Here it is, the projector of much controversy. People either seem to love it or hate it. Personally, I was at a test site for the very first "gearless" version of this machine and was extremely impressed with it at the time. A couple of years later I helped with an installation at another theater where the entire "Christie package" was installed and again couldn't have been more pleased. Then a few years after that I was doing work at the UA Galaxy theater, excited to get to work with these machines again, but there was only one problem...the projectors at the Galaxy were terrible! A quick search of the archives on the Film Handler's Forum will reveal more than ample complaints of the various problems this generation of projectors provided.
So what changed? Quite a few things actually. The gate/trap design was changed, the soundhead was changed, the shutter was changed, and for that matter the entire "gearbox" (or more accurately, the "pulley-box") was changed. Somewhere in those changes, the projector that had performed so well for me before turned to something not desirable at all.
Over the last couple of years, Christie has taken reports from projectionists and techs from the field and has addressed them one by one. While some of this requires newly modified assemblies, some of the complaints on the machine were derived from a lack of alignment tools. Let's go over some of the changes, upgrades and tools Christie now has for the P35GPS.
Above we have something that NO Christie booth should be without. This little tool was released a couple of years ago and works wonders for the biggest complaint, steadying the projected picture. (Christie's part number is SK1994-3.)
Here you can see how the tool is used to align both the upper and lower lateral guide rollers in the gate/trap assembly. This tool will make a world of difference in the horizontal steadiness of your films. Without the tool, "eyeballing" the alignment will yield pretty undesirable results.
The tool also comes in handy for aligning the preliminary lateral adjustment on the soundhead. But what about vertical steadiness?
Once you have the alignment tool and your lateral guide rollers properly aligned, now's the time to install the new gate bands. These new bands are made of a different material and not wear like the old ones do. They also "fit better" and do not require the gate tension setting to be raised to 4 or 5, unlike what was common with the older bands. (Christie's part number is 120660-002.)
But you say you have dozens of replacement bands of the older style on the shelf and you want to be able to put those bands to good use? Pictured above is a quick fix for the old bands. A very thin piece of cardboard sandwiched at the top of the band adds just enough extra tension to help stabilize the image, without unnecessarily stretching the tensioning blade. When all of the items above are used and everything is properly aligned, I have been able to achieve the same steadiness as a well maintained Simplex or a Century. The added benefit here, of course, is the Ultramittent which does not require oiling by forgetful operators.
Pictured above is the fix for what is probably the second biggest complaint of the Christie projector, the douser plates. The old plate (as pictured on the left) easily warps in no time and will soon look like the picture on the right.
Enter the new design. This is Christie's solution to the douser warping issue, and it works well. I blasted a 4500 watt lamp onto this douser pictured above for close to 30 minutes and it was ok! Christie claims they have hit a 4500 watt lamp on these new plates for 45 minutes, but my test was more than enough proof for me. Because these plates don't warp, damage no longer occurs to the solenoid. Problem solved. (Christie's part number is 119263-002.)
Look familiar? This is the back of a Christie projector that has had new belts installed after approximately 6 months with no lubricant added. Now check out the enlarged pictures below.
Here is the back of a Christie projector that was cleaned out and had new belts installed on it with a bizarre combination of lubricant after 6 months. See a problem? Not to me. Christie's fix for this is Panef belt dressing (Christie's part number is 598931-848), which indeed does help belt shedding, but Joe Redifer tried something in desperation (and partially as a joke) on one of his machines in Colorado and stumbled upon something interesting. The picture above shows a projector that I cleaned 6 months ago (I didn't have time to get in between each groove of each pulley with a flat head screwdriver like I prefer to do) and installed new belts on. All I did differently was sprayed a very light mist of FilmGuard onto the belts, installed them as normal, and then applied Christie's Panef belt dressing to the belts. An interesting and bizarre combination indeed...but it works! No longer do the belts seem to shed and clog the pulley-box with shavings. Again, problem solved.
Shortly after the initial review of this projector on this website, we received some new led assemblies, sound drum bearings and led power supplies. As was detailed in the first review, some of the older ones were actually "slanted" in the mount and we could not obtain a good alignment with the Dolby digital basement reader. I've nothing new to report with those slanted leds, for I was never able to achieve any acceptable readings from them. However, after replacing them, replacing the bearings on the sound drum and re-aligning everything, my best projector ran at 0-2 and my worst projector ran at 2-4. From the point of performing this work, these results stayed solid for 3 months, up until at which point I left work at that particular theater. When I called up to the theater this last summer (a good 6 months later), I inquired about how they were running, and the projectionist on duty reported no problems. I have since come to the conclusion that this was a combination of some defective leds, some generic brand bearings that were in need of changing and a good alignment. Problem solved.
Here's an interesting problem, the defective turret latch. The symptom is that when the turret is closed, there is still play in it, which translates into at best an image that requires focusing at each show start, or at worst, the turret shakes and blurrs the entire picture throughout the presentation. Christie came out with this 2-3 years ago and the latches are still working solid today, but I felt it important to mention this in the review should there be anyone still having this problem.
This is another little upgrade that is now "standard" on machines coming off of the assembly line. What happens is that when running polyester film stock, the film slaps up and down in the lower loop, and if the loop is too big, will slap up against the underside of the Ultramittent, causing emulsion dash scratches in the picture. These loop slap guards prevent this from happening, should the projectionist fail to thread the machine properly. (Look right under the letters "ULT" on "UltraMittent", but above the film. That silver bracket is what I am referring to.) Now granted an oversized loop will still cause damage to the SRD and SDDS tracks, but at least the picture will not get scratched. Still, such film damage falls into the "operator error" category and is not the fault of the projector. If threaded properly, the projector does not damage film, and even the occasional misthread with these slap guards in place will not destroy the digital tracks, only continuous misthreading will.
Here is a nice new feature that is not necessary to put on a quality show, but certainly does help the service tech or projectionist. The motor swing mount allows the motor to be quickly and effortlessly swung out of the way to facilitate quick and easy changing of the belts. Very nifty indeed, but not a requirement. (Christie's part numbers are as follows: 196460-001 Motor Hinge Kit, 60Hz. 196460-002 Motor Hinge Kit, 50Hz.)
Another interesting topic of discussion. A common complaint of the pulleys used in this projector was that they would wear down over time. Christie now manufactures the pulleys out of case-hardened steel with electo-less nickel plating and from everything I have seen to date, these are the solution to the problem, as I've experienced no wear on them. (Christie's part numbers are as follows: 194827-001 12-groove. 194824-001 16-groove.)
Finally, the lower damper arm in the soundhead now has a stopper on it. This is an older picture that does not show it, but when this arm bows downward, what used to happen is it would tip so far downward that it would cause that thin shaft on the airpot to bend and break. The new stop bar prevents this.
For theaters with older projectors, this shaft can have about 1/8" snipped off of the shaft before installation to prevent this from happening as well.
So what does that leave us with to complain about? Well, not much of anything. Sure some Ultramittents do exhibit that characteristic knocking sound, but does that really outweigh the major benefits here after Christie has put forth the time and energy into fixing the complaints from the field?
*Ultramittent does not require oiling.
*Projector and soundhead are one piece, making installation easier.
*Design is very "operator friendly" in regards to easy threading and keeping it clean.
*Belts are very easily changed, and most projectionists can handle this without a service call.
*No messy grease or oily gearboxes to mess with.
*When properly set up, will provide the same or better quality than most projectors on the market.
Remember this all important point as well, there aren't a lot of companies that are willing to work with people in the field who complain about how their products are designed. Many manufacturers seem to take comments and suggestions as an insult, and as a result their products never improve. Christie (inparticularly Bevan Wright) has been lurking around quietly for some time now and has taken the complaints they have read about (and been told of) and has made upgrades to improve their product. That right there shows a dedication that I wish there was more of in this industry and should be commended. Two years ago I would have never thought I would be writing a positive review on the Christie projector, but with the improvements that have been made and the dedication of the Christie techs, the review is well deserved and anyone still experiencing problems is urged to obtain the retrofits and fixes that are now standard on the P35GPS.
Bottom line: The Christie P35GPS has had it's problems in the past, but all of them have been rectified and the projector is now a solid performer with many benefits over conventional gear driven projectors.