A small gague of film used in home movie cameras, to make short films or animation. It comes in square cartridges that cost about $10, and another $10 to develop, and last for 5 minutes, so unless you're doing something special, you'd probably choose to use video. Super 8 film was an improvement on old 8mm film, which was just 16mm film chopped in half. A good super 8 camera will let you take pictures one frame at a time, so that you can create claymation or other such wonders.

Before video people used to shoot their home movies on cheap film stocks like 8mm which was just a strip of 16mm cut in half. In the nineteen sixties Kodak introduced super 8 film which was” super” in that it was made with smaller sprocket holes along the side so that the image surface area was greater.

Despite its cost, $15 for a three minute roll plus another $10 for developing, the obsolete medium is supported by a die hard fan base of purists, enough that Kodak still makes a few different flavors of super 8. It's tough getting developed though. Kodak has a color lab in Switzerland and as far as I know it's the only place in the world that will process the stuff. There are a few places that still do black and white, and I send mine to Batavia, Illinois.

Of course any super 8 fan worth his salt eventually tries his hand at home developing, but it's dangerous and impractical.

So what's the point?

well, for one thing it's a purist issue. There's a school of thought which says that film is beautiful and video is crass.

Also it's a real poor man's medium. The film is expensive but the cameras are cheap, 5-10 bucks cheap. So you've got to pick your shot carefully but if you drop your camera off a bridge (I have dropped a camera off of a bridge) it's no big deal. There are times when that balance of freedom and restriction is desirable.

Although super 8 is usually silent I've seen websites with sound super 8 for sale, but you'll need a sound camera. What happens is someone orders a large amount to be made, buys it in bulk and then sell off the extras.

It began with the advent of Super 8. I'd tried it with regular 8 mm film and was never satisfied enough with the outcome to be driven to do more. But Super 8; this looked almost like a movie. So I began in earnest to do something I'd be proud to show others and call it mine. I started with sunsets. I'd talked the folks at the campus library into allowing me access to the roof "in the name of art." It was a pretty high perch with a beautiful old quad below, sporting the majestic trees any quality university should own. I'd set the camera up on a tripod on days that looked promising. These were usually afternoons when a storm was either coming or going. I fashioned my own filter with rose-tinted sunglasses from Walgreens ($1.99 plus tax). Then I'd point it at the sky and click off a frame ever few seconds (10?) using the exposure extension cord I'd acquired somewhere. Even I was taken aback at first by how lovely these sped-up sunsets were. Sure; you see it everywhere now, but I did it first and I never earned a dime for the idea.

The first full length feature I put together I set to the Yes Album, side one. It took hours and hours with a little cut and splice machine I'd also acquired "somewhere." I swear I can't remember but I guess I got these accessories at a camera store.

So my paean to the Father of us All, the One who'd been worshiped by millions upon millions of upwalkers who had left historic homages in the form of carved rocks, brush strokes, pens on paper, preachers' sermons; my hymn was to show the Father who cannot be looked directly in the eye as He hurried downward, turning into oranges and then scarlets as if He were embarrassed about his destination or about His leaving us derelicts here in the darkness to do God Knows What until His return. And, as he scuttled away, herds of clouds would stream by like Appaloosas or Palominos on a plain, running nowhere as fast as possible, changing colors from white to grey or yellow and pink with rosy undertones, some looking pregnant with moisture and large darkened underbellies, waiting to break their water on some lucky farmer's crop two hundred miles away. The most significant caught images were of such a cloud forming out of nothing right in front of you and just as rapidly receding back into that place from whence we all came and where we're all going.

And all of this set as best I could to the near-falsetto voice of Jon Anderson pleading to all of us:

Don't surround yourself with yourself,
Move on back two squares.

My first masterpiece was shown as an opening feature to some foreign movie being shown on campus, and the crowd went wild. Obviously, they were all stoned to the hilt, but it made me feel good. And I understood how all filmmakers as well as artists of any sort can feel like God for just a few minutes at least, completely surrounded by themselves.

Along with being the name of a type of film and a motel chain, Super 8 is also a type of candy bar for sale in Chile. Manufactured by Nestle, the Super 8 bar consists of layers of wafer separated by thin layers of chocolate, all covered in chocolate. It could best be described as being like a Little Debbie Nutty Bar, without the peanut butter.

Despite being somewhat dry, the Super 8 bar has the advantage of being ubiquitous and very cheap, currently retailing for under 200 pesos (about 25 cents) in most stores. It is also sold by street vendors to motorists, with calls of "Super....OCHO!" being a common refrain near busy intersections.

On a personal level, I consider getting in the habit of eating the Super 8 bar, over more familiar and expensive American candy bars, to be a sign of my acculturation to Chile.

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