Most importantly this will test your camera's light meter, the camera's film transport, if the camera is working at all, your ability to focus, your techniques, as well as giving you a sense of what you are going to get with the equipment, people and skills you have. If you are going to use any special filters or locations in your shoot, or slow or fast motion effects etc., include them in your test if you can. For the cinematographically advanced shooting a test is still an essential step to test that the camera will do what you know it can do, and also to calibrate your light meter to the camera (for instruction on using a hand held meter, click here). If you are going to shoot film, you have to know your equipment if you are going to avoid being disappointed. Some possible problems that a test roll will help you avoid: does the camera actually transport the film? does the internal light meter work? are the optics clean? is the shutter accidently set to 'shut'? have you accidently left the exposure compensation dial to 'over expose'? does the internal filter work? etc etc. We have seen many rolls wasted in these and other unnecessary ways which is disheartening for us as well as for the customer. Just because the camera worked last time it was used, it doesn't mean that it is still working now with the currently available film stocks. Remember too that just because your camera produced acceptable results with one film stock, it may not when using another of a different film speed.
If you need any help with shooting a test, please ask.
Buy a bulk pack of batteries and put a fresh set in every few rolls. Batteries are very cheap, film, processing, transfer, your and everyone elses time are not. Keeping the camera's batteries fresh helps ensure the camera's drive motor has enough power to transport the film smoothly through the super 8 cartridge without jitter or jamming. Five rolls for every 2 AA batteries is the absolute maximum (so if the camera uses 6 batteries up to 15 rolls, if it uses 4 up to 10 rolls) - but bear in mind that shelf life between uses also reduces battery power. Always remove the batteries after each occasion of using your camera to prevent damage to the camera from leaking batteries. You never know how long it will be before the next use, or how close to failing the batteries might be. To help prevent batteries from leaking, never mix battery types, never use a mix of used and fresh batteries, and never insert batteries backwards.
Little bits of hair or dust in the film gate are highly visible and distracting when enlarged on the screen. So clean the gate often, at least whenever you change the film cartridge. Have a clean brush and a wooden implement like a toothpick handy for this. Do not blow air on the gate as you will be blowing dust into the camera and onto the colour correction filter or the back of the lens. Keep the whole film compartment free of dust and moisture. Also when changing the film, if you keep film in the fridge make sure it is up to room temperature before opening the foil pouch.
This is the little knob, dial, slider or some such that focuses the viewfinder for your eye. This device can get bumped, slid, turned, moved of fiddled with by accident without you knowing. If focus is important (and why wouldn't it be?) don't assume that if you set the diopter once, its still set correctly. Check it often. For instructions on setting the diopter see our focusing page.
You need to have a plan for if your main camera dies. What's more, its no use if you don't know for sure that this camera works. Save a few feet of your test roll for testing the basic functions of your back up camera.
Look up details about your camera model in the Super 8 database - click on the picture of a weird looking camera in the top row to get to a list of manufacturers, then click on the name of your camera to get to a list of models. There are hundreds! Also check out our Know your camera page for tips on what features to look out for on your camera.