the old Nikon.

  • http://www.posthouse.com Myron Lenenski

    Kodachrome is and was amazing. Here is a link to some recently shot super8 k40 used in a “Veronicas” music video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=us-dW1cmBWQ

    Even when compressed by Youtube, you can sense the quality. Especially the closeups.

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  • YodaMac

    Nostalgic and all, but DANG! film makes some seriously poor pictures! So long Kodachrome!!!

    • http://www.scottsimmons.tv Scott Simmons

      Seriously poor!?!?! It’s all in how you shoot it.

  • http://www.erkanumut.com Erkan Umut

    The KODACHROME line including Super 8 and 16mm Movie stocks was my first choice since my early school years…
    Hearing that makes me not happy, but having better stocks could make me happy.

  • http://www.erkanumut.com Erkan Umut

    The KODACHROME line including Super 8 and 16mm Movie stocks was my first choice since my early school years…
    Hearing that makes me not happy, but having better stocks could make me happy.

  • Jim Delaroche

    I have Kodachrome (ASA 10) slides from the 50′s, still excellent color. I have other media from the time (Ektachrome, Ansco, et al) not processed by Kodak, for convience. Image still good, but color is really bad, no blues, greens.

    I have recently transferred all to digital, Kodachromes still look as good as the day they were processed.

  • http://maclab.guhsd.net/blog/ Mike Skocko

    Lenny,

    I’m a high school teacher. We shoot digital. Depth of field is alive and well in the Mac Lab.

    Example: http://vimeo.com/4563387

  • http://www.kodak.com/go/super8 gsimpson

    Kodak has a section of their website devoted to the Super 8 medium: http://www.kodak.com/go/super8, with an easy directory of labs worldwide, and stories on how people are using it today! … And if I’m not mistaken, Pro8mm in Burbank is doing some amazing things to make the processing and transferring Super 8 super easy, and super economical. Check out their services at http://www.pro8mm.com (also listed on Kodak’s lab directory).

  • Sean

    American Graffiti was shot 2 perf.

  • http://www.scrabo.com Paul Scrabo

    As long as we remember that no producer ever went into a production house and said “Give me the video look”.
    The wacky thing with these plug-ins (and those shooters/editors that mimic film) is that they focus on BAD film elements, such as shakiycam,scratches, etc. and the reality is that old school Super 8mm was NOT as bad ad that at all!

  • jackie

    I have been screening old reg 8 and super 8 movies that are over 50 years old and the color held up beautifully. They are a blast to the past that is precious. Hard to get camera’s and projectors repaired unfortunately, but the format has proven the test of time in a way that the digital formats have not…Hi 8 tapes for example, glitch sitting on a shelf, if you have precious memories on them I recommend you transfer to mini DV or into a HD to preserve them.

  • david

    Too Bad, Kodak done it again, they just don’t Care.

  • Eric Olson

    Tremendous capture of an an entire era with the feel and love that went with it.
    I never had a super 8, but I wish I had. I am sure glad you did.
    Thanks, Thanks so very much.
    Eric :)

  • http://www.videographyblog.com Bob Kiger

    Paul Simon will indeed commemorate “Kodachrome” for future generations. And so will Coldplay, whose Grammy Award winning CD “Viva la Vida” contains a driving instrumental entitled “Kodachrome”.

    Kodak is hard pressed to make a comeback in “the Age of Videography” [Miller Freeman publishers - 1996] and at Videography Lab, which follows the emergence/confluence of “enabling technologies” we researched their public offerings and saw, that as a composite, they have the right corporate culture to lead in videography if they apply the common sense cooperative standards to new technology that they fostered in photography over the last Century.

  • pat evanz

    Kodak is a business, and can’t be expected to subsidize a hobby/historical preservation effort–BUT–why doesn’t some non-profit round up funds from arts, historical, tech history groups to fund continued availability of Kodachrome???
    Isn’t this the kind of thing the AFI, the ASC etc. ought to be doing, perhaps in lieu of yet another “100 something or other “list?

    There are also other obsolete technologies that should be preserved for limited use by those willing to pay to keep them alive for non-commercial purposes.

  • http://headswest.com John Larsen

    My late Grandfather was a semi-pro photographer who was always on the leading edge when it came to picture technology (today he’d be that first guy in line to buy the new iPhone). I have hundreds of Kodachrome slides that he took with what I believe were first batches of Kodachrome stock. To this day, the richness, vibrancy – the “immediacy” of these images is remarkable. They look as if they were shot last weekend. – as if time had been frozen in a frame, Farewell, Kodachrome – thanks for the memories!

  • Ben Kufrin

    As a cinematographer now whose early influences were learning to shoots stills from my father George, a commercial photographer in Chicago, Kodachrome was the foundation of my color photography education. Every frame I shot that could handle the low 64 ASA and unforgiving exposure latitude, I would commit to Kodachrome. The rich saturation,deep contrast and absolute window to-the-world clarity especially when projected on my Dad’s Kodak Carousel undoubtedly helped further inspire me in image-making. Later I did the same with a Super 8mm Canon that Dad gave me for my 10th birthday along with several 50′ cartridges of Kodachrome 40 (tungsten). Now in my adult career shooting motion pictures, I’m often forced towards digital acquisition and though there are some amazing new technologies emerging, film undoubtedly remains the gold standard for quality, dynamic range and achievability. Recently I began transferring some old 16mm home movies from my wife’s and my family that date back to the 50′s and much that was shot on Kodachrome and its indelible dye coatings have been preserved remarkably well. As for the 2-perf 35mm motion picture format, I also have some first hand experience in helping to promote film acquisition as Kodak will further attest to in their most recent July 2009 cinematography publication InCamera- http://motion.kodak.com/US/en/motion/Publications/In_Camera/Focus_on_Film/curveOfEarth.htm

  • Robert

    Back in the late 70′s, I edited some 16mm Kodachrome movies shot in 1936 in Sarasota, Florida by a friend of John Ringling North at the Ringling Bros. Circus Winter Home. I believe the film speed was rated at ASA 6. I was amazed at how well the dyes held up after more than 40 years, at that point. I believe I heard that the footage is now somewhere in the national archives in Germany. Will any imaging material being produced today still look good and be around in its original form in 40 years?

  • Tom Kerwin

    It is sad that Kodachrome is no more–35mm that is. This talk about Super8mm being good quality, seems to me to be coming from those who have never switched or used digital. I grew up on movies, first my father’s 16mm, then regular 8 and finally super8. I have Kodak color film from the 1930′s that is as good today as when it was taken (properly stored and handled over the years). Then videotape, digital, and now HD were developed. But when video tape arrived most people gladly converted as I did. Come on, you cannot beat the really sharp vivid images created by HD or DSLR’s. I have thousands of feet of film in all consumer formats, but would never go back, even if economically available. If you like any consumer film format over HD or DSLR, then you are entirely nostalgic (and possibly crazy). And low light shooting–almost impossible with Kodachrome film (Ektachrome never really cut it, too grainy). HOWEVER, 35mm or larger film format is another story. But still, there is little difference (if any) between 35mm slide/prints and DSLR prints. Thus, the DSLR revolution. Hey, don’t misunderstand me, I love movies, but really–digital HD or DSLR shot in RAW mode cannot be beat. I still think Kodak should keep 35mm file stock. Kodachrome is and always will be the BEST. Other companies (AGFA, Fuji, ANSCO, and even Technicolor for awhile) never really met the quality and longevity of Kodachrome for consumer formats, as my father’s movies prove. I agree with the comment that setting up and watching movies using projectors and screens, adds to the experience. Too much film/video/digital movies/DSLR taken today is shot too casually, leaving really good photography out. Hand held movies is and always will be, in my opinion, not very good. Steady, sharp tripod movies/DSLR photos are and will always be the best. …One man’s opinion.

  • Mike Leonard

    I expect the ability to process the existing Kodachrome film will probably also pass fairly quickly – not to mention skyricket in price! Anyone know of labs who can still do the developing? Maybe I’ll have to shoot the last couple of 35MM rolls that I still have befofe the summer is over.

  • bruce

    Kodachrome was unique in that it was processed using dye impingement methods. The 3 color layers were “colorized” at the processing plant using dyes. Ektachrome uses a different process where the dyes are already in the emulsion layers.This was an expensive process and used non-environmentally friendly chemicals. At one point only Koday and a handful of other large commercial plants existed world-wide to handle the kodachrome developing process.

  • roger

    Kodachrome defiantly had a look to it that can never be replaced by newer films stocks and its quality lasts a life time. But the new Super 8 stocks have their own advantages as well. The look of super 8 in general rocks! As for digital being the wave of the future I would have to disagree. The fact that digital has such sharp vivid images is the reason why the look of film is much more preferred, digital is too sharp, the softer look of film to me is preferred. I will not watch a movie that is shot on digital because the image qaulity sucks.

  • Mark Nocera

    so Kodachrome is dead, so what??, today the medium is digital, video tape is dead, and most film is dead, on their tombstones,you can inscribe, rip, you aint gonna be missed, I spent most of my life as a photographer, in the seventy’s, I worked for newspapers and mags, doing rock,and celebrity stuff, I still remember coming home from some after show party, half buzzed, having to develop a couple rolls of 120, and a couple rolls of 35mm in my Nikor deep tanks, and making 8×10′s to take to the paper next morning, or sending them out to the mags, via special delivery. Today, I could do the whole thing on my computer in less than 20 minutes,
    As a closet videographer, I wish the video cameras and programs were available when I was in my twenty’s, today any high school kid can using a high end amateur video camera, and editing software, can make a video that is just as sharp as anything you see on your high def tv. that was impossible when I was in my twenty’s. so film and video tape is dead, so what???

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  • not_norman

    bloody hell, scott… beautiful video, but you’ll have us all hanging ourselves with the commentary! they may have done away with kodachrome but there’s bags of places you can still get super 8 film and get it processed. the widescreen centre in marylebone, soho images, stanley productions in wardour st, film and photo in acton….
    chin up, all is not lost by a long chalk!