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Ken Tanaka May 4th, 2002 01:19 AM

Time Magazine: The Death of Film
An interesting, short article on Time's site concerning digital theater conversion.


Chris Hurd May 4th, 2002 10:46 AM

As a former projectionist myself, we weren't unionized (we were just high school kids and college students making a little above minimum wage) but we took great pride in keeping our prints clean. Wiping the gate was a ritual performed many times each night. Prints which came in spliced, dirty and scratched were obviously the result of careless projectionists elsewhere.

Don Donatello May 4th, 2002 01:21 PM

better - good - doesn't matter. bottom line will be the $$. if the BEST won beta would be here not vhs.. films would be shot in 65mm not 35mm ...our tv's would be PAL , we'd all own mercedes not chevy's ...

and WE will not decide. hollywood will decide for US. at the moment the only thing stopping digital projection is the COST . theater owners don't want to foot the BILL ! it's not the quality that is stopping them it's the $$$ ....

"I have run film prints more than 5 times a day for over 4 months straight and there was not a single speck of dirt, dust, or anything on it at the end of its run."

when film is projected it does pick up DUST - no if's ands buts.. on every run as the film runs thru projector from feed reel to take up reel dust that is in the room will land on the film !! and as you say it's whoever is running the film. mistakes happen all the time on splicing ( splice comes undone - print ends up on floor )

i saw the latest digital projection at NAB .. whether it was as good, better image wise doesn't matter as there are tade off's .
in the REAL world today - prints gets scratched, film projectors go slightly out of alignment and have a slight jitter/weave, projectionist don't focus properly, the angle of projector and screen do NOT line up .. all these are FIXABLE BUT over the years most theaters do NOT keep equipment in top shape and the person running projector is serving popcorn & coke between movies. but all that doesn't matter - in the long run digital projection will SAVE the studio/distributor $$$ ....

you will soon see theaters advertising that they have digital projection to get you to come to their theater and not the theater projecting a film print. this advertising will give the impression that digital is BETTER and the masses will buy the line- that is callled MARKETING - and marketing has nothing to do with better/ good / worse ...........

as the article states - CONTROL - the sudio's want to know how many times a day the movie is shown! i have heard this since 1977 when i heard george lucas speak ... back then he wanted to know how many times a day his film was shown and how many person were in theater... i think he'll find out within next decade.

more persons watch movies on their TV 's ( broadcast & renting VHS )then see then projected in theaters ... so far the masses are NOT buying HD -16x9 TV's in the USA

Martin Munthe May 4th, 2002 01:44 PM

I think the best digital projectors produces a better projection compared to the 35mm ones. I recently attended a Sony demo in Europe and think the difference is not in image quality but in the fact that it is very enjoyable to the eyes to watch a perfectly still image without jitter/weave. Also dust and microscratches are a big issue. My first feature shot on 35mm went to telecine from a first print done at Technicolor (N.Y.). We checked the print once on the big screen and then went straight into the filmscanner. One single projection gave it microscratches that are highly apparent in the videoprint. That is the way film behaves. Some like it and calles it a part of the experience. I dislike it and it annoys me. HD is looking great!

Bradley Miller May 4th, 2002 04:38 PM

Donatello made this comment:
"when film is projected it does pick up DUST - no if's ands buts.. on every run as the film runs thru projector from feed reel to take up reel dust that is in the room will land on the film !! and as you say it's whoever is running the film. mistakes happen all the time on splicing ( splice comes undone - print ends up on floor )"

First off, probably only 1% of theaters even use reels to transport film these days. My company specializes in this specifically and we manufacture the #1 best selling film cleaning product in the world and I can absolutely assure you that Joe's comment is NOT a lie or even a tiny exaggeration. My record for running a 35mm film print was 1500 runs and I screened the final performance in it's entirity and it was FLAWLESS. Anyone who thinks this can not be achieved with film is very much uninformed.

Now while I will not argue that MANY theaters do not handle film properly and the comments you made are valid in THOSE situations, but to say that film automatically wears and picks up dirt is sheer ignorance. People damage film, not the film itself. And I might also add that in over 15 years of daily working with film I have NEVER had a splice of mine break or wear. From the sound of it, your past experiences with film were handled by morons. (And no I see no reason to sugarcoat the obvious.)

Martin, you need to fire whoever handled your print that was only ran one time. That is beyond pathetic. Also, those digital vs. 35mm *tests* are incredibly geared toward making digital look better. I am surprised you were fooled.

TI came out to a theater I service to do a DLP vs. film shootoff a couple of years ago and they provided me with what may very well have been the worst condition print I have ever handled. In the end I refused to show it because they were taking source material transferred from the original camera negative directly to their digital format. The print I got of the same program material I was to run side by side with the DLP projector had been ran through multiple film generations and my guess is that they dragged it around the TI parking lot for a few hours to ensure it looked horrible.

But that's not all. They also wanted me to defocus the 4000 watt xenon lamp in the projector to "match our 3000 watt xenon" for a fair brightness test. What they assumed was that no one would notice that they were running a 5000 watt xenon in their DLP projector! I verified this with one of the techs who admitted I was reading their meter correctly and then I was told to not say anything as the TI spokesperson blabbled on about how the projector had a smaller light source behind it! I did not say anything, but I have regretted keeping my mouth shut ever since.

After their demo they packed up while everyone went to lunch and afterwards we screened a 35mm film. It should be no surprise that everyone ended up walking out of there that afternoon saying that the DLP looked really good, but the film looked much better.

Sorry for the rant, but I am so sick of people automatically assuming that digital is always better. In this case, it is not. DLP and similar offshoots have a few more years to go until it reaches the quality level of 35mm film. When that happens, I will gladly switch sides and push digital projection. By the way, I've got some rolls of "digital" toilet paper to sell. Guaranteed to wipe much better because it is digital! Any takers?

Don Donatello May 5th, 2002 08:48 PM

the comment was made "5 times a day for over 4 months straight and there was not a single speck of dirt, dust, or anything on it "

"NOT a SINGLE speck of DUST or anything on i " - - there will be a speck of dust - many specks - i'm not saying that these specks of dust will damage the print or if one would see them - i'm saying there will be specks of dust on the 10- 12,000 ft of film ...

i go to films in berkeley/SF .. i go to films every week ..everyweek i see scratched prints - how they got there i don't know ... i'll say that 75 % of the films i see the prints have scratches on them somewhere .. when i 'm in LA it's the same ... the only time i don't see scratches is when viewing a answer print ...

"but I am so sick of people automatically assuming that digital is always better" ...

i don't hear them saying it is BETTER , i think it is as martin stated digital makes "better projection " - the whole experience, take all the elements of sitting there in theater ..

i bet this is sort of what was discussed back in the days when the train or auto was invented and all those connected to HORSE transportion was taking they'll never replace the horse/wagon ?? no flys in horse stall if you keep em clean , hay is cheaper then gas , auto can go off road, horse will out run auto ...

i think digital will be SOLD to the public as better = marketing -i'm not saying it is better only that marketing will sell it as better - marketing doesn't care if it's better ..it's NEW - different -

IMO every digital projection vs. film that i've seen - FILM has looked better .. they have always had prints with no scratches ... infact i'll say the prints are prestine and are special color corrected runs - they are NOT what you see in the theaters ( print that went thru IP, dupe neg , print process) they are usually right off the original NEG ..

theaters do NoT pay when they damage a print .. we never got 1500 runs out of a print... from our 6 prints ( 35MM) i usally started seeing scratches after around 175 runs then down hill from there

" DLP and similar offshoots have a few more years to go until it reaches the quality level of 35mm film"

YES ? AND ? - you're missing the point - DLP doesn't have to reach the quality of film before it goes into theaters ! read the article even the yellow GOD ( kodak) is offering to HELP theaters lease projectors and they will keep them updated to newest technology! that is KODAK the company that makes the print film for all those theaters prints ... kodak sees the writing on the screen

Bradley Miller May 5th, 2002 09:15 PM


Let me put it this way, YES...NO VISIBLE DIRT WHATSOEVER! Not even the slightest scratch! Not even a thousand or more runs down the road does this happen when professional projectionists are handling the film. I am not kidding or exaggerating. Yes with your run-of-the-mill *typical* 35mm projection the film does get dirty and scratched, but with PROPER film cleaning and handling the film DOES NOT degrade whatsoever.

You're going to have to trust me on this, for as this is a video forum, the only member who can back up that statement is Joe Redifer who I have personally worked with in a projection booth and I can assure you that Joe knows the RIGHT way to handle motion picture film, and apparently you do not believe him either.

I wish I could say that berkeley/SF was a good place to see films presented properly, but according to your report, that just isn't the case. I'll bet if you were to inquire to the projectionists there how they clean their films they will say that they don't *or* they use something called PTR rollers, which are a joke if you are serious about keeping that film pristine for hundreds upon hundreds of runs.

Chris Hurd May 5th, 2002 10:57 PM

Actually I can back up Brad's statement as well. As a former projectionist myself, I have handled hundreds and hundreds of 35mm prints that left our theater just as good if not better than the shape they came in. If we received a new print, it went out just as good as new. This was all over the city, too, which was Manhattan, Kansas back in the '80's. We were just kids really, most of us were still in high school, but we were managed by a curmudgeonly old RCA sound engineer by the name of Charles Speckman who ruled our booths with an iron fist, and woe to the boy who did not wipe the gate. That was back in the day before platters, when we still ran on reels and had to do change-overs manually. I could write a book about those days but long story short, a print left our theaters looking better than we got it, and if it was new, it looked as good as new even after two to four shows per day for eight weeks on end, because we kept things *clean.* Not every booth op worked that way but we did.

Don Donatello May 5th, 2002 11:27 PM

between brad , joe and chris i'm sold - next time we have in a theater run i'll fly joe or brad in to take a look at the projection room before hand etc.. in the long run it would save us $$ not having to make a new print.

it's been a good conversation. i always look at these like we are sitting in a cafe having a discussion over tea/coffee.

anybody going to showbiz expo in LA ??

Chris Hurd May 5th, 2002 11:30 PM

Coffee, please. ShowBiz? Check your e-mail!

Martin Munthe May 6th, 2002 09:06 AM

There seem to be a lot of skilled technicians on this forum. Too bad you don't work my local theatres. Perhaps a mixture of digital and analog would be the solution. A few top projectionist theatres and digital in all of those houses that know nothing of projection (the majority). Perhaps we can agree on the fact that a digital projection is better than the worst 35mm projections (the majority) but not at all better than the best ones? That way we would raise the over all standard of big screen viewing. :-)

Because of louzy cineplexes around where I live I prefer watching movies at home on a 32"/100Hz/16x9 monitor and great stereo (5.1 coming soon). My own home provide me with cinematic experience I can't get at the local theatre. Too bad.

Chris Hurd May 6th, 2002 11:02 AM

I'm the opposite... I like the communal experience of going to the movies in a big theater with a lot of people. I like comfortable stadium seating, big screens and loud sound, and a fellow audience.

I think Donatello's comments earlier relate the sad fact that unfortunately there *is* some lousy projection happening, and the skill and craft of the projectionist is becoming a lost art. Scratched and dirty prints are way too easy to find. In a lot of theaters, the projectors are started by assistant managers with many other things on their minds, unfortunately.

As Brad and Joe and I have pointed out, it doesn't have to be that way. A little care goes a long, long way. I just wish there were more folks working the booth like these guys.

Bill Ravens May 6th, 2002 11:18 AM

all things being equal, if it can be screwed up, it will be.....just Murphy's unyielding, tireless law. Given this basic truth, I can understand why a major studio would go digital. not only will it eventually be cheaper...but, it eliminates a whole gamut of potential screw-ups by pimple faced children who run these places. unfortunately, the day of the skilled craftsman is waning in everything including projectionists.

Chris Hurd May 6th, 2002 11:31 AM

Well, I think it's only a matter of education. I was a pimple-faced kid when I ran projectors and we took care of our prints. Joe and Brad are unfortunately of a breed that is getting rare. I like Joe's idea of offering a consulting service to the theaters. Hmm, surely there's a market for that, Joe?

Bradley Miller May 6th, 2002 02:50 PM

In my opinion, those pimple-faced kids make the best new projectionists. I know that sounds crazy, but unless they are someone like Joe, getting people who are pre-trained usually means from the "old school" thought process and 9 times out of 10 they put on the kind of presentation that donatello was describing. When I get some 16 year old kid who has never touched film a day in his life, I show him the right way to do things from the get go and he does it that way because he doesn't know there is any other way to do it. So hey, next time you see some young kid in the booth, don't discount the presentation until the picture hits the screen. It just might be the best presentation you've ever seen.

I would agree though that I would rather watch a DLP presentation than a poor film presentation. Fortunately there are enough GOOD theaters around here that I don't have to.

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