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TOPIC: Projection booth beeps, bloops and blunders

Projection booth beeps, bloops and blunders 18 May 2006 12:49 #22361

  • jukingeo
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Hello all!

As you already know from my previous posts here and elsewhere on this site, I am looking purchase a theatre for live acts, but this theatre also handles movies. Unfortunately I do not know much about movies, much less the goings on in the projection booth. It took me a while to find out what projectors I would have! From what I have seen, upon my initial examination of the projection booth of this theatre, it appears that alot can go wrong in in the projection booth...even more so than what I would normally experience with live acts.

So what I am doing is creating a rather whimsical topic that would entertain as well as teach. What I would like to know is what do you do (or what have you done) when Murphy's Law entered the projection booth, and things went POP! BANG! BOOM! PLOP! and KERPLEWY. Please be specific about system was affected, what happened, and how did you deal with it, and most of all what measures did you take to prevent it from happening again. I am mostly interested in classic reel changes set ups...but since this is a whimsical topic as well. Let's hear all those stories. I want to hear about bulbs going dead in the most opportune moment, reels just popping off, film all over the projection booth floor, missed reel changes, and the all time classic case of the film getting stuck and burning a hole through a frame! (Gee, I think I just opened a can of worms with this one!).

I am going to sit back and enjoy this one!
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Re: Projection booth beeps, bloops and blunders 19 May 2006 00:16 #22362

  • Ken Layton
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Kodak has a projection training program as well as providing information instructional materials.
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Re: Projection booth beeps, bloops and blunders 19 May 2006 10:31 #22363

  • John Pytlak
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Although the Kodak ScreenCheck training program still is presented occasionally, it is usually on a contract basis with theatre circuits, rather than generally available. All of the "Film Notes for Reel People" training materials are in the "manuals" section of Film-Tech.

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Cell: +1 585-781-4036 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
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Re: Projection booth beeps, bloops and blunders 19 May 2006 12:56 #22364

  • rodeojack
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To expect a projection room to be the root of all evil is admitting that there's a place in your theatre that you really don't understand. Abnormally high (and creative) problems are usually the result of a lack of understanding.

Anyone who's been in this business more than a couple of weeks will have at least one story about something interesting that happened to him/her in the booth. In your early career, most of those stories will be about something stupid that YOU did, because you didn't have enough experience to really know what you were doing. After awhile, the "stupid" stories will be exchanged for things like "last night, I lost a diode in the middle of Pluto Nash, and it was total pandemonium in my auditorium".

In reality, a well-maintained booth is more reliable than the air conditioner on your roof (if you have one). It's not fair to expect a projection room to be the center of all things that go wrong. If you take care of your machinery, have it (including your sound equipment) calibrated periodically, vacuum the dust out now and then & clean your port glass before it becomes opaque, you'll probably spend more time fixing your popcorn machine and lawn mower than you will anything in the booth.
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Re: Projection booth beeps, bloops and blunders 21 May 2006 19:12 #22365

  • jukingeo
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Hello guys...Why so 'serious'? This was supposed to be a whimsical topic. But it sounds like most projectionists are supposed to be 'perfect' and never an incident happens in the projection booth.

RODEOJACK---I never mentioned that the projection booth was the root of all evil. I was just curious as to those that have encountered a problem and what they did to over come it. Yes, you are right, I don't know anything about movies. I really am purchasing the theatre for live shows. Initially I was even going to rip all the movie gear out and turn the projection booth into an audio/lighting control booth. But after I saw all the wonderful old equipment...still running in perfect shape, I immediately figured I could benefit more from it's existance than pull it out. The projectors and support equipment, while facinating, are greek to me. I just created this topic for fun, and perhaps there could be something I could pick up here or there. Something to watch out for. I do apologize if I had offended anyone in here with this topic, it was not my intention to do so.

MODERATORS- You can shut this down or even remove this topic entirely as it appears to be doing the opposite of what I intended to.
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Re: Projection booth beeps, bloops and blunders 21 May 2006 23:01 #22366

  • rodeojack
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I'm not sure anyone should take this so seriously that the thread needs to be locked... and I wasn't directing my comments at you specifically. It's just my opinion about the overall concept... that's all.

I've had many people look at the booth as being somewhat intimidating. I once leased a theatre from a lady, who was well-qualified in all aspects of the theatre's operations... except the booth. Understandably, the projectionist got every raise he demanded. Eventually, the lady got tired of his extortion, retired and shut the place down.

There was a time, when leaving a booth undattended was the last thing a real projectionist would ever do. This was taken to such an extreme that many union booths had toilets installed in them. I've worked at/been to several drive-ins that had back doors leading into the men's room. Guess there weren't many women in the booth back then... would have been interesting to have tested discrimination in those days.
Nowadays, while I don't run my place this way, it's not uncommon to see multi-screen booths with nobody in them. This has to be a testament to the overall reliability of booth equipment as a whole, including the film itself.

We run our booth with a fairly set routine. That makes it less likely to overlook the steps that need to be taken to ensure a smooth show. In our particular case, we have leaders that allow us to pre-roll the machines for about 20 seconds or so before stopping at the cue-point... a function that our system expects and executes automatically. That alone eliminates a lot of the start-up problems that can occur.

Past that, it really is just a matter of good maintenance. Properly adjusting platters so they won't toss prints (those that can in the first place), keeping the machines clean & lubed, opening the lamps once in awhile to check for dust & tight contacts... Common sense stuff like that really takes most of the drama out of the booth, & puts it where it belongs... as an ingredient (though an important one) in the total product.
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Re: Projection booth beeps, bloops and blunders 22 May 2006 13:25 #22367

  • John Pytlak
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I think some of the codes that require toilet facilities in the projection room date back to the days of flammable nitrate film, when skilled projectionists HAD to be present in the booth at all times, in case the film caught on fire.

All Kodak print film has been "safety film" since the early 1950's.

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Cell: +1 585-781-4036 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Customer Technical Services
Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion
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Re: Projection booth beeps, bloops and blunders 22 May 2006 16:26 #22368

  • BECKWITH1
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Sorry, I know that this was not the intent of this thread but I'm sure you will enjoy this story. In the days before we owned our own theater, my spouse was projectionist at a small town twin which had been split front to back so that the back theater had the original projection booth. The projection room had a lot of character, not only was it painted deep blue so that it was difficult to see well in there, but it had a toilet set up within a couple of feet of the door directly behind the projectors. Given the preceeding discussion that is not really unusual, but.. the ladies room for this twin theater was located inside this same back theater and up about 6 steps. The projection booth door was just to the left at the top of the stairs while the ladies room was straight ahead. Imagine my husbands' embarrassment when he once returned to his booth and found a lady sitting on his toilet inside the projection room with the projectors running. I don't know how she got in as the booth was locked and the sign on the door was marked private but perhaps the door didn't close completely.
This was also the booth which sparked a fire in the changeover mechanism once resulting in lots of smoke. The theater was evacuated and the fire department was called in although the fire was out before they got there.
Unfortunately, this twin is now closed due to a big 16 plex which opened in the same town some years ago. Did I mention that it was haunted too?....
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Re: Projection booth beeps, bloops and blunders 25 May 2006 08:19 #22369

  • jukingeo
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Hello all,

Ok, NOW we are getting somewhere. I don't know for some reason I checked back here and I was pleasently surprised.

RODEOJACK--The only reason why I wanted the thread locked was because it seemed it it was being taking the wrong way. I know when it comes down to business that a tightly run and well maintained projection booth will minimize problems and I understand why you are driving that point home. But still, I am sure even with the best run of booths that s--t happens when Murphy comes along. Even so, in some cases when you look back on a mishap, sometimes you just have to laugh. So that was what I was aiming at. AND being a newbie, perhaps I can pick up a thing or two to look for (or avoid) the same situation happening to me. Moving on...I don't view the booth as intimidating...in fact it looks fairly straight forward. But there is a somewhat overwhelming factor to learing how to operate everything. In this case it would seem the greatest mishap that can occur (outside of true equipment failure) is a missed reel change. I never knew how it was done, but the projectionist showed me and it is for the most part and automated procedure...just keep your eye on the dot in the right hand corner
.

Getting back to the presence of a toilet in the projection booth. At first I did laugh when I saw this especially since the bowl is just 'there'. There are no walls around it, but there is a sink next to it. There was a small curtain that the projectionist could pull around, but the front was for the most part open and was in direct line of site with one of the large windows that look into the auditorium. But when I was done laughing I realized that this was a good thing as Rodeojack pointed out, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to leave the booth for any length of time...especially since this is an older system.

BECKWITH1

<<Claps>> NOW THIS is what I intended for this post. GREAT story! That actually could be a real situation in this theatre too as being a traditional theatre the main bathrooms are on the balcony level. The projectionists booth is right between the mens and ladies entrances. But those entrances are opposite each other and are very well marked. The projection both has a deadbolt type lock on it as well, so no one can 'intrude' when one needs to do business other than working the projectors. But should the projectionist leave...the door is unlocked. But it is labeled private. However, with a hallway that is ivory colored, there is a good amount of light there that the projectionist's booth could not be mistaken for a public rest room. Still the very real situation exists that if the projectionist didn't lock the door, the equipment is noisy enough that someone can come up the stairs and catch you on the throne undetected. Of course I am mainly referring to male/female encounter.

The good thing though is that the offices are on the first floor and the balcony is not really used for movies, but it is for live shows. But otherwise that situation would be highly unlikly as there are bathrooms on the first floor as well and in the past most of the female workers never even been up to the projection booth. But that picture could change if I ever ended up with a female projectionist. That is a very real situation as there are university students that are DYING to work in this place. So I probably will enclose the projectionist's 'bathroom', but have a little window in the door so the projectionist can still look out into the auditorium to keep an eye on things. So thank you for the story BECKWITH1. I have already laughed AND learned something from your story...and that is to enclose the projectionist's bathroom.

JG

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