Frequently Asked Questions
Motion Picture Super Film Formats
Updated September 16, 2002.
- What is Super film?
Super refers to a modification of an existing film format, like Super 8, Super 16, or Super 35.
- What is the purpose of Super film?
Super films maximize the usable image area on a certain film. The film improves image quality without spending more on film stock, which is more efficient.
- How did the idea of Super films begin?
In the 1960s Kodak wanted to improve the quality of 8 mm home movies without requiring wider film, like 16 mm. Kodak designed a film frame that was about 50% larger on the same width film by making the sprocket holes smaller than standard 8 mm. The new film, Super 8, could be used with the same economy as regular 8 mm, and projectors that could show both sizes of film could be easily manufactured for customers with a library of older films.
- What about Super 16 mm film?
Super 16 mm was originally developed as a professional capture medium for blow-up to 35 mm theatrical release. Some films from the 1970s, such as Woodstock
and The Concert for Bangladesh
shot in 16 mm film for release in 35 mm and even 70 mm increased the filmmaker's awareness about the production possibilities of 16 mm film. Super 16 allowed the same basic cameras and film stock to be used.
- What kind of film stock is required for Super 16 mm cinematography?
Super 16 requires single-perforated film which Kodak has made since the 1930s. The wider image of this format exposes the frame out to the edge of one side of the film where the second row of sprockets would be.
- What kind of equipment is required to shoot Super 16 film?
Super 16 cinematography requires a Super 16 mm camera and appropriate lenses. Some cameras can be modified for this purpose, and others are built specifically for this format.
For more information, see
What is Super 16?
Kodak is a trademark of Eastman Kodak Company.
- What is Super 35 mm film?
Super 35 mm uses the same film as regular 35 mm; however, Super 35 utilizes more of the film's picture area. In reality, Super 35 uses the frame area of the film that movies occupied prior to the advent of sound from sprocket hole to sprocket, top to bottom. When the sound track area was added to film in the late 1920s, the picture had to be narrowed and shortened to maintain the same aspect ratio (frame shape). As a result, a significant portion of the original frame is not used in conventional 35 mm cinematography. In post-production, you can choose in which aspect ratio to release the film. Also, you can manufacture an anamorphic (CINEMASCOPE) release without the film having been shot that way. Most telecine facilities can take advantage of the bigger negative area when transferring to video to produce a sharper picture or to make creative decisions in post-production by cropping and zooming within the film frame area.
- What kind of equipment is required to shoot in Super 35 mm format?
Many 35 mm cameras and related lenses can work in Super 35 with a replacement of the camera front and/or aperture plate. The cinematographer should consult the manufacturer or rental house.
- Why doesn't everyone shoot in a Super format? The cost seems about the same.
There are other considerations when shooting in one of the Super formats. In Super 16 mm, you must handle the original negative with extra care to avoid scratching along the edge opposite the perforations. Usually, the negative cannot be used to make a 16 mm release print with sound because the sound track area now has the picture information in it. Generally, a Super 16 mm negative must be either transferred to video for television use or "blown-up" to 35 mm for release. One exception is the "blow-down" reduction printing process, designed to make 16 mm sound release prints.
There are not many Super 16 mm projectors available (these are silent machines).
Negative film shot in Super 35 mm for theatrical release requires an optical film stage to create a hardmatted picture and a place for the sound track. Some customers feel that this additional generation of duplication may have an adverse effect on image quality.
Frequently Asked Questions provide information of limited or specific application. Responsibility for judging the applicability of the information for a specific use rests with the end user.