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What is Super 16?

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/3/2010

Learn about Super 16mm film and what it is good for.

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    16mm Film Production

    16mm film has been a standard in lower cost film production for many years, and the likelihood is that 16mm film will continue to be a viable option for years to come. There is not uniformity between 16mm production as there are standard 16mm and what is called the Super 16mm, which is slightly evolved from the original design.

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    Aspect Ratio

    Super 16mm is really just a way of shooting higher quality image without having to go for bulky and expensive 35mm. This is done by adding forty percent more area to the motion image that is captured by the camera than the traditional 16mm. This transfer makes the aspect ratio to 155:1, which is much greater than 1.33:1. This image change could not be done by all 16mm camera, and in its creation the idea was to transfer it to 35mm for showing. This creation was done so that there was an easy to use option before the era of digital video and HD video.

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    Why Super 16mm

    Today the Super 16mm format is the preferred 16mm format because the aspect ratio change is more directly in line with the basic widescreen standards that have become assumed in HD and theatrical broadcast. The cost difference, which was part of the original assumptions for Super 16mm, is not actually so in comparison today. The cost of taking Super 16mm footage and transferring it to 35mm is expensive. Instead, if you want easy to use widescreen cameras with high quality images then HD digital video cameras are a much more economic option. Super 16mm is still used today even though many people argue whether it is really financial worth it because of the post-production processing costs. It is also much more difficult to deal with film stock in general in this situation, but for most people who want to shoot on 16mm this will give you more of an option for theatrical appearance in your film production project. This is much more of a European standard than it is in the U.S., which has already been shirting toward HD digital video.

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    Compared to Standard 16mm

    For most people the Super 16mm is not really going to be the best option unless you have someone to help offset the processing costs. The actual cost for film development and processing can only be determined by the type and amount of film stock you use, but it is not always going to be different than regular 16mm. The cameras themselves are not too dramatically different except that Super 16mm cameras will often give you more options for attachments. For example, many older 16mm camera will not allow you to plug in a video monitor while the Super 16mm cameras will. Check out your budget to see if it is going to be worth it ahead of time.