Here's a Digital Filmmaking Guide on Recreating the Look of Super 8

What if you want the Super 8 look without the Super 8 camera?

Super 8mm film has a beautiful, organic, nostalgic aesthetic; it's gritty and unrefined and certainly produces some interesting footage. However, the process of shooting film, getting it developed, and editing it can be much more time consuming than shooting digital, so for those that still prefer to shoot on their DSLRs, but want that vintage Super 8mm look, here's Joey Shanks of Shanks FX to show you how to recreate it. (The actual tutorial starts at around 2:36.)

You'll never be able to fully replicate the exact look of Super 8mm film, but you can get pretty close. Shanks breaks down the four things you'll need to adjust in order to give your digital images that film look.

  • Image and color adjustment: Super 8mm footage is no where near the glossy, super sharp images you'll get with digital. That's why Shanks suggests adding a gaussian blur, noise, and using color balance and RGB curves to match the look of 8mm film. Also, throw in some red tinting and black side bars for good measure.
  • Authentic film grain and scratches: Ah, artifacts. They're beautiful and one of the things that makes film so unique. You can download film grain and scratches from a number of websites—FilmConvert is a popular one—and add them in. Or you can make your own!
  • Film light leaks: Old Super 8 camera bodies are notorious for allowing unwanted light to hit the sensor through the shutter or film chamber, which, of course, causes those light leaks we all know and love. Again, you can download light leaks from a ton of websites, or (again) you can make your own.
  • Authentic film camera shake: Due to a film's worn sprocket holes, images would often appear to "shake" when the film would be run through a projector gate. To replicate this look, Shanks suggests tracking the movement of actual Super 8 footage and adding that tracking data to your project.

So there you have it! If you know of any other techniques that'll help make digital footage look more like Super 8mm film, share them down in the comments.     

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Your Comment


I noticed a few things on the article that didn't seem right or needed to be expanded.

First off, light leaks are caused by light hitting the film plane and not the "sensor" it's not digital.

Lastly, film shakes can also be caused by the camera being used not having a registration pin to hold the frame down for exposure. I used a Bolex 16mm camera that didn't have a registration pin in school, and when we got the film back from processing we would see the image kind of float around on the screen. It wasn't bad, it can add some aesthetic to the film if that was your intent.

Anyways, I like seeing articles that talk about filmmaking aesthetic and people working towards figuring out ways to create interesting things and then sharing.

September 18, 2016 at 12:01AM, Edited September 18, 12:01AM

George Nelson
Director / Cinematographer

I created a lot of fake Super 8 for my feature "The Surface". Having started in Super 8 as a teen, I was keen on recreating it for the film as a means of nostalgia, and as a vehicle for the main character. These are all great tips, but another one that I found very helpful in recreating this effect was the frame rate. We shot our 'fake' Super 8 on digital video at 24 and 30 fps. For the "8mm look", I reprocessed the footage at 8mm speed of 18 fps, added filters and layers of actual 8mm, then exported again at 23.97 for the feature. Here are examples of the digital-to-8mm footage we created for the film. Thanks for the great article!

September 18, 2016 at 8:26AM

Michael Saul
Producer / Director / Animator