Back in the 60s when my dad first founded our business, there were little alternatives to using film when it came to capturing a wedding. The most popular grades of film at the time were Standard 8mm, Super 8mm, 9.5mm and 16mm. To give this some perspective, Hollywood movies that are shot on film will typically use 35mm, which gives them a superior quality to the lower grades.
Today’s technology allows our professional cameras to take virtually endless amounts of video. If the memory card gets full, swapping it with a clean one takes a matter of seconds. In the 60s you would probably have at best about 4 minutes of film before it ran out and needed to be changed for a new reel. It was never a quick and pain free process!
My dad remembers one particular wedding he was hired to capture. When the film needed changing he went to sit under a tree to start the ritual of skilfully changing the reels over inside a specially adapted black bag without exposing them to sunlight, thus ruining the footage. Once the new film reel was in place and the lid closed he continued with the job in hand, unaware that a spider had managed to hop inside with the film. You can probably imagine what the footage looked like after that. It was perhaps one of the world’s first official photo bombs!
Today there are many ways in which we can relive and pay homage to film. Smartphones and tablets have access to a wide variety of apps that can apply filters to photos and give them a distinctive retro look. One of the most popular of these is Instagram, a photo based social media platform.
In 2011 I joined the family business, Plato Video and set about the idea of reviving the art of using real cine film to capture weddings and tap in to that appeal of vintage. After all, how could I resist the collection of original cine film cameras that my dad had kept in the business inventory? The one I picked out is a Super 8mm camera made by Canon in 1979. After a quick clean up, a check over by our technician and a supply of 8 AA batteries I was up and running!
Super 8 film is made popular by its simple ‘slot in and go’ system, much like how still film cameras used to operate before the era of digital photography. It’s also a much simpler process than what my dad had to endure under the tree!
Surprisingly, Super 8 film is still widely available as it continues to be used by artists and enthusiasts around the world.
The filters, effects and styles that digital programs can apply to videos to make them look retro are all in reference to the true nature of film and the way the image moves. It harks back to home movies made in the 60s and 70s when Super 8 was a popular choice. It’s that distinctive, charming and slightly grainy flicker that instantly gives it away. I’ve seen some great attempts at trying to apply film effects to video, but for me personally, nothing compares to the real thing.
The first cine film I made funnily enough wasn’t of a wedding. On the 13th July 2012 the Olympic torch was passing through my hometown of Bournemouth, so in and amongst the crowds of people with their iPhones and tablets I was there with my Canon model 1014 making that distinctive whirring noise as the runners went passed.
Committing footage to film is much more complex than doing it digitally. With the latter method, if you make a mistake or the video turns out to be duller than expected, you can just delete it. With film there’s no delete button and certainly no way of rewinding and wiping over it like videotape. Once it’s on the film, there’s no way of removing it. With only a little over 3 minutes of film in each Super 8 cartridge, I almost have to anticipate what’s about to happen before it happens. I guess it comes with experience of being a wedding videographer. The order of the day is very similar in each one I have worked at, so it gets easier to pick out when those little moments are likely to happen.
Watching the footage back also has its complications. Unlike a digital camera where the footage can be watched back instantly, the film needs to travel some distance to a company that has the facilities to develop and then return it to me. This can take up to 2-3 weeks depending on workloads. Then there’s the nervous but highly rewarding moment where I get to watch the wedding footage back for the first time.
I have the resources available in-house to then transfer the footage to a digital format so that the happy couple can play it on a DVD player or share online with friends and family. I guess this is the only part that lets down the experience of film, but I appreciate that not everyone will have a working Super 8 projector ready to roll at a moments notice.
Since I launched my Vintage Wedding Films package I have had the pleasure of working at some prestigious locations through the recommendations of local wedding planners and venues including the likes of Lulworth Castle and Larmer Tree Gardens.
I’m hoping to develop my package further by offering different grades of film and combining the experience with my modern / contemporary style alternative.
For more details on the packages I offer please visit my Vintage Wedding Films page.