8mm Film Staging Comeback Amid Analog Boom in Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Students learn how to shoot on 8mm film at Musashino Art University in Kodaira, Tokyo.

Just as analog records are gaining popularity as a way to listen to music, 8mm film is staging a comeback as people reevaluate its use for making movies. Footage using 8mm film has unique textures that are different from digital videos taken by electronic devices such as smartphones, and the “new” look is catching the eye of young people.

The medium derives its name from the 8-millimeter-wide film used to record images that are created through chemical changes caused by exposure to light. Compared to 35mm film typically used for shooting movies and 16mm film used for making documentaries and other works, 8mm film is more compact and easy to use. For these reasons, it is becoming popular for making independent movies and recording home videos.

“The film is so delicate that you must be careful not to make creases or leave fingerprints on it,” an instructor said in late July during a lecture on using 8mm film held for about 30 students at Musashino Art University’s Imaging Arts and Sciences Department. Such lectures have been held by major image production company Imagica Group Inc. since January.

Most of the students attending the lecture had never touched 8mm film before. They spent several hours learning the basics of filmmaking, and each student used a camera to shoot 8mm film. One drawback is that they cannot view the images until the film is developed. However, a 23-year-old junior in the department, said, “I can’t see the footage soon, which makes 8mm film more interesting to me.”

The medium became popular after U.S.-based Kodak launched cartridge products in 1965. While 8mm film was used by many people until the 1980s, the spread of magnetic-tape videotapes led to a sharp decline in demand for it. There are few film developing facilities nowadays

However, 8mm film is being reevaluated by video enthusiasts and professionals mainly in foreign countries. It has been increasingly used for making movies and TV commercials. According to Kodak, global sales of 8mm film in 2021 were four times the figure from 2015.

As the popularity of 8mm film has resurged, Imagica launched a service to develop film last autumn. The company has received a number of orders for developing film, and orders are three to five times greater than its estimates for the year.

“Eight-millimeter film has a unique charm,” said a company official. “I would like to get more people interested in using it.”

There are services to convert old 8mm films to DVD. However, an increasing number of people hope to enjoy watching the 8mm footage, and many secondhand projectors are put up for sale on Mercari and other resale websites.

Sales of records and cassette tapes have been rising recently, while film products such as Fujifilm Corp.’s Utsurundesu disposable cameras are becoming popular, too.

Regarding the growing popularity of these labor-consuming analog technologies, Kenta Yamamoto of Hakuhodo Inc. said, “As society is becoming more convenient, more people want to feel a sense of accomplishment by taking the time and putting in the effort.”