During my time at university I have had the great fortune of learning how to operate a classic 35mm film projector. The Victoria 5000 projector (which we affectionately nicknamed ‘Vicky’) is an overbearing, loud piece of machinery that squats proudly in the centre of the projection room. During the film when Vicky is in full flow, she resembles a steam train, a powerful juggernaut chugging along at top speed. However, sadly, like the steam train, Vicky is becoming obsolete and will soon be nothing more than a symbol of a past generation.
The digital age of cinema has arrived. The university, keen not to be left behind, has invested in a DCP digital projector. It is sexy and sophisticated with a glossy black finish; a technical supermodel making Vicky look like an old washed-up soccer mom. Though both can work in tandem, the digital projector will rule the roost and claim Vicky’s crown.
Drawing mainly on my experiences with the old 35mm projector and a few from the new digital projector, here are 5 things that I have learned during my time as a film projectionist.
1. Preparing The Film Is A Time Consuming – But Rewarding Process
A film on 35mm format will arrive in separate reels, the number of reels depending on the length of the film. It is the projectionist’s job to splice these reels together in order to make one complete film. This seems like a mundane task involving little mental or physical effort. And it is, but even so, one can’t help but feel some kind of emotional attachment to the film.
After spending a long dreary Sunday afternoon splicing the film together, there is something peculiarly rewarding about seeing the finished product. Forgive me for using this sickeningly sentimental phrase, but I feel as though a part of me is with the film. Even if the film in question happens to be Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1.
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