Welcome to this projectionist training. Normally the information you see below is what would be covered during the first morning of the training course. I would normally introduce myself and give you a bit of background to why I am qualified to stand in front of you and talk about projectors. You are luck as you are reading this, so I will let you decide if you wish to read my background here. So, the first thing to see is a film which was made to celebrate the first 100 years of cinema. This is shown, to introduce to you the rich culture of cinema and to get you in the mood for what you are trying to achieve:



Outline for Weekend

  • Objective
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Health and Safety
  • Setting Up
  • Principles of Projection
  • Lacing the projector
  • Running the projector
  • Sound
  • Presentation


It is a very simple objective, which is to give you enough knowledge and experience to run the two Flix films on Sunday evening, obviosloy under supervision, but it will be you who is responsible for making the screening at Flix happen.


Health and Safety

While you are reading this, it is worth just mentioning that dreaded phrase “Health and Safety”. It is worth noting that it is widely considered that if film projection equipment was invented today that it would be banded for being to dangerous, as there are lots of moving parts and protential for injury. However, if you listen to the instruction you are given and do as you are told in terms of operating the equipment you will be safe.

So onto the real reason for this:

Background Information & How it all Works

Just to give you some context, this is what Flix use to look like when it was in the Students’ Union before it became Room One and Flix moved over to the Cope:

This image below, shows you some of the equipment and the setup which we previously had in Flix before the move, you will see that compare to what we have now, it is considerable less sophisticated.


Attention Detail

So the thing about being a good projectionist, is the ability to have an attention to detail, as you will be looking making sure that the image is in focus, the sound is correct  and that the projector is working correctly. Below are two images, you need to have a look at the two images and see if you can find the FIVE differences:



To see the answers, please click here.

Problem Solving

One of the other key things which I have learnt over my years of being a projectionist, is the ability to problem solve in order to resolve issues, especially in Flix and other places where you may not always have the backup of others to relie on, for this reason below is another challenge for you. What you have to do below is to join all nine of the dots using four continuous straight lines, where the end of one line ends the next needs to start.

To do this challenge, go to this link and follow the instructions, and then reveal the answer.

Projection Equipment

Flix, has a 35mm Cinemmacina Victoria 5 projector, with a Westrex Tower and a CP500 sound processor, which is the sort of setup that you would have found in most cinemas across the world until they went over digital.

Film Gauges

Over the years there have been a whole range of differnet film gauges which have existed, for a whole number of reasons. One of the main reasons for the variety in film gauges was around patients. Eventually however, we have ended up with a handful of different sizes.


There are six main ones which you should be aware of:


8mm, Super 8mm (this was the mainly used by ameatuer users, a is the equavalent of those people perhaps used VHS or mobile phones for making films in later years).

9.5mm which was very popular in France and is unique in that it has the sprocket whole in the middle of the film, in between the frames.

16mm, a semi-professional gauge, and one which was mainly used by television companies, the BBC archives are full of cans of film. This was still used for transmitting from right up into the 1990s and it was only with the introduction of HD a few years ago.

35mm, the main film gauge which was used right across the world as the professional standard which was used for well over 100 years. It became the standard which means that the same copy of the film could be used anywhere in the world.

70mm, a much more rare film gauge, was a much better image than 35mm (as the orgination is twice the size and thus you are not increasing the size so much). It was most popular in the 60s and into the 70s but was much more expensive to produce and show than 35mm and so didn’t really get established.



How does film sound work?

Film Soundtracks are printed onto the film in an area of the film which will not be shown on the screen. These soundtracks are then read by a special sound reader as they pass through the projector.

Sound readers emit light onto the soundtrack. A light sensor allows the reader to detect the darker areas, and these are then turned into sound by the cinema sound processor. The processor then sends the sound to the amplifiers, which in turn send the sound to the cinema speakers.

Sound Formats

There are a number of different common sound formats which you might encounter, and it is important to be able to recognise them. Soundtracks are broadly divided into analogue (also called optical) and digital soundtracks.

Analogue soundtracks are printed onto the film next to the image as sound waves – graphical “pictures” of the sound. Digital soundtracks look more like white noise, the sort of thing you would see on a mis-tuned television.

Common Film Sound Formats

Mono : When movies with sound were first invented, they were limited to a single ‘channel’ of sound. Today we refer to this as ‘Mono’ sound. Mono sound means that all of the sound is un-separated, so there are no stereo effects.

Dolby A : Also known as Dolby Stereo, this format allows separation of Left, Right, Centre and subwoofer channel sound. This means that sounds can be made to only come from one channel, or can be split unevenly across the channels. This sounds better and more realistic, as sounds for things happening on the left hand side of the picture will come from the left hand speakers etc.

Dolby SR: Dolby SR is a newer and improved form of Dolby Stereo and all modern films use it for their soundtracks. Dolby SR gives better sound than Dolby A.

Dolby Digital: Dolby Digital is the most common digital sound format in cinemas today. It allows sound to be separated between Left, Centre, Right, Left Surround, Right Surround and subwoofer channels. The extra surround sound channels mean that sound can appear to come from all around the audience, resulting in very realistic sound.

DTS : Digital Theatre Sound is an alternative form of Digital surround sound. Unlike Dolby Digital the sound is not printed onto the film but rather a time-code is printed which is used to synchronise with digital sound played back from two CDs. Sound channel separation is identical to Dolby Digital.

SDDS : Another form of digital cinema sound, SDDS also provides digital surround sound. It works in a very similar manner to Dolby Digital but is used in far fewer cinemas.

Optical (Mono, Dolby A, OR Dolby SR, DTS, SDDS, Dolby Digital)




Inside the Projector

This film, helps to show what the inside of a  projector looks like and how it is made up, especially as it is not something which we are able to do during this training course, or in general at Flix.

and this video, specifically looks at the Maltase Cross which is the main way in which a film projector works and how we are able to see the moving pictures on the screen:

Cue Dots

Before there was long play systems in cinemas such as Platters/cakestands or towers, such we have here in Flix, it was necessary to switch from one projector to another and back again. This process was known as changeovers, and is a skill which has largely died out; largely because it is only preview theatres and art houses which use the changeover process any more.

As it was the same set of film reels which are sent to a cinema using changeover equipment as long play systems, where there is no overlap in the films – i.e the end of one reel is not repeated on the beginning of the next one, it is necessary to ‘cue’ the projectionist when to firstly start the projector and secondly when to actually make the changeover to the other projector so that there is no black image shown on the screen.

To that end there are two sets of cue dots at the end of a reel of film (four dots in the top right hand corner of the screen) at 12ft from the end (to indicate when to start the second motor) and one 1.5ft from the end of the reel to do the actual changeover. Below is what a cue dot would look like:


Nitrate Film

This isn’t the ususal video I use to demonstrate how flammable nitrate film was, but is a good example of it:


And that is why ‘Safety’ film was invented, as many cinemas burnt down as a result of that.

Anyway in the 1940s/50s Acetate film was introduced which was also known as ‘Safety Film’ this type of filmstock was in existance into the 1990s when it was replaced with Polyester Film. Polyester Film was much stronger than Acetate film.

Unfortunately you don’t get to do the tug-of-war game I play which tests the strength of Polyester Film, although you do get to hear how after telling tales of how strong it is over the year, Flix took me at my word and used an old trailer to pull a car around the Rig Rut Fountain a number of years ago.

However, it is worth knowing that Polyester film prints get recyled into other uses when they are no longer require, and I have found the following film on the Internet which demonstrates one of the more unusual ways that old films can be reused:

[iframe frameborder=”0″ height=”360px” src=”http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/409580523/handbags-made-from-35mm-pre-run-hollywood-movies/widget/video.html” width=”480px”]


Principles of Projection

The main way that we seeing moving image on the cinema screen, is because of something called “Perception of Vision”, which where the brain is tricked into believing that millions of still images are actually moving. This is a fantastic film from 1936 which explains it all in relation to the cinema:

At this point I would hand around a Zoetrope which demonstrates this princple and how it has related in history. In stead I will link you to a (work in progress) slideshow of Cinema Technology Timeline so you can see for yourself how things have changed and developed:

[iframe src=”https://docs.google.com/viewer?authuser=0&srcid=0BwoaRvhwnseRdDNQc1FHdU0zUms&pid=explorer&a=v&chrome=false&embedded=true” width=”640″ height=”480″]



So now that we have looked at the various aspects of how we see images moving on the screen, how sound works, and the way that film is made up, the next film is about the inside of the projector, and convientantly it is based on the same projector as we have in Flix:


So….. this promotional video by Kodak when they were running the ScreenCheck work:

Presentation is a very important part of being a projectionist. You, as the Projectionist, are the last person in a long chain of film production. Each film you show has probably cost many millions to make and it can all be wasted if you don’t show it correctly, and in the best possible way with the tools which you have.

I cannot stress enough this point, and if I was there in person at the training you would have this drummed in.

Aspect Ratios

Aspect Ratios are rather complex things, but in terms of film (Flix), you need to worry about two different aspect ratios:

1.85 (sometimes also referred to as Wide/Normal/Flat) and is the aspect ratio which the adverts and trailers are shown in.

2.37 is when the whole of the screen at Flix is used to show the film, this is also sometimes also referred to as Scope.

There are other formats, but for the purposes of this training we won’t go into them for now.

For more information on aspect ratios, I suggest that you have a look at:



The official Flix Splicing Manual, which was rewritten in 2011 by Owen Morgan is required reading for any projectionist, as apart from projectionists being required to assist with splicing films in general, there will be a requirement to repair broken films when necessary.

More Information/Reference

There is now no end of material available across the internet where you can get more information and material about being a projectionist, something which wasn’t possible when I first started. Below are just some of the places you might want to visit and some videos I think that it might be worth viewing: