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A motion picture projectionist is someone who brings a film to an audience. They are the individuals responsible for a superb viewing experience at the cinema, drive-in theatre, film festival, corporate seminar, or school function.
A motion picture projectionist is responsible for the delivery and pickup of 35mm prints for the featured films at the theatre. Once a film print is delivered the projectionist will unspool the film and roll it on to a large plate. He or she must then thread the film through the movie house projector and connect it to a second reel where the 35mm print will be rolled. Each print usually comes with two to three separate spools that must be spliced together on a film splicer. In a single screen theatre, a projectionist works from a second-story room with a small window from which to project the film. They make certain the film is in focus and synchronized to the sound.
There are also different lenses that must be applied during a show. 3D has returned to cinemas as a popular way to show a film. A projectionist is responsible for changing the lenses at the appropriate time in order for the 3D effect to work. In the digital age, there are now digital projectors that can run from a hard drive or a jump drive. Although synchronizing sound is no longer an issue, the projectionist has plenty of new challenges. The equipment is sensitive and has to be watched.
A motion picture projectionist must also know how to clean, maintain and repair all of the machines. They need to inspect film prints for breaks, holes, and dirt, since any of these factors can break a projector, which is a sensitive piece of equipment. It is the projectionist’s responsibility to fix everything before it becomes a problem.
A cinema is the typical place for a motion picture projectionist to work. There are also film festivals that require a knowledgeable projectionist. The film stock at a film festival can vary from 35mm to 16mm, 8mm, Beta, High Definition video, and digital video. Because of the fast pace and variety of styles, a projectionist must be able to work with all types of projectors and machines. There will always be mistakes, so a person well-versed in mechanics and computers will often be put to the test at a film festival.
Special events such as home shows, expos, conferences, corporate retreats, school events, bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals are also places that require a projectionist. Events such as these usually have an in-house audio-visual setup that a visiting projectionist will have to figure out on their own.
Being a member of the audio-visual club in high school is an excellent way to learn how to set up, run, and break down equipment for a variety of projects. A high school diploma is usually required for this job, and on-the-job training will be given.