I wrote the following article in August 2015 and then never published it for some reason.
Nevertheless, it has not become less interesting, because it shows that Wittner would still be able to produce DS8 film – provided, of course, that they can find unperforated 35 mm film.
Perhaps we will still see the new Ektachrome 7294 come to market in a special batch as Double Super 8 …
About a year ago, it got tight around double Super-8, the niche format of the niche formats. After the final rolls of the beloved Ektachrome 100D were sold surprisingly quickly, a gap opened up for this film format. This is particularly ironic because many Super 8 film materials are born as 16mm wide “DS8” material to then, after perforating, get divided into 8 mm wide strands.
Double Super-8 is a format that has an enormous number of advantages – it comes on reliable reels and does not require the complicated cartridge, which facilitates the packaging – while also allowing to have a true pressure plate and a film transport with sprocket gears, assuring perfect sharpness and perfect registration. It offers four times the running time on the same dimensions as a 16 mm film – the film image is not only half as wide, but also only half as high – and it’s a pleasure to be able to film for six to seven minutes at a time before the spool needs to be flipped for exposing the second half of the film. Compared to conventional Double-8 film, the film width is much better used.
Unfortunately, DS8 has always remained a niche format. While it was relatively common in Eastern Europe due to the widespread, simple and sturdy “Quartz” cameras with their small 10 ft reels, there were few DS8 cameras available on this side of the iron curtain. Bolex H8 cameras have been a common choice for DS8 conversions (well-known conversions are available from Ruedi Muster, Grebenstein, Pitterling and “JK” Jaakko Kurhi), these take the practical 100 ft spools and are as popular as recognized as genuine professional tools with excellent optics. Canon briefly (and late) launched a DS8 version of the Scoopic, but these days they often need service, which hardly anyone can do. In addition to those models, there were only custom conversions in small batches; one has heard of Arris, Leicinas and Pentakas. These are mostly sitting in the collector’s bookshelfs nowadays.
The outcry heard when the last rolls of DS8 color film disappeared from the market where hence surprising. Apparently, the few active DS8 filmmakers are particularly deeply connected to the benefits of their favorite format. Although there is still the excellent, black-and-white, but not easy to develop reversal film 100 R by Foma,one demanded color film. It was somewhat frustrating that the Wittner company had just invested in new perforation tools, but in a way that wasn’t DS8 compatible: They are punching 1-3-5-7, meaning that the sprocket holes are all on the same side (DS8 would be 1-2-4-8). This avoids unnecessary rewinds when making Super 8 strands, so is an understandable decision. So for a while, it didn’t look good for DS8.
Wittner wouldn’t be Wittner, though, if they’d given up at this point. By now, they bought the entire tool collections from five film manufacturers, allowing them to make all conceivable narrow film formats. This applies not only to the large machines used for cutting and perforating, but also to the punching tools: Many are not only hardened, but made entirely of hard metal, allowing to also perforate the stiff and hard polyester bases of (then) still available raw films, without excessive wear and tear on the tools.
Unfortunately, the DS8 perforator was in a pitiful state when received. It would have no longer provided professional results … if it would have ran at all. Below is a small restoration story in pictures.
After restoration, Mr. Wittner discovered that the built-in IR light barriers could unfortunately lead to fogging on some materials. These were then replaced with special modules, with a spectrum that is completely invisible for any conceivable film material.
It is worth seeing with which meticulousness Wittner built new controller electronics (here still with the old light barriers):
So basically it should to be possible to make DS8 film again …