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Bond director calls on BBC to relax HD 16mm film ban

Bond director Sam Mendes, Steve McQueen, Terry Gilliam and others have called on the BBC to relax guidelines on HD broadcasts, to allow them to use 16mm film. 

The current HD technical guidelines were drawn up by the BBC and other UK broadcasters to guarantee the best picture quality for viewers. These guidelines place a limitation on directors who want to use 16mm film, a lower resolution format.

Directors want the flexibility to be able to shoot in 16mm and Super 16mm film for aesthetic and creative considerations and still have their films broadcast on HD channels. Given some negative reactions to the higher frame rate of The Hobbit in cinemas, it’s understandable that directors will want the freedom to make use of or experiment with older film formats.

Bond director calls on BBC to relax HD 16mm film ban
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The letter, sent to BBC creative director Alan Yentob, retrieved by Broadcast [paywall] reads: “It is our strong view that delivering the image to an audience is a key part the director’s job and universal standards across all genres do not necessarily serve the best interests of the audience. We would therefore like to work with the BBC and other Broadcasters to encourage a more creative environment for the benefit of audiences, broadcasters and industry practitioners.”

As well as Skyfall director Mendes, other signatories of the letter include Kenneth Branagh, Richard Ayoade, Jane Campion and Nic Roeg. 

Yentob has apparently replied to the letter and discussions have begun. Given that HD is fast becoming the new standard definition, it’s possible that we could see the launch of a channel for directors who want to shoot in grainy, lo-fi film. BBC 16mm anyone? 

The BBC’s HD guidelines were introduced when the BBC HD channel – now BBC Two HD – launched in 2006, to ensure that high definition programmes were produced to a minimum standard.

They include a stipulation that no more than 25 per cent of anything qualifying as HD can be standard-definition footage such as archive material or 16mm film.

Update: The Steve McQueen we referred to in our opening paragraph is the director Steve McQueen (Shame, Hunger) who is alive, not the actor Steve McQueen, who is dead. 

Image credit: Flickr user Jay Phagan

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