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This topic comprises 2 pages: 1  2 
 
Author Topic: Automation Systems
Stephen Jones
Master Film Handler

Posts: 314
From: Geelong Victoria Australia
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-30-1999 06:46 AM      Profile for Stephen Jones   Email Stephen Jones   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I would like to know what type of cinema automation is used in the States and which one is prefered and why.The one I prefer in Oz is a system called Easymation which is made by a company here called Penneywise.I find easymation very user friendly if you can programe a V.C.R you can programe Easymation.It starts the show at the session time controls advertiseing slides ,house lights,projector functions,lens changes,change sound formats opens and closes curtains if they are used.It can hold up to 12 programes of varying formats if required. Session times can be entered at the start of the week for the whole week and it will start the show and run it from start to finish. Sub programes can be changed to suit different theatres etc.Session times can be programmed in for months ahead if need be but that never happens of course, the clock or timer is in 24hr and day month year changes automaticly or can be changed mannualy so that is a quick run down on what it can do. I think it is sold overseas as Pennywise. It can be used with any make of projector and uses foil placed on the film to activate the required function.

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Aaron Mehocic
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 804
From: New Castle, PA, USA
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-30-1999 09:52 AM      Profile for Aaron Mehocic   Email Aaron Mehocic   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
That system sound pretty good and I would not mind playing around with it. I like Neumade Maxi-12 XPC automation systems myself simply because they are more modern than the system I was trained on. That system was RGM automation and the three original screens at our theater still have them. Truthfully, there is not much more you can do with Neumade Maxi than with an RGM, both have manual bulb and excitor controls, both have changeover controls, and both have curtain controls, but I have been told RGM's date from the late 1950's and the technology is not as good as other systems out there. Moreover, (but this is not the fault of the automation), the RGM's are wired to old Hunt dimmers that don't allow for a 1/2 light setting. That means an operator has to physically be at the light switch at the start of end credits or the crowd will be walking out of the auditorium in the dark. That is hell when you know you have to flip the switch in auditorium #1, but need to start projector #9!

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Gordon McLeod
Film God

Posts: 9425
From: Toronto Ontario Canada
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-30-1999 12:43 PM      Profile for Gordon McLeod   Email Gordon McLeod   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The rgm units were probably made in the mid 70's and they still are in business
I personally like the esoldomatic Cinemation MK4 Its large pegboard allowed for a very versatile perfomance

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Ken Layton
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1452
From: Olympia, Wash. USA
Registered: Sep 1999


 - posted 07-30-1999 02:05 PM      Profile for Ken Layton   Email Ken Layton   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The RGM "SPATS" units were made in 1979 and some were sold with a National Cinema Supply nameplate stuck over RGM's name. From what I remember on these units, they were only so-so units and the main problem was they didn't have a manual switch to open and close the picture changeover.

I prefer the Component Engineering TA-10 automation.

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Randy Stankey
Film God

Posts: 6381
From: Erie, Pennsylvania
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-30-1999 03:49 PM      Profile for Randy Stankey   Email Randy Stankey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I prefrer the automation I have here at Mercyhurst Coll. -- NO automation!

It's just a latching relay going to the proj. motor and lamphouse. There's a start button and a kill switch. That's all.

I just hooked up the Kelmar failsafe's cue detectors to turn the sound on and off. In the future I'm going to have the lights dim automaticly.

I haven't seen any automation system that I like 100%. -- Someday, I want to invent one. Probably it will be P.L.C. based.

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Joe Redifer
You need a beating today

Posts: 12859
From: Denver, Colorado
Registered: May 99


 - posted 07-30-1999 03:53 PM      Profile for Joe Redifer   Author's Homepage   Email Joe Redifer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I use the Pennywise automation myself at my 16 plex. Check out the pics in the pics wharehouse page of the Mann Chinese 16 to see if this is the same automation that you use in Australia. It is called the Christie CA-21 over here. It can hold 6 different programs (more than enough, 1 for flat and 1 for scope) and it has 16 different steps per program. It can adjust the volume at any point in the show to any level you want it to be. You can play the trailers at 4.8 and the movie at 7.2. It controls the curtains and pretty much anything else. It is much easier to program than a VCR.

I personally hate any kind of Neumade MAXI automation because you must put up to 8 cues in a row on the film!!!!!! For example, 2 cues in a row would mean scope or 3 cues in a row would mean lights down. 8 cues would mean show end! And they are all big enough to be seen onscreen! Yuck!

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Brad Miller
Administrator

Posts: 17617
From: Plano, TX (36.2 miles NW of Rockwall)
Registered: May 99


 - posted 07-30-1999 04:14 PM      Profile for Brad Miller   Author's Homepage   Email Brad Miller       Edit/Delete Post 
Thus far I haven't come across an automation that was versatile enough for my tastes. Ideally, the FILM should tell the automation what to do. An excellent example is the Kelmar/UA automation boxes (late models). They have bar code labels which is read by a scanner (similar to the ones at grocery stores) and each cue does a different task. There are also many "combo" cues on it, such as lights mid/douser open/sound change. There are a few problems with these units...First, the cues are huge and very noticeable when they pass through. I personally turn the readers around to scan the edge of the film, so the cues aren't in the picture area. Also, there is no user programming. Occasionally I want to do something that wasn't pre-programmed and it can't do it (rare, though). Also, there are a few quirks such as the douser opens on the cue and the sound waits 7 seconds before switching. This forces 10 feet of black leader after the cue or it looks like the projectionist started the movie and forgot about the sound. The best part about the Kelmar/UA automation was the "start" cue, though. No bother to motor/cue up the leader. Just thread it and let the cue start the show. You could put 500 feet of leader on there if you wanted to. Interlocking is a real breeze with that start cue too!

Another model I liked was the Cinemation Mark 4. It relied on one cue over and over in a matrix design. Better not have cues on your trailers or next week the whole thing will get out of sequence when the ads change! Also, it had no start cue and not enough options.

Joe Redifer sent me some info on the Christie CA-21 automation. This looks pretty well laid out, although I haven't worked with it to find problems with it. Right off the bat, there still isn't enough command lines! Also, this relies on the same cue over and over which could potentially have the same problems as the Mark 4 automation above. But, this unit actually controls the remote fader option of your cinema processor. It can be programmed to change fader settings per trailer!!!

If there is anyone out there who is reading this who is planning on devising an automation, please email me so I can send you the requirements for a truly full-blown automation! It MUST have some form of edge mounted bar codes to make programming ON the film. It MUST have a "start" cue. It MUST have the remote fader option of the Christie model above. It MUST be able to control at least 40 different items (including 8 sound formats, 3 masking setings, curtains, 4 step house lights, stage lights, douser, lens, changeover, etc, etc, etc.) Also, the unit should be able to store 7 different "showtimes" per day on the timer...although a straight "countdown" timer should also be included. 5 minutes before a film's programmed start time, if the failsafes aren't up, it should sound a "thread" alarm! If not using the timers, 2 minutes after the programmed start time, it should sound off a "start" alarm. There should be a timing circuit in there too, so after a "new show" button is pressed, it will start timing the show in minutes and seconds. This could give the operator total show time and remaining show time at any point in the feature after that first run or trailer changeout (visible on status panels too). In addition, it could sound an alarm if it doesn't read a cue that passed by at a certain time on the "new show" command. (I wouldn't want it to actually perform the command, but an alarm would be nice.)

Ok, fine. Everyone thinks I'm crazy now. But, if automations were build like this, problems would significantly decrease in the multiplexes!

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Randy Stankey
Film God

Posts: 6381
From: Erie, Pennsylvania
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-30-1999 04:44 PM      Profile for Randy Stankey   Email Randy Stankey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't think you're crazy. These monsterous automation controllers that I've seen are all stupid in one way or another!

I believe that an automation controller ahould be about the size of a shoe box. (Except for the control panel & terminal blocks)

They use Programmable Logic Controllers for industrial process control in factories and stuff. A movie projector is just a special case of an industrial process control. They've been using PLCs for that for years! Why do projectors have to be relay-driven?

Heck! With all of the computer technology we have today, you'd think it would be trivial to design. If I had the $$$ I'd be designing one right now!

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Gordon McLeod
Film God

Posts: 9425
From: Toronto Ontario Canada
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-30-1999 05:47 PM      Profile for Gordon McLeod   Email Gordon McLeod   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Most of the new automations are either PLC based or use a conventional CPU coupled to either a program writen to an eprom or in some cases a disk drive
All of them have problems with flacky xenon ignition supression and other quirks in a theatre
In reality carefull wireing is more common in a factory setting than in most theatres
Also programmers in factories are usually more skilled than many of the people running projection booths now days
There are several systems that use either DOS based or windows based interfaces and RS232 and 432 connections to each device or 10BaseT ethernet connections
The technology is there but the horror stories that go with are there too

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Ken Layton
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1452
From: Olympia, Wash. USA
Registered: Sep 1999


 - posted 07-30-1999 07:45 PM      Profile for Ken Layton   Email Ken Layton   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The reason most automation is done with relays is for simplicity, cost, and reliability. The fact that the projection booth gets alot of power fluctuations (surges especially). Most relay-based automations have common plug in relays, so in the event of a problem (like on a busy Saturday night), you can just pop in a spare relay or swap them around. I'd rather buy a couple of $15 spare relays than replace a cooked $2000. special order PC board.

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George Roher
Master Film Handler

Posts: 266
From: Washington DC
Registered: Jul 99


 - posted 07-30-1999 11:52 PM      Profile for George Roher   Email George Roher   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I prefer to run with no automation, or with limited automation. I want the failsafes to shut off the motor if something happens, but that's about it (unless I have a lot of screens). Every automation system I've worked with has died at some point or had some bizarre habits.

Speaking of automation, all of the brand new Hoyts megaplexes in my area have no timers, no status boards, and none of the latest stuff to make the operator's life easier. And they usually pay one guy $6.00 an hour to run 16 screens. I can't imagine running that many screens without status boards all over the booth. If a machine a mile away from the operator goes down, he won't know until the manager runs upstairs minutes later. It just bogles the mind. Especially with polyester film here for good.

[This message has been edited by George Roher (edited 07-30-1999).]

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Ed Johnson
Film Handler

Posts: 24
From: Lancaster, MA/Appleton, WI
Registered: Jul 99


 - posted 07-31-1999 12:51 AM      Profile for Ed Johnson   Email Ed Johnson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In response to the comment on Hoyts:

I work at a Hoyts 15 plex. You're correct in saying that we don't have status boards or timers in our booth. To be honest, even with 15 screens, it's never really been a problem. 14 of the 15 screens are in one large booth so that the projectionist can run to something the moment he or she hear's an alarm. We're using the MAXI-12 XPC automation and while putting multiple ques is a pain, the system is fairly reliable.

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Stephen Jones
Master Film Handler

Posts: 314
From: Geelong Victoria Australia
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-31-1999 02:39 AM      Profile for Stephen Jones   Email Stephen Jones   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
When I did some work for Hoyts here in Australia a few years ago the theatre I was at had automation that was programmed by inserting pegs for each function eg lens changes etc and had no timers but their new cinemas now have automation with timers but what type I dont know as I havent worked for them for a while. The theatre I work at now uses Easymation as I have mentioned above.The Automation pictured in the picture warehouse is totaly differant to what we use here ours holds 12 programes there is a cheaper model that only has 6 programes. What type of projectors do hoyts in the states use? here they are useing at new sites as far as I know Christie equipment but thats most likely to change no doubt. Did you Know that Hoyts at one stage was owned by 20th Century fox until it was bought by Rupert Murdoc dont Know if he still owns it or not. I will try and get some photos of Oz projection rooms as soon as I can also some of the easymation unit.

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Joe Redifer
You need a beating today

Posts: 12859
From: Denver, Colorado
Registered: May 99


 - posted 07-31-1999 03:41 AM      Profile for Joe Redifer   Author's Homepage   Email Joe Redifer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I do not like bar codes. They are big and unreliable. I can't tell you how many times I have had a scanner die. Strong's barcode automation of the old days was similar to UA's bar code system (it used the same cues) but it was at least 10 to 20 times better. It had the amazing ability to switch all relays simultaneously. There should be something that you can put on the SDDS track opposite side of the optical track so the cue cannot be seen, yet still somehow manages to have specific instructions. I don't know how there can be a remote fader with film specific cues, however. You would have to have a cue specifically for telling the sound to go to 6.6 or whatever. Or you could just have a sound change cue, but then you would have to "program" that info in there. A start cue is good if you are really lazy. I don't really miss it. I could easilly configure the CA-21 to have a start cue on the leader, but I am so used to motoring it anyway that I have never really had any reason to do so. If I get really fed up with it I will switch to a start cue on the leader.

Overall, I am perfectly happy with the Christie CA-21 automation. It's worst feature is that the clocks sometimes get too fast and must be set a minute or two back to match the others. "programming" the automation is simple and it only has to be done during initial setup. You have to flip between flat and scope movies, but that is a press of 1 button. We have never needed more than 3 programs (1 flat, 1 scope, and 1 special). And we have never even come close to using all 16 steps. So 16 steps is plenty unless you want to go cue crazy. The status panels tell you if the trailers are playing, if the movie is playing, if the credits are playing, and if the timer is set. Sometimes #20 lights up (we only have 16 projectors) but other than that they are pretty reliable. I like the CA-21! The only thing I would add is a central computer station linking them all together with a central clock by which they all are set, and the ability to monitor and change settings from this central computer.

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Anthony Matarazzo
Film Handler

Posts: 30
From: Brisbane Australia
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 07-31-1999 06:02 AM      Profile for Anthony Matarazzo   Email Anthony Matarazzo   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have used three different automation since I have been working in the booth.( In Australia )

First was when I was working for Hoyts. The basic matrix pinning. Very easy automation.

Second and third is with Greater Union. We use a basic programmable event control, and the other is a very good automation which is called AMX from the AMX Corp, fully computerized and easy to use. You can program e all your weeks sessions.

On another note, It's hard to find information here in Australia on projection matters. I have learnt a lot from reading other projectionist problems and problem solving techniques. This web page is outstanding, Thanks Brad Miller and all of the other projectionist who write in. When I get a change I will send some pictures of the cinema I work for,


Anthony Matarazzo

[This message has been edited by Anthony Matarazzo (edited 07-31-1999).]

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