ISO TC 36 Cinematography Standards

ISO TC 36 Cinematography Standards
Standards published by the ISO Technical Committee 36 focus on cinematography, the art of making motion pictures. Standards relating to cinematography primarily focus on the different gauges, or sizes, of film, which determine much of how the film is shot and how it will be projected in theaters. For each gauge used in the film and television industry, there are standards covering specifications for their usage in capturing footage, specifications for their projection, and dimensions for cutting and perforating the sides to use as measuring references, among other guidelines.

35 mm is the most popular film gauge used for feature films, commercials, and U.S. television. For a while, it was the only motion picture format that could be played in almost any cinema throughout the world. Due to its size, 35 mm film is characterized by having 16 holes. Standards for 35 mm film include:

ISO 23:1993 – Cinematography — Camera usage of 35 mm motion-picture film — Specifications

ISO 70:1981 – Cinematography — 35 mm negative photographic sound record on 35 mm motion-picture film — Position and maximum width dimensions

ISO 491:2002 – Cinematography – 35 mm motion-picture film and magnetic film – Cutting and perforating dimensions

ISO 2907:2002 – Cinematography – Maximum projectable image area on 35 mm motion-picture film – Position and dimensions

ISO 2906:2002 – Cinematography – Image area produced by camera aperture on 35 mm motion-picture film – Position and dimensions

35 mm film ISO TC 36 Cinematography
35 mm film

16 mm film was introduced in 1923 with the intention of creating a non-flammable, inexpensive film to be used by amateurs. After being the main gauge of film used for early television prior to being mostly replaced by 35 mm, 16 mm has been the main camera of educational or instructional videos and is popular with hobbyists, artists, and independent filmmakers. In addition, it is occasionally used in cinema and television. For example, the 2009 Academy Award Winner for Best Picture, The Hurt Locker, was shot with 16 mm film stocks. Standards for 16 mm film include:

ISO 25:1994 – Cinematography — Camera usage of 16 mm motion-picture film — Specifications
ISO 26:1993 – Cinematography — Projector usage of 16 mm motion-picture films for direct front projection — Specifications
ISO 69:1998 – Cinematography — 16 mm motion-picture and magnetic film — Cutting and perforating dimensions
ISO 359:1983 – Cinematography — Projectable image area on 16 mm motion-picture prints — Dimensions and location
ISO 466:1976 – Cinematography — Image produced by 16 mm motion-picture camera aperture — Position and dimensions

8 mm film became available about ten years after the release of 16 mm and was made to continue the success of home movies. It was created by cutting 16 mm film in half, giving it an elongated 80 frames per foot. Commercially it was given use for cartoons, news, and comedies that were sold to families for home entertainment, such as Charlie Chaplin films. 8 mm film standards include:

ISO 28:1976 – Cinematography — Camera usage of 8 mm Type R motion-picture film — Specifications
ISO 1700:1988 – Cinematography — 8 mm Type S motion-picture raw stock film — Cutting and perforating dimensions
ISO 3773:1983 – Cinematography — Tape splices for 8 mm Type S motion-picture film for projector use — Dimensions

8 mm and 16 mm Standards]
16 mm and 8 mm film became popular for home and amateur movies

70 mm film was adopted by Hollywood in the Fifties and Sixties, back when there was concern placed on the potential losses that would be suffered due to the advent of home television. 70 mm film was ideal because its frames were significantly larger than 35 mm, and its quality was far better than anything was in the time, with current restorations coming in at 8,000 pixels, much greater than the 2,000 pixels of today’s average theater film. It was used to project big epics and productions like Lawrence of Arabia. However, due to the larger size of 70 mm cameras and the technology that is used to film and project them, their usage can be incredibly expensive. For example, a recent restoration of Lawrence of Arabia cost roughly $71,000 to make just one copy. 70 mm standards include:

ISO 3023:1995 – Cinematography — 65 mm and 70 mm unexposed motion-picture film — Cutting and perforating dimensions
ISO 8395:1995 – Cinematography — Test films for the reproduction of 70 mm motion-picture release prints with magnetic stripes — Specifications
ISO 8590:1994 – Cinematography — Audio records on 70 mm motion-picture release prints with magnetic stripes — Recorded characteristic

One of the main advantages of projecting in 70 mm film is that the resulting width of the screen makes it ideal for IMAX films. However, for this purpose 70 mm has now been almost completely displaced by digital capture and distribution, since a 35 mm film can be easily digitally remastered for IMAX in high resolution. In fact, digital has almost completely taken over the film industry. While it was initially costly to switch from film to digital in the early Twenty-First Century, movie theaters now tend to favor it because they do not have to deal with damaged film and the challenge of projecting one film in multiple theaters. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, 88 percent of cinemas have made the switch to digital. Digital cinematography standards include:

ISO 26428-1:2008 – Digital cinema (D-cinema) distribution master – Part 1: Image characteristics
ISO 26428-2:2008 – Digital cinema (D-cinema) distribution master – Part 2: Audio characteristics
ISO 26428-11:2011 – Digital cinema (D-cinema) distribution master – Part 11: Additional frame rates
ISO 26431-1:2008 – Digital cinema (D-cinema) quality – Part 1: Screen luminance level, chromaticity and uniformity

35 mm Film Projector
35 mm film projectors are rarely used today

However, the use of 35 mm has not completely diminished in the film industry. In 2014, 34 movies released in theaters were shot on 35 mm, but many were not distributed in it. Film seems to occasionally be the medium of choice from the combination of sentiment and the desire to harness some of the key advantages that come from its use, such as the enhanced colors and signature grain that has been lost in digital. In addition, shooting on film can allow filmmakers to properly convey a mood of the past for motion pictures that take place during the Twentieth Century. They just need the money in their budgets for it.

There has also been criticism and opposition from particular filmmakers who believe that their movies should be released in film, and that not doing so has been harmful to the industry. For example, Quentin Tarantino decided that his film The Hateful Eight would be released on 70 mm at 100 different venues. This was costly for the theaters, many of which ran into technical problems during projection. However, this could be the first step needed to mark a return back to widespread use of film.

Whichever stock is chosen to shoot and distribute a movie, it will need to adhere to one of the standard formats that are addressed in these specifications. In addition to the aforementioned standards, there are many other different cinematography standards on the ANSI Webstore covering guidelines related to the creation and release of film and digital videos and movies. 

Share this blog post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.