This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Picture Perfect

As anyone who reads this blog knows: I believe in learning new things ~ things that are both fascinating and frightening at the same time. Film projection is one of those things.

TCM and AMC were my film "discovery" channels. Like a big dork, I used to watch documentaries about film preservation and the digitally remastering process for old films. It was a painstaking process, sometimes taking years-- as was the case with The Wizard Of Oz, but it was fascinating that it could be done and there were people willing to do it. Seventy years later, the technicolor in The Wizard Of Oz is now as rich and layered as it was upon its first viewing-- enough that I can actually see the texture of the burlap on the scarecrow's face!

In concept, I'd love to have a hand in film preservation-- but in reality, I'd go bat-crazy if I just sat in a little room, digitally removing dust for hours. Instead, I turned to the "fascinating and frightening" prospect of film projection. Since the rest of the industry has been slow, I'm now working part-time as a projectionist. After some spits and starts (and lots and lots of threading practice,) my projectionist status became official.

Doing projection for a larger movie house takes patience, attention to detail, time management, and a lot of hustling from projector to projector. When you're sitting in the movie theatre, do you ever think about the little person behind the theatre? No, it's not the Wizard Of Oz, it's me: the projectionist. Your movie doesn't just magically show up on the screen-- I have to put it up there.

Where I work, we have 16 screens which I split up with another working projectionist. During a typical shift, I thread up and start anywhere from 24 to 32 films. The fascinating part is that from this LONG stream of individual photographs, the projector and I can make your movie happen like magic. The frightening part is that a lot can go wrong very easily: If I don't thread the film with the soundtrack facing a certain way, your movie won't have audio. It could also jump off its sprockets, be out of frame, out of focus, get scratched, have garbled or muffled sound, or somehow end up spilled onto the floor like spaghetti. The movie could get also get tangled up at the source (aka a "brain wrap,") at which point an alarm goes off {hopefully}, all hell breaks lose... and your movie stops dead in its tracks.

And then, for a few moments I'm no longer fascinated, I'm just plain frightened, but at the end of the day, the show will go on. And as you settle into your chair with a popcorn tub on your lap, magic will appear to happen.

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle
Photo credits: flickr/the42ndfl00r, flickr/maraid, flickr/vemsteroo

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