Advertising  |  About Us  |  Contact Us  |  RSS

What is the difference between 16mm and Super 16mm?

Internet Filmmakers' FAQ

Kris Malkiewicz provides this explanation in his extremely useful book, Cinematography:

"When normal 16mm is blown up to widescreen 35mm, the great magnification results in more graininess and a poorer image quality. The problem is further aggravated by the fact that the top and bottom of the frame are lost in changing the image to a wide-screen ratio [standard 16mm has an aspect ratio of 4:3]. Super 16mm was designed to alleviate these problems.

Super 16mm film extends the image into what was formerly the soundtrack area of the original negative. This provides not only a larger image, but one that is already in wide-screen ratio. Thus, Super 16 requires less magnification when blowing up to 35mm, and hence there is a much smaller loss in quality."

Many of new cameras today come with adjustable gates to support both standard and super 16mm formats. Older cameras, however must have their gates adjusted to allow for the increase in exposure area.

These days, Super 16 is used on a lot of mid-budget films and television programs where there is a desire to shoot in film, but the finished product will be delivered on widescreen video. The popularity of Super 16 is somewhat threatened by falling HD prices, but still represents one cost-effective ways of getting a film look.

Answer by Benjamin Craig  |  Last updated 25-Feb-2005


Older Comments

lawrence De Rose  |  05-Oct-2009
16mm film production (weather super 16 or standard) is without question an art form of it's own. True, video is quite a bit easier to handle & edit, especially for the novice, but video is in no way the professional medium like that of 'Film' or film production. Film has a heritage going back a hundred years that video can't compare to. Unfortunately, the costs involved in film making are getting more prohibitive for the individual every year. The cameras, editing equipment, sync-sound systems, steady-cams, projection equipment,etc... can run into the six digit figures easy. BUT through all that, the pride and accomplishments one can achieve by the use of 16mm film outway the costs. Your project is worth it! Why did Ken Burns "Film" the National Parks series for PBS instead of using HD video? It's because it represented thee-only professional medium he saw fit to use for conveying imagery that exists today and has for decades and will for decades to come