Tuesday, 17 November 2009

FAQs about cinema projection.

It's all on DVDs and that now, isn't it?

Nope. We still mainly use 35mm prints, which come broken into about 5-8 reels and must be spliced (sellotaped) together into one glorious whole. Each print is about 10,000 feet long, and we have to run it onto a big platter (like a turn-table)before it goes through the projector.

If it goes well, it looks like this:

If it goes badly, it looks like this:

Do you get to just watch films all the time?

Not all the time. We are supposed to watch films before they go in front of the baying mob, ostensibly to make sure that they aren't buggered up in some way, but we are also supposed to check each and every projector regularly when they are running public shows. This leads to a situation where projectionists usually find themselves watching films in small segments here and there, spoiling pretty much every film for themselves, and losing faith in the engrossing capability of narrative cinema. It's kind of like channel hopping, if you had to walk thirty yards to hop to the next channel.

You have to run all the projectors?

Usually you have one projectionist on a shift at a time, depending on the size of the cinema. At a smaller site, it's rare to have multiple projectionists on at once, and when you do, it leads to a "too-many-cooks" type of problem. Putting two or more projectionists in a room together is like starting a knitting circle. For nerds.

Do you get to watch films for free?

I do. Most cinemas offer free tickets to staff as a perk, but projectionists have the extra advantage of actually getting paid to watch films in the aforementioned "print-checks". It is part of our job to make sure a film is suitable for public viewing. Sadly, this is mostly a technical assessment, so my protests at the unsuitability of "Twilight" for any sentient audience largely fell on deaf ears.

Can you get me in to watch films for free?

No. Piss off and get your own menial job with strangely in-demand benefits.

What film did you project today?

All of them. ALL OF THEM.

Can you splice single frames of pornography into family films?

Theoretically, yes. If you happen to have a 35mm print of a hairy-hand flick, I could quite easily chop a frame out of it and sellotape it into the latest Disney blockbuster. I don't believe, however, that this would go unnoticed, as 1/24 of a second is just enough time for your brain to process an image, so only really slow, thicky-types would not acknowledge a subliminally presented twelve-foot-high cock.

Is there much training required?

No. A drunken amputee monkey could do my job with enough practice. It does help to have an aversion to natural light, an isolationist attitude and a powerful singing voice, though.


  1. Can you post some more pictures of 'gone bad' reels?

  2. Excellent FAQ Mr Mass. However, since I spend so long in velour seats I still have questions on my list of "things I need to ask a projectionist if I ever met one"...like, from your viewpoint behind your little window have you ever spotted the glowing screen of a real life pirate...arrgghhh?

    So glad my suspicion about you running back and forth between screens was correct. I am still scarred by a film throwing a wobbly in The Green Mile right at the point where a bad man was being badly friend in old Sparky. We all must have sat and watched it for several minutes, over and over again, until the projectionist presumably wound the film back onto it's reel and made us watch it one last time.

    Ta for the info.
    Ms So So Jeans

  3. Ms So So: We have not had a piracy incident in my cinema so far. We've had a few suspicious types, but nothing incriminating as yet.