Saturday, 13 March 2010

The Other Sound

What is that sound?

No, not the constant clatter of endlessly motoring mechanism. That's been there for so long as to be barely noticable. No, there is another sound; cutting through the silence masked by the machines. A wrong sound. A sound that does not belong.

Sometimes the other sound can be a squeak, like the endlessly repetitive chirping of some harridan bird pecking incessantly at the cranium. Or maybe a single, heart-stopping clunk as the machines splutter into morning life after the inertia of night. Perhaps an otherworldly, ear-piercing shriek will cry out as a switch is pushed too far.

But no. Today the other sound is something different. It is somehow more wrong, more other, than any before. A grating, growling harmony to the usual cacophonous clatter draws toward its source.

Where is it coming from?

From one of the many, endlessly spinning wheels? They do squeak so! But no, this sound is not from the wheels.

Is it from one of the smaller machines? The compressor? The carousels? No, their noise is intermittent at worst, not constant like this.

Could it be one of the machines themselves? A cold dread grips as realisation dawns.

The fourth machine.

Approaching, it becomes apparent that the sound is coming from somewhere in the vicinity of the fourth machine.

But what is it?

The fourth machine is running as usual, but the wrong sound still sneaks out.

Then stops.

Was it there?

Is it still?


Nothing but the chatter of the machines.

Turning away, of course the other sound begins again. As if mocking any attempt to discover the source of its emenation. Dread is too weak a word now. Moving closer it is apparent...

The sound is coming from inside the machine...

There's no way I can stop it.

I just work here.

I sigh and think: "We don't get that shit from the digital one", before wandering off to do summat else, safe in the knowledge that the other sound will eventually blend in to the backdrop of mechanical rattling I have become so accustomed to.

And, if the sound is a bad sound, maybe the machine will stop working. Then the booth will be 25% more quiet.


  1. That's it. Don't worry about it and eventually it will go away or not matter. Good thinking, Batman.

  2. I don't tend to hear any crazy-making mechanical sounds when I'm hugging trees or kissing bushes.
    BTW, I recognized your response to my question in the coffee shop as the best.
    I'm following you too. Be warned.

  3. Tina: That's my approach to most things in life.

    Robyn: Nature has it's own selection of other sounds though, I bet. Cheers for following and for warning me!

    Cheers for comments!

  4. Used to run projectors myself a bunch of years back. I miss the drone of those machines sometimes. Watch out for brainwraps.

  5. eek. Although I personally find no sound more horrid than the quiet trickle that lets you know another small child has just peed himself. (Never work in childcare, for your own sanity)

  6. Where do you project? By which I mean where do you work, not on what surface do you project, obviously.

    I used to work as an usher hundreds of years ago and was always fascinated by the gubbins in the booths.

    Are digital projectors really that good? I've seen a couple of digitally projected films where the image has frozen for a few seconds with a horrendous digital equivalent of a record scratching. It's awful.

    Anyway, as an aside, I like your blog. It's well good and stuff innit.

  7. Earl: Damn those brainwraps! Just recently we've had a bit of trouble with people leaving bits of tape stuck to prints, so that's always fun.

    Sugar: If you hear that sound in the projection booth, it means YOU'VE peed yourself. It has happened.

    Suit: I don't want to be specific incase THEY are reading. I work for a major UK cinema chain and work on a site in the north of England.

    Digital projectors are a lot less prone to fault than 35mm and leave less margin for human error, but they are not infallible. The main thing is that they are almost entirely automated, give a sharper image and make a lot less noise!

    Cheers for comments, everyone!

  8. Mr Mass,

    Nice blog! Perhaps you can answer the question Mr Suit failed to answer. Why do projectionists shut the curtains when resizing the screen between trailers and the main film? I'm trying to remember if that happens in chain cinemas now as well as little arthouse cinemas?

    Anyway, can you help?
    Ms So So Jeans

    PS I always try to sit at the back of the cinema and love the comforting sound of the projector tick over,hold back the digital!

  9. Ms So So: We don't do that at our cinema, but I imagine it would be simply so the audience doesn't actually see the scope-change on screen or summat.

    We get round it by having a length of black film which runs through the projector as the lenses switch, meaning the screen is just blackness for the change-over. Dunno if that makes any sense?

  10. Mr Mass,

    Thank you for your answer. Isn't the overhead of closing the little curtains would be worse than the horror of witnessing the "scope-change". I'm not complaining, I like the swooshing of the curtains, make it feel like the main event is about to start...

    Now, since you were so helpful, I have another question if you don't mind? Do you get to sit in your projection room for the whole film? I wondered if the chains in particular make you run between two or three films at once? I guess that I assumed that if they have removed the ushers that stop the neds from throwing popcorn and chatting on their mobiles (I'm a quiet cinema nazi I'm afraid) they might try and make you multi-task as well? I like most people I assume have no idea what goes on behind the little window and I'm intrigued.....

    Ms So So Jeans

  11. Ms So So: To satiate your wonderfully inquisitive mind, why not check out my FAQ about projection:

    Anything you still want to know after that, feel free to ask!