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Notes from the Projection Room: POP! BANG! WHIZ!

This month, our Chair of the Board and Chief Projectionist (and in-house cinema nerd) Guy, shares some news about the recent repairs being carried out on our different projectors.

Chapter 1 - POP!


It is fair to say we have been working ourselves, not to mention our rather aged cinema equipment, very hard over the past few months. That, and the fact the film slate is, how shall we say, a little ‘thin’ at the moment, means we’ve given ourselves a brief fallow period to undertake necessary repairs and maintenance. We’re all also rather busy with the ‘core mission’ to purchase the Broadway for the community: the sale will be complete imminently!


Our new DCP projector needed some work on its ‘light engine’, our Dolby cinema sound processor went pop straight after the last film of the Rom-Com-A-Thon (a lucky escape there), and various temporary fixes now need permanent solutions. This should all be complete in the next couple of weeks ready for some exciting community film screenings over the summer and beyond. Certainly, after some maintenance on its light engine, our new/old Barco DCI projector is throwing out some beautiful images via its super powerful xenon bulb. This new professional-grade projector opens some really exciting possibilities which we intend to use to the full. We can show the latest releases and tailor our programme very specifically to what people in Prestwick want to see, and we can now also do ‘event cinema’ and show music concerts, comedy, and stage shows using the Broadway Stereophonic Sound System to create a really immersive experience. Exciting stuff.

Chapter 2 - BANG!

 Meanwhile, Keith – our wizened old projection engineer – has been working away repairing yet another Strong rectifier used to power the bulbs in our 35mm projectors. It looked nice and shiny on the outside, but unfortunately, on the inside was a cascade of blown components and scorched circuit boards which are currently being repaired. He is even using his extra special (extra poisonous) lead solder. Once operational it will mean we have three compact high-power rectifiers, one for each of our working 35mm machines. 

Also under repair is the beautiful old Rank RK60 projector from the Odeon Ayr (shhh, don’t tell Merlin!). It has had a hard life. It seems to have had an oil leak for the past 40 years, resulting in all the insulation on the cables inside rotting away, including the wires into the main motor. This is now back from being professionally re-wound and the RK60’s mechanicals have likewise been checked over. When running it purrs like a contented cat. The RK60 is a top-of-the-line model and is exceptionally quiet and smooth. We can’t wait to project some proper film using it. On the subject of which, stay tuned for a future 35mm pop-up cinema event.

Last week some long forgotten skills were dusted off when a new (old) 35mm film print arrived from a collector. We will keep quiet on the title of the film – although it’s a great blockbuster hit – but mention that in the tradition of all proper cinemas we gave the new film a thorough print inspection. This process involves rewinding each 20-minute spool on our rewind bench, holding the film edges delicately between one’s white cotton gloved hands, and checking every inch of film for damage. Things like emulsion scratches, faulty joins, and sprocket damage. This particular print was in great condition. Reel 2 had a lab splice about 10 minutes in, and the joins between the feature and the leader were remade, but otherwise it passed the inspection with ease and is ready for a test screening.


Chapter 3 - WHIZ!


While the print inspection was occurring, a test loop was being played continuously through our erstwhile Cinemeccanica Vic5. Round and round it went for three hours. It was the equivalent of 500 showings. As a testament to Keith’s amazing repair skills, the film was as good after passing through the projector 500 times as it was at the beginning. Not a mark on it.

Let’s round off this month’s update with a quick mention of the non-technical side of projection. Previously all our events were provided by our film loving Board of Directors but these folk are somewhat pre-occupied – rightly so – with all the work needed to complete the sale of the Broadway to the community. The key handover ceremony will be happening shortly. Friends of the Broadway are growing fast, and we have a brilliant new team of volunteers who have stepped forward to act as our Events Sub-Committee. These chaps are getting underway planning our next film showings. The projection team can’t wait!

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