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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Digital Cinema Forum   » Getting into projection (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: Getting into projection
William Kucharski
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 177
From: Louisville, Colorado, United States of America
Registered: Oct 2012


 - posted 01-04-2018 08:19 AM      Profile for William Kucharski   Email William Kucharski   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
A friend asked me how to get into working in projection these days and I didn't really have a good answer for them.

I've known people who have come in from doing it at other chains, some who started cleaning the popcorn poppers and just did whatever until they got an opportunity to shadow the projection people (and a few who took over when the main folks quit) and still others who were randomly tagged in some fashion (one went to the same gym as an AMC manager and had a talk with the guy one day when they were on adjacent elliptical machines.)

I'm assuming there is no "set" way but was curious as to whether there was any best case advice I could give other than "be in the right place at the right time."

I certainly don't recall ever seeing a local multiplex having a job posting for someone.

I posted this here as all operations are digital these days, but if this topic is best moved to the Ground Level operations forum, please feel free.

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Randy Stankey
Film God

Posts: 6392
From: Erie, Pennsylvania
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 01-04-2018 09:23 AM      Profile for Randy Stankey   Email Randy Stankey   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There aren’t any projectionists anymore.

I was a projectionist and technician for almost twenty years but, now, I bounce from one crappy job to another. I worked in an electronics factory until the shop laid off my entire shift due to mismanagement. Now I work in a plastics plant that makes PET plastic bottles for barbecue sauce and salad dressings and stuff like that.

I work twelve hours per day, three days on and two days off and I make almost as much as I did before.

My advice is to forget it.

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Rick Raskin
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1079
From: Manassas Virginia
Registered: Jan 2003


 - posted 01-04-2018 03:45 PM      Profile for Rick Raskin   Email Rick Raskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Randy's correct. No future there. [thumbsdown]

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Buck Wilson
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 846
From: St. Joseph MO, USA
Registered: Sep 2010


 - posted 01-04-2018 04:55 PM      Profile for Buck Wilson   Email Buck Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Yeahhhhhhhhh projectionist isn't really a thing anymore unfortunately. I mean if you're in a big city with a couple of independent arthouses, there's likely someone who handles film there but like, full time projectionist? Probably less than 100 left in the country, probably half that or less

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Leo Enticknap
Film God

Posts: 6839
From: Loma Linda, CA
Registered: Jul 2000


 - posted 01-04-2018 10:42 PM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There are almost no projectionists left if you define a projectionist as someone employed by an individual theater to be responsible solely for the technical presentation of movies.

In the mainstream theater industry at least, the job role has largely been replaced by that of the service tech, since the conversion to digital. The everyday process is now almost entirely automated, with the only tasks done by a human operator being to ingest content (in most locations: in some it is delivered automatically online or by satellite, and this will likely increase) and build playlists (sequences of ads, previews, snipes, the feature, etc.) and schedules. Typically, both are done by the site managers.

However, the equipment in the booth needs installing, maintaining and fixing, and that is what service techs do. The balance between what is done by theater staff and what is done by a visiting tech varies from theater to theater. Some sites have theater staff that can do first line maintenance such as filter and bulb swapouts. Others have a visiting tech do everything that involves setting foot in the booth. The larger chains hire and train their own techs, while smaller ones and indies will often have a service contract with a third party service and support vendor. These vendors can range from quite large companies, to sole trading freelancers.

Remote monitoring and support is a major part of it, too. Some sites will have SNMP or other systems set up to "phone home" to a network operations center and automatically alert the duty tech that a bulb is approaching the end of its warranty life, or the light engine in Screen 4 at a 'plex 1,500 miles away is getting too hot. If the fix does require a tech callout to the site, the remote aspect will enable him or her to be sure to show up with all the parts and tools needed. As an example, I diagnosed a failed liquid cooling pump in a Barco earlier this week, by downloading a log from the projector remotely. When my co-worker went out there, he took a pump and a coolant flush kit with him, and so a repair that might have taken two visits in the old days only took one this time.

This is a very different job to that of an old school projectionist. Advanced IT skills (especially in setting up and configuring IP local area networks) are needed, as is knowledge of audio systems, but less, though some, electronics and mechanics. I get the impression that a significant number of techs come directly to the job from outside the movie industry, now; probably because now there are no more projectionists, the traditional career development route from projectionist to service tech has disappeared with them. One of the people I was at Barco school with had recently been hired from the IT department at a bank by a big theater chain, so she was very comfortable with the computing (and DCI security) aspects of the job, but had never heard the terms "flat" and "scope" before!

As you'll see from the job ads posted on this site, digital cinema service techs are in demand, and I'd have thought that somebody who is strong in at least one of the core skill sets would have a good shot at them.

Oh, and the working hours are very different from those of a traditional projectionist, too. A typical working day for me consists of a service call starting at 6am, with the aim of getting finished by around noon, and the first show of the day; the exact opposite of an old school projectionist, who would typically work from late morning to late evening. All bets are off when dealing with sudden breakdowns, though.

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Steve Guttag
We forgot the crackers Gromit!!!

Posts: 11982
From: Annapolis, MD
Registered: Dec 1999


 - posted 01-05-2018 07:00 AM      Profile for Steve Guttag   Email Steve Guttag   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Don't forget the "overnight" or 3rd Shift. I find myself doing that a bit. Theatres can start up by 10am, which really constrains what one can do. When you work the Midnight to 10+ hours, you can really do quite a bit and you don't have any show-starts (or people) getting in your way (having to work around). The only thing to "dodge" is the cleaning crew that likely will come in at some point and they'll do their thing while you are tuning a room!

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Carsten Kurz
Film God

Posts: 3582
From: Cologne, NRW, Germany
Registered: Aug 2009


 - posted 01-05-2018 10:01 AM      Profile for Carsten Kurz   Email Carsten Kurz   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Well done Leo!

- Carsten

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Jim Cassedy
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1521
From: San Francisco, CA
Registered: Dec 2006


 - posted 01-05-2018 02:31 PM      Profile for Jim Cassedy   Email Jim Cassedy   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Randy Stankey
There aren’t any projectionists anymore
I agree that in this age of mindless multiplexes, the term "projectionst"
has largely disappeared as a unique job description at most venues.

On the other hand, I'm doing quite well at it, working not
so much for the usual "public" venues, but at several private
screening & preview rooms, and at several film festivals, both
locally and out of town.

I have no shortage of work, and at times I'm actually over-booked,
and at certain times of the year I can sometimes find myself working
7 days a week. (But as much as I enjoy what I do, even < I > need
to take an occasional "mental health break" !)

And when I work, I WORK! Most of the venues I work at are not set
up with any kind of automation. If I'm running film, it's usually change
overs. And sometimes I'm also handling microphones & lights. (manually)

When I'm not booked up with screening room jobs (which happens rarely)
I'm registered with the local stagehands union and I get sent out to work
large screen projection at corporate events & trade shows at the convention
center or one of the big hotels in town.

I like not being 'stuck' working at one job or venue. Every job, especially
the live shows, comes with its' own set of problems to solve, and I enjoy
the challenge. In fact, the more difficult the job, the more "fun" I have.

Hours and work days can be long and unpredictable. For example I was
planning on not working this Sunday, but yesterday morning around 5am,
I started getting 'urgent' text messages and e-mails to run a show early
Sunday morning for some director flying up from LA who wants to preview
his film it some industry people up here in San Francisco. So much for
sleeping in this weekend!

As to how to get started in "the business", things were a lot different
now than when I first started doing this stuff in the early 1970's.

Back then, least in New York where I was living at the time, you HAD to be
in the union to do projection work. When I became interested in this stuff,
I was constantly told that unless I had a relative "in the business" getting
a union card was almost impossible.

But through persistence and getting to know some people, I eventually
got a break. (Note: when going this route, there's a fine line between
being "persistent" and being a "pain in the ass".)

Through hard work, establishing a good reputation for reliability and being
resourceful at solving technical problems on the fly, and sometimes just
being in the right place at the right time, I managed to get to where I'm
at today.

Yes, there were few years in the 1980s & 90's where I worked as an engineer
or production assistant in the television business. I was also an assistant
cameraman on several low budget theatrical films (that actually got released)
or were on HBO) and I even worked for awhile as a video & cellular network
engineer for ATT.

But about 10 years ago, as phone companies merged & downsized & I knew my
job was most likely on the chopping block, I managed ( by being in the right
place at the right time) to get back into projection & presentation, and have
been doing it continuously ever since. And I'll probably do it till the day I drop.
. . and I'm OK with that. So go ahead- - call me a "projectionist" I won't mind.
It's what I do.
- - - - - - - It's who I am.

 -

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Carsten Kurz
Film God

Posts: 3582
From: Cologne, NRW, Germany
Registered: Aug 2009


 - posted 01-05-2018 03:09 PM      Profile for Carsten Kurz   Email Carsten Kurz   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Well done Jim!

[beer]

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William Kucharski
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 177
From: Louisville, Colorado, United States of America
Registered: Oct 2012


 - posted 01-05-2018 04:05 PM      Profile for William Kucharski   Email William Kucharski   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Leo Enticknap
In the mainstream theater industry at least, the job role has largely been replaced by that of the service tech, since the conversion to digital. The everyday process is now almost entirely automated, with the only tasks done by a human operator being to ingest content (in most locations: in some it is delivered automatically online or by satellite, and this will likely increase) and build playlists (sequences of ads, previews, snipes, the feature, etc.) and schedules. Typically, both are done by the site managers.

Thanks, that's kind of what I was looking for.

He's got a LOT of experience in the computer field but would enjoy repair/diagnosis and even pseudo-mindless tasks like ingest and bugging Deluxe for the keys and turning the volume on the processors back up to something approximating the levels they are supposed to be set at when he leaves. :-)

Real projectionists, like those who ran the 70mm Dunkirk shows at most venues this summer, have my greatest respect.

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Monte L Fullmer
Film God

Posts: 8233
From: Nampa, Idaho, USA
Registered: Nov 2004


 - posted 01-05-2018 05:54 PM      Profile for Monte L Fullmer   Email Monte L Fullmer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: William Kucharski
Real projectionists, like those who ran the 70mm Dunkirk shows at most venues this summer, have my greatest respect.
Actually, a Real projectionist is the fellow who ran carbon arc changeover houses, dealing with Nitrate film, is the in-house mechanic who knew how to make something work out of nothing just to keep the screen lit along with picture and sound, so to baffle the public on the magic shows we put on where they think we use videotape or optical discs for the content.

Where I'm at, I'm one of the Ast Mgrs, but also more the location projectionist/techncian since I progressed from film to digital and learning as I move forward within this industry.

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William Kucharski
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 177
From: Louisville, Colorado, United States of America
Registered: Oct 2012


 - posted 01-05-2018 08:50 PM      Profile for William Kucharski   Email William Kucharski   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Point taken and ceded.

It was magical watching a projectionist do a reel change on a two carbon arc projector setup.

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Mark Gulbrandsen
Resident Trollmaster

Posts: 16057
From: Bountiful, Utah
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 01-06-2018 12:54 PM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
You don't want to be a projectionist, you want to become a projection technician. There are not enough to go around as it is! If you have an IT background it will make it easier to get into... Projection work and maintenance these days involves a lot of IT work and the IT end of things seems difficult for some of the old timer projector repair guys to grasp.

Mark

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Sam D. Chavez
Film God

Posts: 2053
From: Martinez, CA USA
Registered: Aug 2003


 - posted 01-06-2018 02:41 PM      Profile for Sam D. Chavez   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Mark Gulbrandsen
The IT end of things seems difficult for some of the old timer projector repair guys to grasp.

I resemble that remark. It's true, there are projection tech jobs around. I don't think it's remotely possible to break into the business as an operator except in NY, LA and SF. Maybe Toronto. And there would have to be some luck involved as in retirement etc.

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James Westbrook
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1102
From: Lubbock, Texas, Usa
Registered: Mar 2006


 - posted 01-06-2018 03:55 PM      Profile for James Westbrook   Email James Westbrook   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
One of the larger chains has assistant managers perform the bulb changes and filter cleanings, called Technical Assistants. I am one of those. In my building there are two assistants who split the duties, which also include cleaning the digital menu boards, cleaning out the POS terminals in box and concession and build and ingest playlists. I have had to disassemble more than a few ticket printers to degunk them. My least favorite job now is replacing a bad battery back-up, which in my opinion are scant more than lead bricks with wires attached. In other words, I am low level IT. One could learn my job after becoming an assistant but one still has to perform the other management duties that come with it like lording over employees and helping customers with their concerns. One who simply wants an IT job can certainly do that without setting foot in a movie theater.

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