16 mm film
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16 mm film is a popular, economical gauge of film. 16 mm is the width of the film. Other common film gauges include 8 mm and 35 mm. It is generally used for non-theatrical (for instance, industrial or educational) film making or for low budget motion pictures.
Besides certain applications like satellite observation, 16 mm cameras started to be used for scientific registers by ethnographers from the 1950s on. 1960 was when sync sound techniques were developed for 16 mm cameras, allowing film to be impressed and sound registered by separate devices.
16 mm film was introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1923 as an inexpensive amateur alternative to the conventional 35 mm film format. During the 1920s the format was often referred to as sub-standard film by the professional industry. Initially directed toward the amateur market, Kodak hired Willard Beech Cook from his 28 mm Pathescope of America company to create the new 16 mm Kodascope Library. In addition to making home movies, one could buy or rent films from the library, one of the key selling aspects of the format. As it was intended for amateur use, 16 mm film was one of the first formats to use acetate safety film as a film base, and Kodak never manufactured nitrate film for the format due to the high flammability of the nitrate base. 35 mm nitrate was discontinued in 1952.
Production evolution 
The silent 16 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 16 mm market. Used extensively in WW2, there was a huge expansion of 16 mm professional filmmaking in the post-war years. Films for government, business, medical and industrial clients created a large network of 16 mm professional filmmakers and related service industries in the 1950s and 1960s. The advent of television production also enhanced the use of 16 mm film, initially for its advantage of cost and portability over 35 mm. At first used as a news-gathering format, the 16 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.
16 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, 16 mm is still in use in its Super 16 ratio (see below) for low cost productions.
Format standards 
Standard 16 mm 
The picture area of standard 16 mm is 10.26 mm by 7.49 mm, an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, the standard pre-widescreen Academy ratio for 35 mm. Double-perf 16 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 16 mm, Super 16, or 16 mm Type W uses single-sprocket film, and takes advantage of the extra room for an expanded picture area of 7.41 mm by 12.52 mm with a wider aspect ratio of 1.67. Super 16 cameras are usually 16 mm cameras which 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 35 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 with a 1.3x squeeze factor (as opposed to the standard 2x) specifically made for the Super 16 format. These lenses allow the entire Super 16 frame to be used for 2.35:1 widescreen photography.
Ultra 16 mm 
A variation of the Super 16 format is the DIY-crafted "Ultra-16", which is formed by widening the gate of a standard 16 mm camera to expose part of the vertical area between the perforations. The placement of the perforations on a standard strip of 16 mm film (to the left of the division between frames) allows for use of this normally unexposed area. The Ultra-16 format, with frame dimensions of 11.66 mm by 6.15 mm, allows for a frame size between those of standard 16 mm and Super 16 while avoiding the expense of converting a 16 mm camera to Super 16, the lens requirements of Super 16 cameras, and the image vignetting caused by traditional 16 mm cameras. Thus, standard 16 mm optics may be used to achieve a wider image. The image readily converts to NTSC/PAL (1.33 ratio), HDTV (1.78 ratio) and to 35 mm film (1.85 ratio), using either both the full vertical frame or the full width (intersprocket) frame, depending upon application.
Modern usage 
The two major suppliers of 16 mm film today are Kodak and Agfa (Fuji has closed down its film manufacturing facility on December 31, 2012). 16 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 16 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 16 mm and super 16 mm such as Kevin Smith's 16 mm 1994 independent hit Clerks Ironically, thanks to advances in film stock and digital technology – specifically digital intermediate (DI) – the format has experienced a dramatic improvement in picture quality since the 1970s and is now seen as a revitalized option. Vera Drake, for example, was shot on Super 16 mm film, digitally scanned at a high resolution, edited and color graded, and then printed out onto 35 mm film via a laser film recorder. Because of the digital process, the quality of the final 35 mm print is high enough to often fool professionals into thinking the footage was shot on 35 mm.
In Britain most exterior television footage was shot on 16 mm from the 1960s until the 1980s and some even until the early 90's, when the development of more portable television cameras and videotape machines led to video replacing 16 mm in many instances. Some drama shows and documentaries were made entirely on 16 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.
BBC considers Super16 to be 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 will no long accept 16mm as an origination format for High Definition video transfer.
The first 2 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer were shot on 16 mm and was switched to 35 mm for its later seasons.
All three seasons of Veronica Mars were shot on 16mm and aired in HD.
The first 3 seasons of Stargate SG-1 (bar the season 3 finale and the effects shots) were shot in 16 mm, before switching to 35 mm for later seasons.
The 2009 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, The Hurt Locker, was shot using Aaton Super 16 mm cameras and Fujifilm 16 mm film stocks. The cost savings over 35 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 16 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 35 mm.
Moonrise Kingdom was shot using super 16 mm.
Professional cameras 
Today, the professional industry tends to use 16 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 16 mm which can go up to 10,000 frames per second. Panavision has a rarely-seen model known as the "Elaine," which appears to be making a comeback.
Amateur cameras 
For amateur, hobbyist, and student usage it is more economical to use older models from Arri and Aaton as well as Auricon, Beaulieu, Bell and Howell, Bolex, Canon, Cinema Products, Eclair, Keystone, Krasnogorsk, Mitchell, and others.
Film reproduction methods 
In most original film production, movies are shot on 35 mm. The 35 mm size must be converted or reduced to 16 mm for use in 16 mm systems. There are multiple ways of obtaining a 16mm print from 35 mm. The preferred method is to strike a 16mm negative from the original 35 mm negative and then make a print from the new 16 mm negative. If a 16 mm negative is struck from the original 35 mm negative, it is called an "original". If a new 16 mm print is made from a print with no negative it is called a "reversal". 16 mm prints can also be made from many combinations of size and format, each with its own distinct and descriptive name as follows:
- If a 16 mm negative is struck from an original 35 mm print, it is called a "Print Down".
- If a 16 mm negative is struck from an original 16 mm print struck from a 35mm original print, it is called a "Dupe Down".
- If a 16 mm print is struck directly from a 16 mm print, it is called a "Double Dupe".
- If a 16 mm print is struck directly from a 35 mm print, it is called a "Double Dupe Down".
When film traders buy and sell 16 mm prints they often refer to the print through its production method, that is an "original", "reversal", "dupe down", "double dupe", and "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 16 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, the dyes in the far more common Eastmancolor print film, and some 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 transferring old color films into a modern digital format, even badly faded source material can sometimes be restored to full color by the use of digital techniques that amplify the faded dye colors. However, in some instances original 35 mm Eastmancolor elements are so problematic that old unfaded 16 mm Technicolor IB prints, sometimes made for rental to small repertory theaters, schools and private groups before home video made 16 mm rentals a rarity, may be the only format in which all the original color information has survived.
Fading problems were especially noticeable in many pre-2000 video releases of color Warner Bros. cartoons originally released prior to August 1, 1948 – MGM/UA Home Video had to resort to faded 16 mm "dupes" of the cartoons (some with the logo of Associated Artists Productions – or a.a.p. for short – intact), as they had no access to the original Technicolor elements.
Technical specifications 
- 7.62 mm per frame (40 frames per foot)
- 122 m (400 feet) = about 11 minutes at 24 frame/s
- vertical pulldown
- 1.37 aspect ratio
- enlarging ratio of 1:4.58 for 35 mm Academy format prints
- camera aperture: 10.26 by 7.49 mm (0.404 by 0.295 in)
- projector aperture (full 1.33): 9.60 by 7.01 mm (0.378 by 0.276 in)
- projector aperture (1.85): 9.60 by 5.20 mm (0.378 by 0.205 in)
- TV station aperture: 9.65 by 7.26 mm (0.380 by 0.286 in)
- TV transmission: 9.34 by 7.01 mm (0.368 by 0.276 in)
- TV safe action: 8.40 by 6.29 mm (0.331 by 0.248 in); corner radii: 1.67 mm (0.066 in)
- TV safe titles: 7.44 by 5.61 mm (0.293 by 0.221 in); corner radii: 1.47 mm (0.058 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 28 frames for optical sound and 26 frames for magnetic.
- 1.66 aspect ratio
- camera aperture: 12.52 by 7.41 mm (0.493 by 0.292 in)
- projector aperture (full 1.66): 11.76 by 7.08 mm (0.463 by 0.279 in)
- projector aperture (1.85): 11.76 by 6.37 mm (0.463 by 0.251 in)
- 1 perforation per frame, always single perf
- 1.85 aspect ratio
- camera aperture: 11.66 mm by 7.49 mm (0.459 by 0.295 in)
- projector aperture: 11.66 mm by 6.15 mm (0.459 by 0.242 in)
- 1 perforation per frame (may also be double perf, i.e. one on each side)
See also 
related film genres
- History of sub-35 mm Film Formats & Cameras
- SUPER-16 modification of Bolex Reflex 16mm camera
- "Sweet 16: A-list Cinematographers Say the Emulsion’s Never Looked So Good, Here’s 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 16 mm cameras
- DIY processing 16mm – guide for DIY processing of black/white 16 mm film
- Introduction to 16mm film