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Kodak To Revive Storied Super 8 Camera


And now it's time for All Tech Considered.



Today, we're going to do throwback Monday.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: For less than £22, this man bought a movie camera, the incredible new Kodak Instamatic. (Laughter) What fun it is.

SHAPIRO: That's a British TV ad from the 1960s, but it might as well have been from last month. At the Consumer Electronics Show this year, Kodak announced it is reissuing the Super 8 camera. We're going to get to the camera itself in a moment but first, we want to explore the lasting appeal of 8mm film, so we've gotten in touch with director Jeff Preiss. He came to NPR West on a break from shooting a commercial in LA. Welcome to the show.

JEFF PREISS: Hey. It's great to be here.

SHAPIRO: Why use Super 8 film? What's so special about it?

PREISS: Why is it magic? It just is. In the '60s, it was what was being pointed at me at my birthday. And then these images were being replayed about a week later on a projector, and the whole thing seemed magical.

SHAPIRO: What do those images look like? How is it different from the kind of video that we're familiar with today?

PREISS: The images are soft in a very painterly way. The film itself is tiny. It's, you know, smaller than a fingernail.

SHAPIRO: Eight mm wide. That's where it gets its name from.

PREISS: Yeah, the gauge is 8 mm. And the quality of the material itself is projected along with the image, so you're seeing this swimming grain that people recognize. And that Kodachrome world - the blue sky as being this kind of lollipop blue and someone's red lipstick a red that almost exists only in your imagination - it's so beautiful. And I think we have a generation now that's kind of coming to age post-materiality. And they're now beginning to look at these older analog formats, and they're discovering the intangible quality. You can't put your finger on it, but it's there and it is a satisfying experience.

SHAPIRO: That's director Jeff Preiss. Jeff, thanks so much for talking with us.

PREISS: Such a pleasure.

SHAPIRO: And let's hear now from David Sax, who wrote about Kodak's Super 8 reissue for the New Yorker. Welcome to the show.

DAVID SAX: Great to be here.

SHAPIRO: And what do we know about the new camera?

SAX: The new camera is a mashup of analog and digital technology. What they've added there were all sorts of interesting digital controls - ways to record sound, ways to control different exposures in the camera using the similar sort of touchscreen controls that you'd find in video cameras.

SHAPIRO: Put this into context for us. In your piece, you argue that while businesses are told their goal should be to make a billion dollars by the becoming the next Instagram or Uber, this is a different path that perhaps might be more realistic.

SAX: Right. The narrative of the new economy is disrupt, disrupt, disrupt. But unfortunately, that only works if you're the one company that gains the monopoly advantage, whether you're Apple or Amazon or Uber. For other businesses, you know, there is money to be made and profit to be made in niches and certain parts of businesses that are growing. Kodak is a business that is about 1 percent of what it once was. And yet, over the past couple of years, there has been this growing demand for analog cameras and film by consumers. And so while Kodak abandoned a lot of that a couple of years ago as the business was heading towards bankruptcy, now that they're sort of rebuilding, they're looking around at what Fuji's done with instant cameras, what The Impossible Project has done with Polaroid technology, and even the vinyl record business, for example, and saying well, there is some demand for it, so is there a way that we can grow this demand? Is there a way we can stimulate it with new products, new services that tap into the property that we have and the resources that we have and the products that we're still making?

SHAPIRO: David Sax is a writer in Toronto. Thanks for joining us.

SAX: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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