Twitter has been alive today with reports that Soho Images will no longer print 16mm film. There has even been a petition set up to get them to change their minds Now Deluxe, Soho images new owner has it’s main UK lab in Denham and as for as I am aware it stopped processing 16mm film back in the day when it was called Rank ilm Labs and that was some time ago.
Should we be worried by Deluxe’s plans? I think not. Sad? A little possibly, less people will get the experience of playing their rushes on a projector or cutting it on a Steenbeck. There is something very tactile and gratifying about film, but it is also very frustrating sometimes. I’m lucky I learnt to edit on four and six plate Steenbeck’s. But today there is to real arena for 16mm projection or need for printing with the advent of relatively cheap edit systems like Final Cut Pro and Avid. Films that are shot on 16mm like most 35mm films these days go through a digital intermediate process, scanned to telecine it, edited, selectively scanned, graded and then shot back to film or mastered into a DCP (Digital Cinema Package). Very little 16mm film is actually edited by hand. and the skills are somewhat redundant.
16mm or super 16mm is still a great format for image acquisition film has a huge latitude beyond the digital poster boy, The Red. It should be noted that widescreen 16mm,Super 16mm does not have room on the negative for an optical or magnetic sound track, making it pretty useless for projection without the use of a double header projector, running the film and sound separately.
16mm and super 16mm cameras are more generally reliable than the Red camera by a country mile as well, less to go wrong. The film itself can be manipulated to get fantastics looks with a good DOP and there is still lots of great kit that was designed to last a life time. Film cameras don’t get replaced, they get repaired that is how they were designed and there is still lots of it around with sets of gorgeous image producing lenses. So lets not shed too many tears yet, 16mm is still alive and will. Improvement in film emulsions and scanners will along with people wanting to create interesting looks probably will keep 16mm around for some time yet.
Recent films shot or partly shot on super 16mm film include, Black Swan and The Hurt Locker.