35mm/16mm question

Technically-oriented discussion of classic films on everything from 35mm to Blu-Ray
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sethb

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35mm/16mm question

PostSat Dec 12, 2015 5:07 pm

I had always thought that 16mm film was created simply by slicing 35mm in half horizontally, so that each side would get a row of sprocket holes, etc.

But it has occurred to me that one-half of 35 millimeters is not 16 millimeters, but 17-1/2 millimeters, so that probably isn't right. And even allowing a millimeter for the cut, you'd still end up with two pieces of 17mm film.

So how did the 16mm standard come about? SETH
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wingate

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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostSun Dec 13, 2015 4:24 am

Kodak introduced this as an amateur gauge in 1923'It was safe to use at home because it was manufactured from acetate instead of nitrate.A sound version was introduced by RCA in 1932.
There was also for a brief time a 17.5mm gauge.
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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostSun Dec 13, 2015 4:19 pm

16mm was chosen because it was not possible to split a nitrate 35mm and make two 16mm prints. This ensured that 16mm films would be on acetate "safety" film and not nitrate.
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realist

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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostMon Dec 14, 2015 4:35 am

16mm became very popular during World War 2 since prints were non-flammable, cheaper to make, and could be shown on portable projectors which were found on Navy ships and on remote Army outposts. There was even a projector built for rugged war time use call the "Jan" (Joint Army-Navy). In the 1950's 16mm educational films became a mainstay of schools (the audio-visual age) and continued on until the late 1970's with film rental companies booking Hollywood productions for college campus showings (even 16mm CinemaScope was popular). I think the last big hurrah for 16mm was it's use in the production for music documentaries like "Woodstock," "Monterrey Pop," "Joe Cocker: Mad Dog and the Englishmen," and "Elvis on Tour."
It's last big time network use was for the pilot of "Law and Order". OK, since I posted some meaningless trivia, it's time to go to bed. Good night.
Last edited by realist on Mon Dec 14, 2015 11:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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wingate

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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostMon Dec 14, 2015 5:30 am

Some cinemas in the UK used 16mm.I went in numerous working 16mm projectors were installed.
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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostMon Dec 14, 2015 5:32 am

Words missing from last post.I went in numerous projection boxes where 16mm projectors installed.
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Richard P. May

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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostMon Dec 14, 2015 10:19 am

16mm is still used for production in some cases. The current movie "Suffragette" was shot in 16mm. I saw it recently, and nothing brought it to my attention that a smaller negative was used.
There was a LOT of hand held photography, however, which would be easier with 16mm than 35mm or digital. To me, regrettably, this type of camera work is terribly distracting and ruined the movie. That's not the fault of the film gauge, though.
Quite the opposite of the use of 65mm (for 70mm projection) in "Hateful 8".
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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostTue Dec 15, 2015 9:59 am

Thanks for all the great and informative replies!

I ran a 16mm classic movie series back in 1970-72, using Bell & Howell projectors with long-throw lenses and 1000-watt bulbs to produce a 12' wide image in a 200-seat theater. And I remember lugging those heavy cardboard film cases from Swank and Films, Inc. back and forth to the post office (thank God for the 4th Class Book/Film postal rate!).

We had even considered buying two JAN projectors at one time; the manufacturer was located near Cherry Hill, NJ, not too far from my home. I remember that the JAN looked like a Bell & Howell on steroids, with stainless steel everywhere, diamond guides on the film gate to prevent wear, heavy-duty motors, sealed bearings, etc. They were built for use on remote Army and Navy bases, on ships or in jungles and deserts, where climate and temperature were extreme. (I also understand that they were very popular in grindhouses, because they could run almost constantly with minimum maintenance.)

Of course, now we have digital projectors with virtually no moving parts except for the fan, and 6-ounce DVD's with resolution that's probably as good or better than 16mm film (and no splices or torn sprocket holes, either!). But back in the day, 16mm was a real workhorse. SETH
"Novelty is always welcome, but talking pictures are just a fad." -- Irving Thalberg
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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostTue Dec 15, 2015 4:09 pm

.....and not forgetting the variant Super16mm which used standard single sprocket 16mm film to utilise the area between the sprockets usually reserved for the soundtrack. I worked as film editor on a number of movies shot here in Australia using this format during the 1980's. The widescreen aspect ratio Super16mm negative was blown up to 35mm for cinema release.....
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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostWed Dec 16, 2015 10:29 am

Adding to my post a couple of days ago, CAROL (in current release) was also shot with Super 16mm. It's a beautiful looking movie. I never gave it a thought about capture technology, only that all concerned really knew what they were doing.
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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostWed Dec 16, 2015 4:22 pm

I played a cop this summer in a film directed by Lance Edmands and he shot in Super 16mm. It was so striking to have the cameraman shout - "Hold it Lance, I have to reload!"
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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostWed Dec 16, 2015 10:11 pm

I remember back in the 1970's a lot of the shorter (particularly) pictures and output from poorer countries came to the Melbourne Film Festival on 16mm. Back then nearly all films were screened in an old cinema palace - "Palais Pictures" out of the city and by the seaside. This is a huge auditorium seating about 3,500 and the throw from the bio box to the screen must be a very great distance. I don't know what projector was utilised or the wattage of the globe, but the picture quality was excellent.
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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostTue Dec 22, 2015 5:19 am

realist wrote:16mm became very popular during World War 2 since prints were non-flammable, cheaper to make, and could be shown on portable projectors which were found on Navy ships and on remote Army outposts. There was even a projector built for rugged war time use call the "Jan" (Joint Army-Navy). In the 1950's 16mm educational films became a mainstay of schools (the audio-visual age) and continued on until the late 1970's with film rental companies booking Hollywood productions for college campus showings (even 16mm CinemaScope was popular). I think the last big hurrah for 16mm was it's use in the production for music documentaries like "Woodstock," "Monterrey Pop," "Joe Cocker: Mad Dog and the Englishmen," and "Elvis on Tour."
It's last big time network use was for the pilot of "Law and Order". OK, since I posted some meaningless trivia, it's time to go to bed. Good night.

Gimme Shelter was one of those spectacular music documentaries made by the Maysles Brothers shot on 16mm. Gives the rare illusion of almost being an eye witness participant or victim to those crazy days. Does not have the warm nostalgic feel of the others because is far more dramatic, confronting and violent. There has been nothing made quite like it since. Looked great on the big screen, later on laser disc and even better on Criterion's DVD. I believe Martin Scorcese was one of the principal freewheeling cameramen.
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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostSat Dec 26, 2015 4:16 pm

17.5mm was the gauge that one could extract from slicing 35mm in half.

16mm CAN be slit from a larger format known as 35/32, which is a 35mm stock with 16mm-type perforations. This yields a print of two 16mm prints, which is then slit down and trimmed. Technicolor prints were made in this fashion because the IB line was set up for 35mm only.
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Bob Birchard

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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostSat Feb 06, 2016 10:29 pm

Although there was some use of 17.5mm as a visual medium, this width was used primarily for sound recording in Hollywood, both as a medium for primal film recording and later as a base for magnetic film recording. Disney recorded on 17.5mm mag well into the 1960s.
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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostThu Apr 28, 2016 4:27 pm

16mm was still used for college film series as late as around 2000. About that time, the university I worked at started showing a combination of 16mm prints and dvd for their series of recent entertainment releases paid for by the Student Life folks.

I first saw the 1998 restoration of "Touch of Evil" on 16mm as part of this series and, since I hadn't been to a 16mm screening in quite a while, was amazed at how bad the sound was. Even at that early date, the digital sound on dvd had spoiled me.
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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostSat May 07, 2016 7:53 pm

The problem with 16mm sound was/is twofold: (1) Nobody ever remembered to clean the sound drum and the area around the photocell of accumulated dust and dirt; and (2) the sound usually emanated from a puny 2-3" speaker in the projector itself, and so competed with all the other usual grinding and whirring noises of a Bell & Howell 16mm AutoLoad.

I ran a college movie series in the 1970's. I had the luxury of a separate remote 12" RCA Victor cabinet speaker that was set up at the front of the room beneath the screen, and it was angled up for better sound projection. With a proper preamp, it filled a full 200-seat lecture hall with sound. Subject to all the limitations of early optical soundtracks, I thought it still sounded pretty good. Of course, the Dolby process and things like digital sound were still just gleams in a projectionist's eye at that time. SETH
"Novelty is always welcome, but talking pictures are just a fad." -- Irving Thalberg
"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk ?" -- Harry Warner
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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostTue May 17, 2016 1:41 pm

Many many British drama series up thru the 2000's were shot on Super 16. It has enough resolution to make very satisfactory BluRay discs, but is not quite up to 35mm. Kodak's modern cinema color negative film is really outstanding.
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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostFri Jun 17, 2016 5:22 pm

Due to the relatively slow speed of 16mm sound film and the limited area for a sound track, the normal frequency
response was not half as good as 35mm.......the highs for 16mm cut off around 6000 cycles compared to modern
digital sound upwards of 20,000 cycles.
Last edited by Marr&Colton on Mon Jun 20, 2016 4:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 35mm/16mm question

PostSat Jun 18, 2016 5:03 am

As I just found out for another thread, for kinescopes the sound was sometimes kept separately, on 'sepmag'. I think that also allowed for an isolated score/effects track in case another country wanted a dub.
Indeed on old BBC series and the like that were saved on 16mm, the sound is relatively bad, it even messes up speech, for example the letter S.
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