Shooting: Film

There are a great many types of film stock available, each with different sensitivity, tonality and texture of grain. Before you invest in any large amount of film be sure to test the stock to make sure it’s what you want. Most companies will give you a discount on stock and/or processing if you tell them you’re doing a test.

The two main companies that make film stock are Fuji and Kodak - both their websites give you an idea of films that have been shot using each film type. Both these manufacturers have a representative who deals with independent productions / short films / artists’ films who might be able to point you in the direction of other cheaper stockists, companies that handle recans or short ends of their stock. Some companies may even give you out of date stock for free (the exposure and tonality could be affected). It is always worth stating the nature of the production (an artist’s project) as most companies are open to negotiation of a beneficial deal or discount.

Film is sold in a range of lengths (measured in feet). 16mm is sold in 100 ft rolls (lasting around 2.5 mins) and 400 foot rolls (lasting around 10 mins). Film stock also varies in the amount of light it requires to be properly exposed. High-speed stock, indicated with T or F stop of 400-500, is very sensitive needing minimal light (good for shooting in low light conditions). Low-speed stock, with a T or F stop of 100-200, is less sensitive and needs more light (good for shooting in well lit situations). The film speed also effects the grain of the stock. Generally the higher the film speed the more grainy the film is.

Common types of film gauge:

Super 8mm

The standard format of 8mm film stock and the narrowest gauge available.

Standard 16mm

Film stock perforated on both side with a standard aspect ratio of 1:1.33

Super 16mm

Film stock perforated on one side allowing you to expose the film to the absolute edge of the frame. Super 16 yields about 40% greater image area giving you the possibility of a widescreen aspect ration of 1.185.


The standard film stock for feature films.

Common types of stock:


Negative Stock

Standard film stock. Once exposed the stock will be processed and used as a negative. You will then need to make a positive print to project (although it’s common to telecine the negative and not get a print till the edit is completed).

Reversal Stock

Reversal stock (most common for super 8mm). This stock once exposed is processed to make a positive print. Shooting with reversal stock means you will not get a negative.


Stock balanced for shooting under natural light.

Tungsten Balanced

Balanced stock for shooting under tungsten light. Made for with artificial light.



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Details of both camera hire companies and film stock suppliers can be found via the Film London Directory. See: 'Camera and Grip Equipment' or 'Film/Video Stock and Laboratories'.

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