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?