Watch: Take a Crash Course in Motion Picture Film Gauge

This post is by Justin Morrow from No Film School

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Let’s give 16mm, 35mm, and 65mm its proper due.

When we discuss film gauge, we’re specifically speaking about the width of the frame itself, that is, the available space that is exposed to light when run through a movie camera, measured in millimeters. As Jacob T. Swinney says in his video on Fandor, film gauge “heavily affects the look…mood and tone” of a movie.

Below, Swinney looks at three film gauges: two that you’ve probably run across (or are at least familiar with) and one that’s comparatively rarer, but which probably seen at the movie theater at least once.


16mm (and Super 16) are indie favorites, having been the film stock of choice for a huge number of films, including Pi, Clerks, The Hurt Locker, and Junebug. Because it has much less exposure area than the more common 35mm, 16mm provides a grainier look and has a “somewhat dirty texture.” It has a gritty feel, due mostly to the larger grain, a physical property of the film being developed, although there are digital plug-ins that can emulate this look.

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