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2011 ! ! ! ! ! ! [ The introduction of the 16mm film in
[ The introduction of the 16mm film in the art
of photography ] #
!!!!!! !
Panagiotis Andronopoulos
[ ACS ]


The word “photography” is a compound word that is originated by the Greek language. “Photo” means light and “graph” means draw. Photography is the method of capturing images with the help of light and then print them on a sensitive material.

From Joseph Nicephore Niepce, who was the first to create a photographic image, to Louis Daguerre, who was the first to succeed reducing exposure time to less than 30 minutes and being the first one to achieve a practical process of photography, photography has progressed during the years and together with it the imaging devices, the cameras.

A camera is a device with a lens that captures light in order of an image to be projected on a surface.

This surface could be glass, paper or even metal. However in 1889, George Eastman, who was the founder of the Eastman Dry Plate Company in Rochester, New York, introduces a roll of film instead of a paper that was transparent, flexible and dry. At the same time he introduced to the market the Kodak camera loaded with enough film for 100 exposures, the Kodak camera could easily be carried and handheld during its operation.

could easily be carried and handheld during its operation. In 1912 George Eastman was one of

In 1912 George Eastman was one of the first American industrialists to organize a research laboratory. This picture was taken at Kodak Research Laboratories in Rochester, New York, in 1920. (source: http://motion.kodak.com)



By 1985 there were many film types in the market, having a variety of widths: 1) the 54mm film, 2) the 54mm paperfilm, 3) the 60mm film, 4) the 63mm film, 5) the 65mm film, 6) the 68mm film, 7) the 70mm experimental film. Around 1889, W.K.L.Dickson who was Thomas Edison colleague ordered from Eastman a 35mm film in order to use it for a new type Kinetoscope 1 . The 35mm film size soon became the standard. However, in January 1923, George Eastman introduced a new size film to the market, the 16mm film that was developed in a reversal process. Before that period there were many attempts by inventors to produce a film that would be suitable for home use (by amateurs). However, their main problem was that the films produced used the negative- positive method which was really expensive and thus they did not have any commercial success.

This process was a great development at that time and as A. F. Victor 2 noted: “The reversal process has lowered the cost of picture-making to a point never before considered possible. At such a low cost it is almost certain that motion picture cameras and projectors may become as universal as still hand cameras”. (A technological history of motion pictures and television, p. 134)

George Eastman, was an enthusiastic photographer who believed that the art of photography should be available to everyone and not just to the professional photographers. As a result, the introduction of the 16 mm film by Eastman Kodak Company and the practical Cine-Kodak 16 mm camera gave the opportunity for a new technology that was: 1) cheaper due to the fact that it used the reversal process using half as much film as the negative-positive process and this cut the cost to almost 1/6 in comparison to the negative-positive method used until then, and 2) it was safer due to the fact that it was initially acetate and it didn’t have the qualities of the nitrate film and the most important was that it was non flammable. These advantages allowed every

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1 A device invented by Edison that gave an impression of movement as an endless loop of film moved continuously over a light source with a rapid shutter; precursor of the modern motion picture 2 !! An inventor who founded the Victor Animatograph Company. The world’s first 16mm motion picture projector was manufactured by Victor Animatograph Company!



man and woman potentially to become a film artist. As C. Adolph Glassgold points out in The Arts: “the artistic future of the motion picture in America rests in the hands of the amateur”. (http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/2902/Avant-Garde-Film.html)

Further development on the 16mm film helped increase its use as optical sound tracks were added on the film.

its use as optical sound tracks were added on the film. 16mm film has 1 sprocket

16mm film has 1 sprocket hole per frame (source: http://www.triggertone.com)

As we have already mentioned the 16 mm Kodak film, also known as the Kodascope, was very popular in amateur film making due to the fact that it was cheap and safe (it had a non flammable base), however it had a strong competitor:

Kodak launched their 16 mm film on the market in 1923, and around the same time Pathé brought out their 'PathéBaby', using 9.5 mm. non-flammable stock. For many years 9.5 was a fierce competitor with 16 mm, and it survived for a long time as a reduced projection gauge both for amateur film making and for the showing of films originally made on 35 mm. (The Oxford History of World Cinema, p.23)

The 9.5mm Pathé film had the same qualities as the Kodak 16mm. It was non flammable and cheap (used the reversal process), thus, it was also addressed to every potential photographer.



Its main disadvantage though, was that the sprockets were on the middle of the film

instead being at the edge. This meant that if there was any problem with the film or the

projector it could destroy the film images.

the film or the projector it could destroy the film images. 9.5mm film has 1 sprocket

9.5mm film has 1 sprocket hole in the middle per frame (source:


The Pathé film became very popular in the UK and France.

The 16mm film during the years has passed through many improvements. It has

acquired greater strength, which reduced film breaks and consequently allowed the use

of thinner film. It had stability, which made the film less vulnerable to problems caused

by temperature, humidity, and aging and also it absorbed less water and dried faster

after processing.

Until now, 16mm films are mainly used as an inexpensive choice for "film quality"

motion picture productions. Many American and English independently produced

documentaries and short films are using the 16mm film format. In addition, big

productions like Sex and the City No 1 was shot in 16mm. The 16mm film was created

by a marvelous inventor who changed the history of photography and motion picture.

George Eastman died by his own hand, “My work is done–why wait?” (Focal

Encyclopedia of photography: digital imaging, theory and applications, p. 127)




Article: History of Photography. Pinhole Cameras to the Daguerreotype by Mary

Bellis, source: About.com Guide


George Eastman - History of Kodak and Rolled Photographic Film by Mary Bellis,

source: About.com Guide


Article: History of Photography Timeline by Philip Greenspun, source:



Article: George Eastman - History of Kodak and Rolled Photographic Film by

Mary Bellis, About.com Guide


Article: More than one hundred years of Film Sizes by Michael Rogge, source:



A technological history of motion pictures and television: an anthology from

Raymond Fielding, source: http://books.google.gr


Article: Avant-Garde Film, source: http://encyclopedia.jrank.org


Filmmaking: Using the 16mm Format in Film Production by Rianne Hill Soriano

source: http://www.associatedcontent.com


Papers of the Victor Animatograph Corp, source: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu

10. The Oxford History of World Cinema by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, source:


11. The Home Film Preservation Guide sponsored by AMIA (Association of Moving

Image Archivists), Chapter 2.12, source: http://www.filmforever.org/

12. Microfilm and microforms, Public records information, leaflet no. 7, South

Carolina Department of Archives and Records Management Division, source:


13. 16mm Film”, source: http://www.triggertone.com

14. “Film Formats”, source: http://www.cineinformation.org

15. Focal Encyclopedia of photography: digital imaging, theory and applications by

Michael R. Peres, source: http://books.google.gr/