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Re: Super 16

Dear Bob,

One of the primary purposes of Super 16 is for shooting material that will
ultimately be blown up optically to 35 mm for theatrical release.  Since the
image area of 16 mm film is one-quarter that of 35 mm, costs for stock and
developing are reduced proportionally, and this can be a very big savings.

Another reason why Super 16 has become popular (as it certainly is in the New
York area) is that many producers want to "future proof" their projects even
if they aren't for theatrical release.  It's a fiction that you can always
crop/blow up/reduce/mask whatever you've got to fit on whatever screen they
come up without losing something.  Mark Schubin had an excellent discussion
on this fact at a recent New York SMPTE chapter meeting; hopefully his work
will appear in an upcoming edition of the SMPTE Journal.  When a wide-screen,
improved definition TV standard is finally adopted, material that was shot on
Super 16 can (presumably) be retransferred with a minimum of hassle, which
will not be the case with anything that was shot 4:3.  

In the particular job you mentioned, it could be that somebody simply wanted
to gain familiarity with the format even though the project didn't absolutely
require it.

It is not necessary, by the way, to buy a full-blown Super 16 gate to
transfer Super 16.  Many years before such things were commercially
available, we were doing such transfers with an old standard 16 gate that we
modified ourselves.  Peterson made up a special skid plate with a super 16
aperture and condensor lens, and we sent a set of rollers to the local
machine shop to have the shoulders down.  The sprockets on the gate and the
"sepmag transducer" also have to be cut or replaced on older Ranks.

It isn't a bad idea to have super 16 rollers and sprockets on your machine in
any case just because somebody might thread up a piece of super 16 film not
knowing what it is, and then you'll be glad your machine didn't scratch it.
 It isn't necessary to buy a separate gate if you don't do a lot of super 16;
you could simply swap skid plates on the same gate when necessary.  

With this arrangement, it is necessary to turn the burn corrector off and
tape its flap up; otherwise the flap causes a shadow.  The results are
definitely NOT as nice as the commercial gates produce because you don't have
the fancy optics, and you have to  reposition your scan.  Running without the
burn corrector makes shading rough at times, and forget about doing heavy
pan-and-scan work.  The sharpness is tolerable--not great, but enough to work
with.  In our case the amount of zoom needed to make a 4:3 full screen was
not excessive.  The pictures are quite acceptable for many purposes, and
since it can be done for less than 1/10th of the cost of a new gate, it makes
an excellent way to break into the Super 16 business.

Christopher Bacon
DuArt Film & Video