16Â mm film is a popular, economical gauge of film. 16Â mm is the width of the film. Other common film gauges include 8 mm and 35 mm. It is generally used for non-theatrical (e.g., industrial, educational) film making or for low budget motion pictures. RCA introduced a 16Â mm sound movie projector in 1930 and developed sync sound for 16Â mm cameras in 1933.
Besides certain applications, like satellite observation, ethnographers from the 1950s on began to use 16Â mm cameras for scientific work.
Kodak hired Willard Beech Cook from his 28 mm Pathescope of America company to create the new 16Â mm Kodascope Library. In addition to making home movies, people could buy or rent films from the library, a key selling aspect of the format.
Intended for amateur use, 16Â mm film was one of the first formats to use acetate safety film as a film base. Kodak never used nitrate film for the format because of the high flammability of the nitrate base. 35Â mm nitrate was discontinued in 1952.
The silent 16Â mm format was initially aimed at the home enthusiast, but by the 1930s it had begun to make inroads into the educational market. The addition of optical sound tracks and, most notably, Kodachrome in 1935, gave an enormous boost to the 16Â mm market. Used extensively in WW2, there was a huge expansion of 16Â mm professional filmmaking in the post-war years. Films for government, business, medical and industrial clients created a large network of 16Â mm professional filmmakers and related service industries in the 1950s and 1960s. The advent of television production also enhanced the use of 16Â mm film, initially for its advantage of cost and portability over 35Â mm. At first used as a news-gathering format, the 16Â mm format was also used to create television programming shot outside the confines of the more rigid television studio production sets. The home movie market gradually switched to the even less expensive 8 mm film and Super 8 mm format.
16Â mm has been extensively used for television production with light cameras in many countries before portable video cameras appeared. Replacing analog video devices, digital video has made significant inroads in television production use. Nevertheless, 16Â mm is still in use in its Super 16 ratio (see below) for low cost productions.
Standard 16 mm
The picture area of standard 16Â mm is 10.26Â mm by 7.49Â mm, an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, the standard pre-widescreen Academy ratio for 35Â mm. Double-perf 16Â mm film, the original format, has a perforation at both sides of every frame line. Single-perf is perforated at one side only, making room for an optical or magnetic soundtrack along the other side.
Super 16 mm
The variant called Super 16Â mm, Super 16, or 16Â mm Type W, developed by Swedish cinematographer Rune Ericson in 1969, uses single-sprocket film, and takes advantage of the extra room for an expanded picture area of 7.41Â mm by 12.52Â mm with a wider aspect ratio of 1.67. Super 16 cameras are usually 16Â mm cameras that have had the film gate and ground glass in the viewfinder modified for the wider frame. Since Super 16 takes up the space originally reserved for the soundtrack, films shot in this format can be enlarged by optical printing to 35 mm for projection. However, with the recent development of digital intermediate workflows, it is now possible to digitally enlarge to 35Â mm with virtually no quality loss (given a high quality digital scan), or alternatively to use high-quality video equipment for the original image capture.
In 2009, German lens manufacturer Vantage introduced a series of anamorphic lenses under its HAWK brand. These provided a 1.3x squeeze factor (as opposed to the standard 2x) specifically for the Super 16 format. These lenses let camera operators use the entire Super 16 frame for 2.35:1 widescreen photography.
Ultra 16 mm
The DIY-crafted Ultra-16 is a variation of Super 16. Cinematographer Frank G. DeMarco is credited with inventing Ultra 16 in 1996 while shooting tests for Darren Aronofsky's Pi. Ultra 16 is created by widening the left and right sides of the gate of a standard 16Â mm camera by 0.7Â mm to expose part of the vertical area between the perforations. Perforation placement on standard 16Â mm film (to the left of the division between frames) accommodates use of this normally unexposed area. The Ultra-16 format, with frame dimensions of 11.66Â mm by 6.15Â mm, provides a frame size between standard 16Â mm and Super 16â"while avoiding the expense of converting a 16Â mm camera to Super 16, the lens requirements of Super 16 cameras, and image vignetting caused by traditional 16Â mm cameras. Thus, standard 16Â mm optics achieve a wider image. The image readily converts to NTSC/PAL (1.33 ratio), HDTV (1.78 ratio) and to 35Â mm film (1.85 ratio), using either both the full vertical frame or the full width (intersprocket) frame, depending upon application.
The two major suppliers of 16Â mm film today are Kodak and Agfa (Fuji closed its film manufacturing facility on 31 December 2012). 16Â mm film is used in television, such as for the Hallmark Hall of Fame anthology (it has since been produced in 16:9 high definition) and Friday Night Lights and The O.C. as well as the The Walking Dead in the US. In the UK, the format is exceedingly popular for dramas and commercials. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) played a large part in the development of the format. They worked extensively with Kodak during the 1950s and 1960s to bring 16Â mm to a professional level, since the BBC needed cheaper, more portable production solutions while maintaining a higher quality than was offered at the time, when the format was mostly for home display of theatrical shorts, newsreels, and cartoons, documentary capture and display for various purposes (including education), and limited "high end" amateur use. Today the format also is frequently used for student films, while usage in documentary has almost disappeared. With the advent of HDTV, Super 16 film is still used for some productions destined for HD. Some low-budget theatrical features are shot on 16Â mm and super 16Â mm such as Kevin Smith's 16Â mm 1994 independent hit Clerks
Thanks to advances in film stock and digital technologyâ"specifically digital intermediate (DI)â"the format has dramatically improved in picture quality since the 1970s, and is now a revitalized option. Vera Drake, for example, was shot on Super 16Â mm film, digitally scanned at a high resolution, edited and color graded, and then printed out onto 35Â mm film via a laser film recorder. Because of the digital process, the final 35Â mm print quality is good enough to fool some professionals into thinking it was shot on 35Â mm.
In Britain most exterior television footage was shot on 16Â mm from the 1960s until the 1990s, when the development of more portable television cameras and videotape machines led to video replacing 16Â mm in many instances. Many drama shows and documentaries were made entirely on 16Â mm, notably Brideshead Revisited, The Jewel in the Crown, The Ascent of Man and Life on Earth. More recently, the advent of widescreen television has led to the use of Super 16. For example, the 2008/09 BBC fantasy drama series Merlin was shot in Super 16.
The BBC considers Super16 a standard definition film format, but other broadcasting and production companies may have different outlook. In particular, Scrubs has been shot on Super16 from the start and is aired either as 4:3 SD (first 7 seasons) or as 16:9 HD (seasons 8 and 9). John Inwood, the cinematographer of the series, believed that footage from his Aaton XTR Prod camera was not only sufficient to air in high definition, it "looked terrific." However, the BBC has recently announced that it no long accepts 16Â mm as an origination format for High Definition video transfer.
The Academy Award winning Leaving Las Vegas (1995) was shot on 16Â mm. For more movies filmed in Super 16Â mm, see Films shot in Super 16.
The first 2 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer were shot on 16Â mm and was switched to 35Â mm for its later seasons.
The first season of the popular series Sex and the City was shot on 16Â mm. Later seasons were shot on 35Â mm. All three seasons of Veronica Mars were shot on 16Â mm and aired in HD. This Is Spinal Tap, and Christopher Guest's subsequent mockumentary films, are shot in Super 16Â mm.
The first 3 seasons of Stargate SG-1 (bar the season 3 finale and the effects shots) were shot in 16Â mm, before switching to 35Â mm for later seasons.
The 2009 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, The Hurt Locker, was shot using Aaton Super 16Â mm cameras and Fujifilm 16Â mm film stocks. The cost savings over 35Â mm allowed the production to utilize multiple cameras for many shots, exposing over 1,000,000 feet of film.
British Napoleonic era drama Sharpe (TV series) was shot on Super 16Â mm right through to the film Sharpe's Challenge (2006). For the last film in the series, Sharpe's Peril (2008), the producers switched to 35Â mm.
Moonrise Kingdom was shot using super 16Â mm.
Digital 16 mm
A number of digital cameras approximate the look of the 16Â mm format by using 16Â mm-sized sensors and taking 16 mm lenses. These cameras include the Ikonoskop A-Cam DII (2008) and the Digital Bolex (2012). The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (2013) has a SuperÂ 16-sized sensor.
Today, the professional industry tends to use 16Â mm cameras from Aaton and Arri, most notably the Aaton Xtera, Aaton XTRprod, Arriflex 16SR3, and Arriflex 416. Aaton also released the A-Minima, which is about the size of a video camcorder and is used for specialized filming requiring smaller, more versatile cameras. Photo Sonics have special extremely high speed cameras for 16Â mm that film at up to 1,000 frames per second. Panavision has produced the Panaflex 16, nicknamed "Elaine".
For amateur, hobbyist, and student use, it is more economical to use older models from Arri, Aaton, Auricon, Beaulieu, Bell and Howell, Bolex, Canon, Cinema Products, Eclair, Keystone, Krasnogorsk, Mitchell, and others.
Film reproduction methods
Most original movie production companies that use film shoot on 35Â mm. The 35Â mm size must be converted or reduced to 16Â mm for 16Â mm systems. There are multiple ways of obtaining a 16Â mm print from 35Â mm. The preferred method is to strike a 16Â mm negative from the original 35Â mm negative and then make a print from the new 16Â mm negative. A 16Â mm negative struck from the original 35Â mm negative is called an original. A new 16Â mm print made from a print with no negative is called a reversal. 16Â mm prints can be made from many combinations of size and format, each with a distinct, descriptive name:
- A 16Â mm negative struck from an original 35Â mm print is a print down.
- A 16Â mm negative struck from an original 16Â mm print that was struck from a 35mm original is a dupe down.
- A 16Â mm print struck directly from a 16Â mm print is a double dupe.
- A 16Â mm print struck directly from a 35Â mm print is a double dupe down.
Film traders often refer to 16Â mm prints by the print's production method, i.e., an original, reversal, dupe down, double dupe, or double dupe down.
Color fading of old film and color recovery
Over time, the cyan, magenta and yellow dyes that form the image in color 16Â mm film inevitably fade. The rate of deterioration depends on storage conditions and the film type. In the case of Kodachrome amateur and documentary films and Technicolor IB (imbibition process) color prints, the dyes are so stable and the deterioration so slow that even prints now over 70 years old typically show no obvious problems.
Unfortunately, dyes in the far more common Eastmancolor print film and similar products from other manufacturers are notoriously unstable. Prior to the introduction of a longer-lasting "low fade" type in 1979, Eastmancolor prints routinely suffered from easily seen color shift and fading within ten years. The dyes degrade at different rates, with magenta being the longest-lasting, eventually resulting in a pale reddish image with little if any other color discernible.
In the process of digitizing old color films, even badly faded source material can sometimes be restored to full color through digital techniques that amplify the faded dye colors.
- 7.62Â mm per frame (40 frames per foot)
- 122Â m (400Â feet) = about 11 minutes at 24 frame/s
- vertical pulldown
- 16Â mm
- 1.37 aspect ratio
- enlarging ratio of 1:4.58 for 35Â mm Academy format prints
- camera aperture: 10.26 by 7.49Â mm (0.404 by 0.295 in)
- projector aperture (full 1.33): 9.60 by 7.01Â mm (0.378 by 0.276 in)
- projector aperture (1.85): 9.60 by 5.20Â mm (0.378 by 0.205 in)
- TV station aperture: 9.65 by 7.26Â mm (0.380 by 0.286 in)
- TV transmission: 9.34 by 7.01Â mm (0.368 by 0.276 in)
- TV safe action: 8.40 by 6.29Â mm (0.331 by 0.248 in); corner radii: 1.67Â mm (0.066Â in)
- TV safe titles: 7.44 by 5.61Â mm (0.293 by 0.221 in); corner radii: 1.47Â mm (0.058Â in)
- 1 perforation per frame (may also be double perf, i.e. one on each side)
- Picture to sound separation: sound in advance of picture by 26 frames for optical sound and 28 frames for magnetic.
- Super 16
- 1.66 aspect ratio
- camera aperture: 12.52 by 7.41Â mm (0.493 by 0.292 in)
- projector aperture (full 1.66): 11.76 by 7.08Â mm (0.463 by 0.279 in)
- projector aperture (1.85): 11.76 by 6.37Â mm (0.463 by 0.251 in)
- 1 perforation per frame, always single perf
- Ultra 16
- 1.85 aspect ratio
- camera aperture: 11.66Â mm by 7.49Â mm (0.459 by 0.295 in)
- projector aperture: 11.66Â mm by 6.15Â mm (0.459 by 0.242 in)
- 1 perforation per frame (may also be double perf, i.e. one on each side)
- List of film formats
- Sync sound
- Related film genres
- Direct cinema
- CinÃ©ma vÃ©ritÃ©
- Ethnographic film
- History of sub-35 mm Film Formats & Cameras
- SUPER-16 modification of Bolex Reflex 16 mm camera
- "Sweet 16: A-list Cinematographers Say the Emulsionâs Never Looked So Good, Hereâs Why...", written February 1, 2005, and accessed December 29, 2005.
- "Snapshot of a Trend: Against All Odds, Super 16 Keeps Growing", Spring 2005 issue, accessed December 29, 2005
- My Old Camera Free downloadable instruction manuals for 16Â mm cameras
- DIY processing 16 mm â" guide for DIY processing of black/white 16Â mm film
- Introduction to 16 mm film
-  Rumblehouse Media. HD Telecine. 16mm film conversion to uncompressed YUV4:2:2 1080p video.