Cinema Product Reviews

ORC / CFS "Super" Platters model SP300
Manufacturer:  ORC and CFS
Rating:  F
Reviewed December 2000 by Brad Miller

Well here is the fabulous "Super" platter.  Well, technically not, but for all basic purposes it is.  Originally manufactured by ORC and later manufactured by CFS, these platters are absolute junk.  I refer to them as "Super Platters" not because they are good, but but because it is actually what CFS called them.  Let's take a look at my favorite design flaw...

Who decided that having a DISHED platter was a good idea?  Was this platter designed in space where gravity has no bearing?  Is this actually supposed to somehow keep the film from flying across the booth?  If that was the intent, WOW was that ever wrong!  No platter on the market throws film better.  What were they thinking?  Past this very major design flaw, the rest of the flaws in these platters are pale in comparison, but let's point them out anyway.

Check out the pathetic payout backtension.  In fact, these platters have such little feed tension...

...that the film cannnot even be stretched a measley 6 feet without having to have a jumper roller to keep the sheer weight of the film from causing an overfeed onto the floor!

Now imagine you are breaking down a film on the top platter, while paying out from the middle platter.  These deck braces will create such a current of wind as to cause an almost immediate wrap!  But what if this situation is reversed and the film is being broken down off of the middle platter while a film is running?  Why you get the $#!^ knocked out of your head if you accidentally lean too far inward looking for a splice!

Oh but there's more.

Now who came up with this riduculous threading pattern?  Each platter threads differently and in this particular theater it was necessary to draw arrows all over the platters.  (By the way, one of the most common misthreads is to run over that first take off roller, thus scratching the film on the upper deck in a most terrible fashion.)  Also to note here is the extremely thin flanges on the rollers themselves.  Since there are no keepers of any sort, the film takes lots of field trips OFF of the rollers, thus damaging more film.

Now before you scroll down, does anyone notice a problem with this picture?  I saw it from a distance, but I wonder how many other people have noticed this flaw.

Take a closer look at the two rollers on the left side of the column.  They are nowhere close to being lined up with each other!  Yes, ALL of the platters at this location were like this.  Just goes to show the attention to detail that was put into the original design of this machine.

Let's check out the make up table that is utilized with these platters.  Here we have a horizontal MUT which is great for loops of film spilling off of the sides of a fully loaded reel during splicing, thus causing more film damage.  If the projectionist is going to load onto and off of the middle platter exclusively, then the table works somewhat acceptably.  But what if the projectionist needs to work with the top or bottom deck?  Well there are these two rollers that the film can be run over...but where's the keeper brackets???  Of course, if there is any film bounce, the film flies off and behold, more film damage.  Is anyone seeing a pattern here of what can happen to prints ran on these platters?

Now apparently these designers were REAL worried about the film laying firmly against the platter deck's surface.  Just like some other current makes of platters on the market, the final takeup rollers are TOO DAMN CLOSE to the surface of the platter's deck.  This particular deck was warped (well, actually most of them in the complex were warped) and this shot was taken at that moment of the rotation to demonstrate what happens when the warp makes it's round by the roller...SCRATCH!  This isn't rocket science here.  This roller should be as high as possible while still maintaining a smooth wind.  In fact, the film should ONLY make contact with the platter's surface upon standing absolutely vertically...and no sooner.  This is precisely where the term "platter scratches" comes from, referring to those diagonal scratches that so many uneducated people seem to believe will happen if a film is ran on a platter.  This is simply not so.  Running film on a platter will not damage it unless the platter is miscalibrated, rollers are out of alignment, or of course, if the film is ran on this platter.

Now here's the real funny part.  Check out this film I found at the complex.

Yeah, that worked real well!  This print suffered some very light stretching on one edge of the film (can anyone guess what piece of equipment was responsible for the damage?) and as such would not wind flat on the platter.  Such a wind reduces the amount of film that comes into contact with the platter's surface and makes a print toss much easier for the platter to accomplish, not that this model needs any assistance.

Then there is the center rings.  While sure they are sturdy, they are a pain to work with and are unreasonably heavy.  Sure its' a minor gripe, but a valid gripe nonetheless.  But wait, there's more.

Check out the payout design.  It's nothing more than a simple microswitch to turn the payout on and off.  The left picture shows the "off" position and the right picture shows the "on" position.  At least the speed is controlled via the takeup, but this still makes for erratic payout and thrown prints.

Finally the mere color is unacceptable.  20 years ago (or whenever it was) that these platters were being manufactured I'm sure that ORC had no idea they were using "TES film depot orange", but who wants anything in their booth this color?  At least the CFS "Super" platters were painted blue.

Bottom line:  These machines give platters a bad name!

-Brad Miller
Neither company is in business anymore, but these platters should be avoided at all costs on the used market.

Brad Miller is that guy who runs this web site.  He runs an independent engineering service company by the same name of "Film-Tech" and the company also manufacturers film cleaning products, notably FilmGuard.  On the side and for fun, he has always kept a projectionist position at a local theater because "A: I love it and B: it gives me a chance to test and demo my film cleaning products in real life situations".

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