The present and future of super-16

I love film. I like the way it looks compared to video. I also like the equipment. I’ve never met a video focus ring I liked. (I’ll give a grudging ‘acceptable’ to the ones on newer cameras.) Film cameras just seem more ‘precise’ to me.

But let’s face it: Video footage is rivaling 16mm – and you can see it immediately. In the '90s there were TV shows shot on super-16 (1.66:1 aspect ratio, vs. regular 16’s 1.33:1), and I’ve seen Aatons being used on some made-for-TV movies (specifically, 'behind-the-scenes footage when I watched The Sci-Fi Channel). Tim Burton’s cameraman used an Aaton XTR to shoot his National Parks documentary, and I believe the earlier documentaries as well. But really, how long can it last? I like it. When I finally make my film, I’ll shoot it in super-16. On the other hand, it seems all I ever see nowadays are people shooting HDV or the traditional 35mm.

And now I’ve found out that Arriflex has a new super-16 camera, the Arri 416. It was introduced in 2006, and the link is to the upgraded ‘Plus HS’ model. Aaton has introduced the Xterà to supersede its XTR line. Is there really that large a market, that the two most popular camera-makers can make new products? Apparently; else, why the investment?

People will ‘always’ shoot in super-16, and even regular 16mm. But how long will the format remain commercially viable? Right now it’s still viable for films destined to television or DVD, or else indie filmmakers who can’t afford to shoot 35mm. As video technology continues to improve, how long can super-16 survive?

Moving thread from IMHO to Cafe Society.

Huh. I thought it was more IMHO, like ‘What is the future of V8-engined cars?’ Or ‘What is the future of skiing, now that we have snowboarding?’.

16mm film and later 35mm film is headed to the same place as reel to reel audiotape - an analog technology left in the dust heap. I know a number of professional still photographers, and not one has shot film in years, or thinks chemical photography is superior to digital. I can’t see moving chemical photography being considered superior to digital for very long - if indeed many consider it so today. I personally consider digital 4K projection vastly superior to 35mm film projection.