A Projectionist Speaks!

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

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Q: What are those little “black dots” in the right-hand corner of the frame at the end of each reel for?
A: Well, the projectionist USES those to manually switch reels. (Even in the early ’90s, most cineplexes had switched to the “platter”… system, or so I was told; basically, they just splice all the reels together and let ’em run!) When the reel looks like it’s running low on film, you get into position, put your foot on the pedal (like a car accelerator’s pedal; it hooks the two projectors up to one another), and one the first one “blips,” you tense, waiting the five-seconds-or-so for the next one, then … “blip” *KERCHUNK!* You hit the pedal — switching to the other reel, on the other projector, which starts projecting at the screen instead of yours — and, hopefully, the transition is “seemless,” and no-one in the theater is none the wiser.

This happens EVERY TIME there’s a reel change, mind!
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Q: How long are most reels?
A: About 20 min. of screen time. Most features are about 4-6 reels long.
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Q: How’d it go when you had to “show captain” a Sunday matinee screening of “Gettsyburg,” the TNT Mini-Series with Jeff Daniels, which was like 3-4 hrs. long, or about 11-14 reels?
A: We got through it somehow. Nobody complained (thank god!).

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