16 mm film

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16mm film refers to a popular, economical gauge of film used for motion pictures and non-theatrical (for instance, industrial or educational) film making. 16mm refers to the width of the film. Other common film gauges include 8mm and 35mm.



16mm film was introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1923 as an inexpensive amateur alternative to the conventional 35mm 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 16mm 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, 16mm 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. 35mm nitrate was discontinued in 1952.

Production evolution

The silent 16mm 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 16mm market. Used extensively in WW2, there was a huge expansion of 16mm professional filmmaking in the post-war years. Films for government, business, medical and industrial clients created a large network of 16mm professional filmmakers and related service industries in the 1950s and 1960s. The advent of television also enhanced the use of 16mm film, initially for its advantage of cost and portability over 35mm. At first used as a news-gathering format, the 16mm format was also used to create programming shot outside the confines of the more rigid television production sets. The home movie market gradually switched to the even less expensive 8 mm film and Super 8 mm format.

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