TRI-X Black & White Reversal Film 7266

Super 8 Lends a Lo-Fi Aesthetic to Dim the Lights

Dwight Chalmers filming on Route 66. (credit: Angela Carpenter)

Dwight Chalmers is filmmaker and musician who divides his time between professional sound work for movies and television, and small, personal films. His most recent short film is Dim the Lights, an impressionistic collage that serves as a travelogue for a recent trip from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean along the old Route 66. The film’s audio track includes original music along with sounds and ambiences gathered and edited by Chalmers.

“At first, there were two sides to my love for sound,” says Chalmers. “One was recording bands, and the other was collecting ambiences. For years, I have gone out and recorded interesting sounds – crickets, open air spaces, air conditioners, a soda machine with a strange buzz. Twenty years later, I might use sounds from that library on a project like Dim the Lights.”

Michael Goi on Creating the Freak Show for American Horror Story 

(L-R) Jyoti Amge as Ma Petite, Naomi Grossman as Pepper. CR: Michele K. Short/FX

For the better part of a decade now, Ryan Murphy has been innovating the way audiences look at small screen entertainment. As the creator of shows like Popular, Nip/Tuck, Glee,and The New Normal, Murphy has established a distinctive brand of filmmaking that’s faster, louder, and more attention-grabbing than its television contemporaries, and one that puts compelling visuals on par with addictive storylines. Case in point: American Horror Story, Murphy’s television show/miniseries hybrid that plays more like a horror anthology with a new theme each season. In season one it was Murder House, which was followed by Asylum and Coven. And this fall, Freak Show premiered with what Murphy describes as “the most terrifying clown of all time.”

Michael Goi, ASC, ISC has been there since nearly the beginning, shooting the second half of American Horror Story’s first season after first collaborating with Murphy on Glee. “American Horror Story had a visual style and approach for season one that was already established by the time I came on to it,” says Goi. “I didn’t make a lot of alterations to it, but in the last two or three episodes I started to veer in the direction that I felt like the material was taking me, and some of that approach is what’s reflected in season two, Asylum, where you’re dealing with an atmosphere that was very crazed. And I think the camerawork and the lighting reflected that a lot.”

The Power of Super 8 Film

A common anecdote among cinematographers is how the Super 8 films they shot during their youth put them on their career paths. Today, the way filmmakers use Super 8 film has evolved. Their passion for the format has grown, and the diverse uses of the film can been seen in hundreds of commercials, dozens of theatrical releases, as well as music videos and television shows. Film is also the only proven archival medium.

A new book, "The Power of Super 8 Film," takes readers on an 80-year journey through the history of the small-gauge format, which began as a visual storytelling medium for hobbyists during the dawn of the 1930s. Written by Phil Vigeant, the book cites an impressive array of contemporary cinematographers, directors, actors and musicians who have honed their artistic instincts shooting 8 mm films. These filmmakers are also inspiring the next generation of filmmakers to continue this practice.