16mm film history

In 1923, 16mm film was debuted by Kodak as a cheaper alternative to standard 35mm film.  While 35mm was used mostly by professionals, 16mm film was the go-to choice for many amateurs because of its lower price point.  Overtime, a number of professional directors used a later version of 16mm (called “Super 16”) to make movies.

Three Different 16mm Film Formats

There are three standard formats of 16mm film:  standard 16mm, Super 16mm, and a “do it yourself” ultra format that is rarely used.  The two more common formats of 16mm film were:

Standard 16mm film
The standard 16mm film was a picture area of 10.26 mm by 7.49 mm.  Standard 16mm film is available in double-perforation (that is perforations on both sides of the film) and single-perforation (which perforations on only one side of the film).  Single perforation 16mm allows for optical or magnetic soundtrack on the non-perforated side.

Super 16mm film
Super 16mm film (also called “Super 16”) has a single perforation which creates greater picture area.  Super 16mm film has a picture area of 7.41 mm by 12.52 mm.

Films shot in Super 16

A number of well-known films have been shot in Super 16mm format.  One of the best known directors, Christopher Guest (who stared in This is Spinal Tap, before becoming a director in his own right), has filmed a number of his movies in Super 16, including “Best in Show”, “A Mighty Wind” and “For Your Consideration”).  Below are some other well-known films shot in Super 16:

  • Black Swan
  • Capturing the Friedmans
  • Chasing Amy
  • Clerks
  • Come back to the five and dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
  • Constant Gardener
  • Dave Chappelle’s “Block Party”
  • Halloween II
  • Hamlet (2000)
  • The Hills Have Eyes
  • The History Boys
  • Hurt Locker
  • An Inconvenient Truth
  • Jackass:  the movie
  • Leaving Las Vegas
  • March of the Penguins
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • The Motorcycle Diaries
  • The Queen

Color fading & Restoration

Color fading is an inescapable characteristic of 16mm films.  How fast the color fades is a function of the specific film type and, of course, film storage conditions.  Fortunately, during the process of digitizing older films, color can be restored through a number of digital enhancement techniques.  MemoryHub’s Enhanced and High Definition 16mm Film Transfer service includes digital color correction, while our standard 16mm film transfer service only includes primary color correction.

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