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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Film Handlers' Forum   » Murder By Numbers (Factory Splice)

Author Topic: Murder By Numbers (Factory Splice)
Jim Casterioto
Film Handler

Posts: 32
From: Wilmington, DE, USA
Registered: Feb 2002

 - posted 04-19-2002 05:51 PM      Profile for Jim Casterioto   Author's Homepage   Email Jim Casterioto   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Murder By Numbers started today, and in the first 15 minutes of the film on my print, there is a bad factory splice. I was curious if anyone else has encountered the same problem, and if so, does anyone have any tips to solve the problem.


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Michael Rourke
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 159
From: San Luis Obispo, Central Coast of CA
Registered: Feb 2002

 - posted 04-19-2002 06:11 PM      Profile for Michael Rourke   Email Michael Rourke   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Just cut out the factory splice and re-splice with clear tape. If there is bad developing before and/or after the splice you could always order a replacement reel, but I don't think that movie will last too long. Parts of it were shot in San Luis Obispo where I work so I think it will have legs around my neck of the woods.

Yous really should cut out and re-splice all factory splices because they are weaker than tape slices and are traditionally across a frame instead of between them.

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James R. Hammonds, Jr
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 931
From: Houston, TX, USA
Registered: Nov 2000

 - posted 04-19-2002 06:27 PM      Profile for James R. Hammonds, Jr   Email James R. Hammonds, Jr   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I wouldnt agree that they are weaker than tape splices.
Ive heard that the cement splices on acetate prints might break, but before I started checking for them during biuld-up and remaking them with tape splices, I never had one break on a polyester print.
I do agree, though, that they should be removed since they look ugly on screen.

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Brad Miller

Posts: 17687
From: Plano, TX (36.2 miles NW of Rockwall)
Registered: May 99

 - posted 04-19-2002 07:10 PM      Profile for Brad Miller   Author's Homepage   Email Brad Miller       Edit/Delete Post 
No, current lab splices are ultrasonic and are STRONGER than a tape splice. If they are on the frameline, I say leave them and bloop the analog soundtrack if you don't have digital sound. If you have access to an ultrasonic splicer, I say remake them. If you only have a tape splicer, I say leave them as they are. To me a tape splice with the jump cut and the "tape edge lines" is more annoying than just having a flash across the screen.

If there is a picture defect before or after the lab splice, of course order a new reel! This is a lab mistake and the more people who let these sort of things go by without demanding a replacement reel, the worse the labs will get with their printing standards.

Of course you will find much heated debate about this as opinions vary. Just search the archives for "lab splices".

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Andy Muirhead
Master Film Handler

Posts: 323
From: Galashiels, Scotland
Registered: Dec 2000

 - posted 04-19-2002 07:26 PM      Profile for Andy Muirhead   Email Andy Muirhead   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'm with James on this one. I've never seen a lab splice fail during a show in ten years, never mind a tape one fail. That's running through a projector although i have seen a couple of lab splices fail on make-up/breakdown but that's generally been down to excessive tension.

It is a good practice, though, to re-make lab joins not on framelines.

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Randy Stankey
Film God

Posts: 6425
From: Erie, Pennsylvania
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 04-19-2002 09:37 PM      Profile for Randy Stankey   Email Randy Stankey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Whether or not you decide to remake a lab splice is a matter of personal choice. But, I say that you need to at least CHECK all of your lab splices.

For the most part, they are OK but I have seen some bad ones where they aren't fully fused together. I actually have seen them fail during a show. (This was also a particularly badly made one.)

Another thing you need to check is whether or not the splice will play through the projector without causing the film to jump a sprocket. I have seen an entire print get damaged with sprocket teeth marks.

Come to think of it, you ought to be checking ALL the splices in your print and remaking them if they need it.

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Joe Beres
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 606
From: Minneapolis, MN, USA
Registered: Nov 2000

 - posted 04-19-2002 09:42 PM      Profile for Joe Beres   Email Joe Beres   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Randy said: "Come to think of it, you ought to be checking ALL the splices in your print and remaking them if they need it."

You said it all right there. A good inspection can prevent a lot of down time, missed shows, damaged prints and a projectionist's sanity. It's always worth the time spent.

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Darryl Spicer
Film God

Posts: 3250
From: Lexington, KY, USA
Registered: Dec 2000

 - posted 04-20-2002 02:06 AM      Profile for Darryl Spicer     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
My methode is to remove them if they flash across the picture. I have seen these splices seperate but only on acetate type prints. I have also seen these splices cause a film split causing the loss of four or five seconds of film footage. Again only on acetate films.

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Paul G. Thompson
The Weenie Man

Posts: 4718
From: Mount Vernon WA USA
Registered: Nov 2000

 - posted 04-20-2002 02:30 AM      Profile for Paul G. Thompson   Email Paul G. Thompson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Like lot of old booth personnel, I remember the day when there was no such thing as a split-film detector.

A theater owner I worked for at an outdoor theater had a two-projector automated system, using 6,000 foot reels. Just so happened one night a poor splice went through the machine, and he was not in the booth. Well, the film split at the constant speed sprocket, so the sound was not effected. when he returned to the booth, he found about 2,000 feet of film laying on the floor, and the other half was on the take-up reel. It was custom that we ran with the sound head doors open.

What a mess......

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Pete Naples
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1546
From: Dunfermline, Scotland
Registered: Feb 2001

 - posted 04-20-2002 07:37 AM      Profile for Pete Naples   Email Pete Naples   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hmmm, I can't remember seing a lab splice that wasn't either off the frame line, or had a huge gap in the soundtrack, and the lovely rainbow effect on either side. I have seen them come apart if left in too. That said, I recently used an ultrasonic splicer for the first time, and once you get the hang of it, those joins are unbelievably strong, also clean and neat.

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Michael Rourke
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 159
From: San Luis Obispo, Central Coast of CA
Registered: Feb 2002

 - posted 04-20-2002 01:13 PM      Profile for Michael Rourke   Email Michael Rourke   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have had two studio splices break during a run on Polyester film stock (Austin Powers and Varisty Blues), Austin broke right in two and the projector shut down; however, Varsity Blues' lab splice only half broke and jumped out of frame.

I know 2 splices failing out of probably thousands of lab splices is a good ratio, but it does happen.

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John Pytlak
Film God

Posts: 9987
From: Rochester, NY 14650-1922
Registered: Jan 2000

 - posted 04-22-2002 08:33 AM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
If the lab splice is obvious to the audience (not on the frameline and discolored), cut it out and replace it. Otherwise, leave it in.

As mentioned, the splices are made in darkroom conditions, often with only about 20-30 seconds for the lab technician to make the splice (or else the printer will shut down). Labs have tried various methods to align the raw stock splice with the framelines of the printing negative, but none have been completely successful. I agree with Brad that a well made ultrasonic splice is very reliable and durable (even if it is not on the frameline ). The cement splices used on triacetate prints were not nearly as reliable.

Serious discoloration around a lab splice is usually due to excessive exposure to the darkroom "safelight" used to illuminate the splicer to help the technician make the splice. Usually "safelight fog" is cyan or blue in color. If there is serious discoloration that is obvious or disrupts the sound, request a replacement reel.

John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Worldwide Technical Services, Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Rochester, New York, 14650-1922 USA
Tel: +1 585 477 5325 Cell: +1 585 781 4036 Fax: +1 585 722 7243
Web site:

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Leo Enticknap
Film God

Posts: 7036
From: Loma Linda, CA
Registered: Jul 2000

 - posted 04-22-2002 09:30 AM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
With acetate cement splices, if they were well-made to start with (i.e. the only problem is that they're starting to dry out), my technique for projection prints was simply to tape over them, blooping the analogue soundtrack if necessary.

Sadly you can't do that with archival elements, as the tape adhesive can cause problems in long term storage and the edges of the tape will show through on any dupes made from that element. So if we think the original join is not strong enough to withstand printing, we have to painstakingly scrape away the dried cement and then remake the join with fresh cement. Needless to say, if you're dealing with a cut camera negative which has hundreds of joins, this can take ages (as in, several days per reel).

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