THE JOY OF PROJECTION : S U P E R 8

GETTING A PROJECTOR:

Everyone has their own views on how best to set about this - probably borrowing one that you know works well is good to begin with, but you should check out car boot sales, junk shops, small ads and camera shops. For a strong, bright, sound projector some of the best models are manufactured by ELMO, BAUER, BOLEX and EUMIG. Every make has it's own peculiarities but all sound projectors thread the film through automatically and they all run at two speeds - 18 frames per second and 24 frames per second.

We use an ELMO GS 1200, which takes a 150-watt lamp, and supposedly has pretty sophisticated sound capabilities. Unfortunately if you go to buy one of these second hand from a "reputable" supplier they can cost from 200 to 400. That's because they're considered to occupy the semi professional end of the market and are craftsmanlike objects. Drivel. Ours cost a packet and the sound has repeatedly acted up. I think we were maybe just unlucky. I've heard one from an earlier ELMO series that someone bought from a junk shop for 20 and it sounded fine.

What our projector does have to recommend itself though is that it's 50 watts brighter than most and this gives you potential for a longer 'throw', (which is the distance from the lens to the screen), and also a brighter image

Incidentally, if you want to get a much brighter Super 8 projector for a Drive-in or somesuch, it's possible to have an 'arc xenon conversion' performed on an ELMO boosting it up to 500 watts....this costs a LOT, (roughly 1 per watt) you'd really be better off hiring one. You can buy a EUMIG sound projector for around 100 or less secondhand with a bit of searching and they're pretty robust machines. I've only used a BAUER once and it was a gem. They tend to be large, brown and plastic but under that 70's Euro styling is a very smooth running and reliable mechanism. This one even had a programmable memory! I heard tell of a slightly junior version selling in an exchange and mart type shop for 40...go bargain hunters go!

One of the handy things with practically all sound projectors is that they can also record sound, so you can add sound to film which has a magnetic sound stripe.

As well as a sound projector you should also get hold of at least one silent Super 8 projector, I'd recommend the EUMIG 600 and 700 series as these have variable running speeds of: 3,6,9,12,18 frames per second and can project a still image. They can also project Standard 8mm film. If you can't get a EUMIG there are loads more makes out there, so it's really a question of what takes your fancy.

BEFORE SCREENING:

Take off the side of the projector (usually clips off - you might have to undo a screw eg. with EUMIG models) then flip the lens and its housing back. This should be hinged to facilitate such cleanly pursuits. Next clean out the gate and the path the film is going to take, preferably with a small (tooth) brush or a blower brush. All around the gate area can get pretty dirty and scabby and this can then SCRATCH people's films! Clean the lens with a lens cloth or a clean part of your T-shirt. Like a camera lens this has probably got a coating on it so if you're going to clean a troublesome smudge be careful not to scratch the surface, and try to use lens cleaning fluid (Or breathe on it with a wide open mouth). Do you have a replacement lamp? Do you have a reel of spare white leader? Do you have a Super 8 splicer for joining the film if it breaks? An extra spool? Hmm... good.

THREADING:

All 8mm projectors have automatic threading, many silent projectors are DUAL GAUGE and take Super 8 and Standard 8mm, and they all act up every now and then - main thing is NOT TO PANIC. The usual threading method for all these projectors involves turning the main knob one stop clockwise (motor running - lamp off), pressing down the top loop former lightly (that plastic switch at the top that's just asking to be pressed down), and then feeding the film into a slot above the lens with the film's sprocket holes facing away from the projector and towards you. It should then run through and pop out the other end of the projector to be taken up by the take up spool which is whizzing round invitingly. You can then turn the main knob up to full ON position - it beams brightly etc. Some projectors have variations on the knob/switch theme, with any luck you can work it out. If the film goes into the projector but doesn't come out and you're getting jumpy then turn it off and open the side of the projector. It's concertina- ed up right ? Don't worry, the leader at the front may not have had its end clipped and most projectors have a little device on the front to clip the end from square to curved . Now try to feed the film again..no good ? Well maybe a sprocket hole was torn and threw everything out of kilter, just splice on a fresh length of leader , clip the end and try again. Or maybe the loop former was pressed too hard or not hard enough so try again.....try threading the film with the projector's side cover off to see what's going wrong. Invariably it then threads fine and the chewing incident remains shrouded in mystery. 

If the film jams whilst you're projecting (and this is almost certainly due either to a bad splice or a torn sprocket hole - neither of which are probably yours or the projector's fault) then the image on the screen will freeze and then begin to burn - TURN OFF! But remember: if the film has jammed then only one frame is being burnt - it's not the end of that person's film and if it's at a splice (which is where these mishaps tend to happen) then that shot can probably afford to be trimmed by 1/18 th of a second. Open the side of the projector, flip the lens and gate out of the way, and unthread the film from the projector mechanism before rewinding.

REWINDING:

Most projectors have a setting or switch which shifts the gearing in the projector for quick rewinding, making it faster and smoother. It's always best to rewind outside the projector if you're using this facility otherwise the film might/will snap, scratch or perhaps exit unscathed... it's not worth the risk [normal rewind i.e. reverse motion, on the other hand, is just fine only slower].

PROJECTION:

As your projector is pretty certain to have a zoom lens (usually in the realm of 15 to 30 mm) positioning of the projector in relation to the screen is pretty flexible. Being near the sound desk is often handy. A thing to avoid is having to project angled either up or down on to the screen at too steep an angle because then the image is keystoned like this...

SCREENS:

Nothing is ever going to be as good as a proper screen to project on to. They have special reflective properties that neither the least wrinkled of sheets nor the biggest rolls of paper can rival. There are loads of them to be found lying around in boot sales etc. although they t-e-n-d to be at the smaller end of the range - who knows, you might strike lucky. Anyway, we bought an 8 foot one brand new for around 150 through the Widescreen Centre and that seemed reasonable. (n.b. if you're buying a screen new, mull it over for a minute whether you need a free-standing tripod one, or you want one to hang from a wall, tie up etc...)

Projection hint: When you're showing a film and then a bit of fluff or hair appears in the gate it can be truly galling - but there is a way round it. Lightly lick the tips of your thumb and forefinger and pinch the film quickly (as brief a nip as possible) before it feeds into the projector. That bothersome fur is whisked away.

SOUND:

If you have a sound projector then it will have the option to run at 18 or 24 f.p.s. You can line out into a speaker, an amp/speaker combo, or into a mixing desk if you're up to something a mite more complex. For a small venue with an audience of 100 -150 we often use a guitar combo amp and a dodgy little video mixing console and it sounds FINE !! My only word of advice, projection-wise, is to always take along a test film (we've used 'Born Free', 'Frenzy' etc...) and that you know how it's meant to sound. Because these films are commercial releases their sound quality is probably better than any other film you're going to be handed. Oh yes - sound films you get are almost certainly going to have a MAGNETIC sound track. There was an optical sound system which seems to have been used for advertising/public information films, but - I've only ever read about this. 

Moral: just check that your projector is for mag stripe.

THE JOY OF PROJECTION : 16 mm

GETTING A PROJECTOR:

16 mm projectors come in higher wattages than Super 8 as a rule - ranging from about 200 to 2,000 watts. The latter end is covered by ones fitted with arc, arc xenon or sometimes even carbon arc lamps. These are made by companies like FUMEO and more the sort of thing you'll find screwed to the ground in a cinema's projection booth. They're very big, require special power supplies and are very expensive.

More realistically, and more easily available, are projectors like those in the ELF range (usually come in blue hammerite or brown plastic [later models] and have the word EIKI on the handle) or by BELL HOWELL (preferably the later models - also in brown plastic. I've heard many stories of mishaps with the older ones). We started off with a SINGER and it caused much misery (looks like cross between a dentist's drill, tape player and a sewing machine).

We bought a blue ELF for about 90, which was a good price. You should be able to get one for about the same with a little searching. The best advice I can give is to buy a copy of Amateur Cine Enthusiast (costs 3.50) from a specialist shop like the Widescreen Centre wherein there are loads of adverts from dealers around the country and several pages of classifieds at the back. Go into a 'reputable' shop and they'll swear blind that it's impossible to get a decent 16 mm projector secondhand for under 200 - they're not really lying, it's just that THEY KNOW NO BETTER.

If you have the chance it's worth getting your hands on a double band (also known as a double head) projector. These are few and far between - we don't have one but wish we did. With these one side of the projector shows the film's image whilst on the other side you thread up the sound track (which will be on 16 mm perforated magnetic stock - just like 16 mm film only it's audio tape). This is the way that filmmakers have their film before sending it off to the lab to have a combined print made up i.e. one reel of film that has both the image and the sound on it. Of course, having a combined print costs money so a lot of filmmakers - at college and the like - end up not being able to afford the final stage of the process.

Double band projectors are manufactured by SEIMANS, W.A. PALMER and SONOREX. There's also the BAUER P6. Maintenance and problem solving before a screening follows the same routine as for Super 8 projectors.

Footnote: If you buy a projector second hand, beyond all the obvious checks that it works, doesn't scratch etc. make sure that the moving parts are properly lubricated. Continue to check this on and off throughout the lifetime of ALL your movie projectors. 

THREADING:

Even if they claim to have automatic threading (and some do) DON'T COUNT ON THEIR INFALLIBILITY - learn how to do it manually. 16 mm projectors are a little more violent in their mechanisms - I've seen one split a loop of film right down the middle. Thankfully most 16 mm projectors have threading diagrams on the side, or arrows indicating which side of the roller the film goes etc.

As with any movie projector, make sure there's a small loop of free film above and below the gate - there'll be guide marks for this. Also, at the point the film enters the projector and at the point it leaves it there will be a toothed roller which matches up against the film's sprocket holes. Whenever you thread the film manually you'll have to clip open a little lever at either roller to fit the film around this.

MAKE SURE YOU CLIP THESE BACK AFTERWARDS.

Thankfully you can test that everything is threaded okay before you turn on the projector. At the front by the lens is a milled knob - this is the inching knob with which you can move the projector mechanism - by hand - a frame at a time (understandably when you turn the projector on this will whizz round very fast). If it seems to go round fine then all is well. BUT if when you turn the projector on the film makes a rattling/buzzing noise then it's probably because one of the loops is too large. If the loop's too tight then an automatic loop former comes to the rescue. Unlike with Super 8, 16 mm projectors don't have switches for you to press if the loop goes - it should do it all by itself. If it doesn't - and you're mid way through a film - S T O P. Once the loop has seriously gone the film will certainly scratch, probably snap, and/or tear.

PROJECTION:

Hopefully the film you're showing will have been given to you on a reel, but sometimes people will hand you something on a core (= just a plastic centre) because it's their new print fresh from the lab .. or they've just been editing it on a Steenbeck .. or somesuch. When you get it like this you need a split spool - which is a skeletal kind of reel that opens up by a switch in the centre. You just lay the unprotected film carefully inside, click the other side back on, and there you have your reel ready for projection. Split spools are pretty spindly so it's best to keep them in a 16 mm film can when they're not being used so they don't get bent or buckled in transit.

Again: Do you have a replacement lamp? Any spare leader? A splicer? An extra take-up spool?

One (often overlooked) thing to work out before you're projecting is where exactly the framing knob, or lever, is on your particular model. On ELF projectors this isn't marked making it nigh on impossible to locate in a panicky moment when the picture has slipped out of rack.

Otherwise most 16 mm projectors' controls resemble those of a basic Super 8 projector. Because 16 mm is seen as a more professional gauge than Super 8, you'll find that it's probably possible to get a range of lenses for your projector. They usually come with a prime (or fixed) lens. Ours have all come with a standard 50 mm one, though we've also used a 100 mm one when we were projecting from the back of a l-o-n-g room. There are zoom lenses available, though these can be a bit pricey. Stating the obvious, but .... if you're going to buy a new lens for your projector always take along the old one just to check that you're getting one with a compatible mount. 

SOUND:

16mm projectors usually run at one speed: 24 f.p.s. Otherwise the sound checking advice given for Super 8 holds good WITH THIS ONE EXCEPTION: Most of the 16 mm films in circulation that have had a combined print made have, in stark contrast to Super 8, OPTICAL sound tracks. You can get mag striped 16 mm film - people tend to do this amateur-wise more in Germany I've heard tell - but there are relatively few projectors that can play back 16 mm mag sound tracks. So just make sure that the bargain 16 mm projector you're about to snap up does play optical sound (which, incidentally, it'll 'read' by a little thing called an exciter lamp). Most 16mm projectors have sound outputs to an external speaker and to an amp/mixing desk so make sure you use the right socket. If the projector only has an external speaker output you can sometimes use this to plug into an amp/mixer but make sure you test this as sometimes it is the wrong impedance (!?!) and will cause terrible feedback and buzz. If this happens use an external speaker...many 16mm speakers come with one in the case housing.

THE JOY OF PROJECTION : SLIDES

 

There's such a dizzying array of slide projectors around that it's probably not worth mentioning brands - so I'll just hazard some basic observations.

If you're projecting slides on to the main screen then it's probably handiest to use a Carousel projector, as these can take up to 80 slides and have very good fans to maintain their cool. Yet again, as with 16 mm cine projectors, you can get a variety of lenses. We use Kodak Carousels which came with 70-120 mm zoom lenses, we also have a 180 mm lens for those extra long distances. What we could really do with at the moment is a pretty wide lens - say 25 to 35 mm; this would allow us to have the projector at the front of the room, near the screen, and still project a large image. At our current shows we keep our slide projector at the back of the room by the Super 8 and 16 mm, and even at the120 mm setting on the zoom lens the image can work out too big for the screen. Ah well.

(Incidentally: You may have noticed from the above that, confusingly enough, the 35 mm lens on our Super 8 seems to have greater magnification than the 120 mm one on our slide Carousel. This is because of the size of the format. The Carousel takes 35 mm slides. The Super 8 obviously takes 8 mm film. Image size is dictated by the ratio of lens focal length to format size to projection distance. This is too perplexing to contemplate ... trial and error is the healthiest way forward. The reason behind this is linked up to the manufacturing standardization of normal focal lengths for lenses for each format [50 mm for 35 mm film, 25 mm for 16 mm, and 12.5 mm for 8 mm film]).

With Carousels you can also attach timers, dissolve units, very long remote cables etc. I reckon their best selling point is that potential for a zoom lens, though - as all clunk-click type projectors (i.e. magazine and single slide loading ones) I've ever seen have had fixed lenses. 

The two major disadvantages of Carousels, though, are:

1) They are complex machines that act up after a few sessions of undue jostling

2) They can be very expensive. Secondhand you can usually see them retailing for anything in the realm of 80 to 250. We managed to buy a couple for 75, and I found one for 45 but WE WERE VERY VERY LUCKY. Hopefully you will be too. A possibility is to hire them from your local media resource centre if you've got one. I looked at a rate card for one up in Islington and saw that they were charging around 5 per day.

For any other screen surface you're projecting on to I'd recommend any clunk-click type projectors you can get your hands on, preferably with lamps from 150 watts up (it's not uncommon to find 300 watt ones in junk shops, car boot sales etc. for a snip). The immediate setback with these is when you try to get hold of a replacement lamp once the old one has blown - with the revelation that the new one will cost many times more than that bargain machine you're putting it in (e.g. I bought a replacement 300 watt lamp for 9 recently - declined to buy another type of lamp of the same wattage which would have cost 18!!). And where to get these seemingly obsolete little lamps? Besides checking out your local photo/cine shop for advice I'd recommend that you visit, ring or write to SPECIALIST LAMP DISTRIBUTORS (30 Factory Lane, Croydon, Surrey CR0 3RL, Tel: 0208 240 0050) who are the experts in such matters and are very helpful folk to boot (they also sell gaffer tape at very competitive prices).

Some slide projectors - like the older models in the ALDISS range - take one slide at a time, many others take trays. Seeing as the machine may be on for several hours at a go it's going to get very hot. Whereas Carousels are well cooled to protect their sensitive workings, clunk-click projectors are designed for quick sessions of holiday slide type presentations and their fans are a bit ... fey. The upshot is that these projectors when holding plastic slide trays run the risk of starting to melt them, of warping and buckling, and so jamming up. There are ways to avoid this e.g. seeing as the hot part of the projector is at the back where the lamp is, always make sure that the slide tray isn't slid this far back for long periods. Preferably use a projector that takes one slide at a time. That slide can stay in there for hours with ne'er a worry.

One final tip: slides in cardboard mounts have a collective desire to unstick themselves once they're being projected and so jam things up. Transfer them to solid plastic ones (like those made by GePe) to avoid such hi jinks.

THE JOY OF PROJECTION : VIDEO

VIDEO:

To show videos in a small venue with an audience under one hundred you can get away with a large TV and a basic video player. Use SCART leads or phono leads and the AV setting on your TV (don't use an aerial (RF) lead if you can help it as the signal is not as good as the direct AV input ) . It's a good idea to position the player next to the cine projectors and run a long phono lead to the TV so you don't have to scramble about so much.

For a bigger place you can use two TVs and split the signal from one video player, all you need is a two to one phono splitter which you can buy from any electronic shop like Tandy.

If you need to use a video projector then you've got two options......

BUY ONE .....this will cost you about 1500 !!!!! and you will ever after be pestered by creatures wanting to borrow / hire it so watch out.

HIRE ONE....this will probably cost you about 50 for the night and the thing to watch out for is how old it is (because some of them are ancient and huge)...ALSO if the people who hire it to you aren't going to be there for your screening make sure they show you how it works and leave you an instruction manual for the thing. Anyway video projection technology is getting better and cheaper even as we speak so it wont be long before we can all have one in the kitchen and that'll be juicy.

FORMATS AND SYSTEMS:

There are many different types of video format with various degrees of quality of image from domestic VHS to Super VHS, Video 8, Hi 8, Betacam and now digital formats. Now it maybe possible to get a video image almost as good as life itself with the right equipment but most no budget video cannot and mostly does not seek to reproduce a flawless TV image so whilst striving for the best possible image I would recommend working with standard VHS since most makers have no difficulty making VHS copies of their work. If a maker really insists on showing work on another format well then let them bring their own player !

If you're planning to show international work make sure you discover not only what format the tapes are, but also what colour coding system the tapes use. There are various systems but the three main ones are :

PAL in most of western Europe

SECAM in France and Eastern Europe

NTSC in America

Many of the more sophisticated video players now can play PAL and NTSC and most modern video projectors can be switched to the different systems, but if I was you I'd check it all out first and if possible get the maker to make a copy in a compatible system. 

VIDEO SOUND:

If your using TVs you can always play the sound through the internal TV speakers but the best way is to run the sound from the SCART / phono outputs of the video player into an amp / mixing desk etc.

SETTING UP A
PROJECTION BASE:

When you enter a strange room or hall with the intention of putting on a show there are certain questions to ask and certain basic things to do. First of all find out where the lights are and turn them out so that you can check how dark the blackout is in the room. If there's a window do you need to black it out ? If you're doing a show in a pub or a club find out what lights they have to keep on during your show. A screening can be ruined by light and even noise from a busy bar and sometimes clubs have bright lights in the toilets or bright FIRE EXIT lights so beware, if you're going to check out a possible venue the best time is at night and when its busy.

Next find out where the electric sockets are and check the ceiling for hooks, pipes and rigging....

Armed with this information you should be able to work out where to place your screen and your projectors. The best way to set up projectors is to set up a base or a tower made out of tables, scaffolding, beer crates or whatever else you can find. 

The critical thing is to make sure your projectors are :

1. High enough to clear the heads of the audience !

2. At a distance from your screen where they can all can produce an image of maximum size, brightness and focus.

3. Near enough to your sound system for you to run cables to them without running into TROUBLE.

Work all this out before you set up the projection base or you might find yourself having to dismantle your beautiful tower of rickety beer crates just to move it 8 inches.

THE JOY OF PROJECTION : GENERAL DECOR

SUPER 8:

A dark room with just one screen can be a tad dull so why not project images on the walls, ceiling or even the floor ! But remember when your setting up decor projections....

1. Too much light or light near your main screen will wash out your main projection.

2. The hardiest projectors, and probably the most flexible, are the aforementioned EUMIG'S - notably the ones in the  600 or 700 ranges  (e.g. 605, 607, 610: cream and black coloured casing  -  714, 724:  gold and black coloured casing). They will play at a range of speeds and take both Super and Standard 8 (by the way Single 8, if you ever hear tell of this, is exactly the same as Super 8 for projection purposes. The difference is at the filming stage: it comes in a different kind of cartridge and therefore requires a particular kind of camera. It was Fuji's rival to Kodak's Super 8).

Of course there are a host of other makes out there. Unfortunately a large proportion of them are brittle plasticky things with dim (50 watt) lamps. EUMIG seemed to have had the monopoly of the British domestic Super 8 projector market when there was such a thing and so they're pretty easy to stumble across.

Running loops on projectors is an aesthetically pleasing thing, but it also shortens their lives. Unable to get the tension it'd normally have when running a film through on to a take up spool, the mechanism races away and in time major things start to go wrong. I only mention this in an after the fact kind of way - we've personally got through so many loop projectors that a cloud of collective guilt hangs over us. It's best to set them up so that they can be turned off every hour or so, alternate them with slides or so forth - liven up that decor with a bit of variety.

It's not such a good idea to run loops on sound projectors either - they're usually heavier, more expensive, less flexible and have more things itching to go wrong inside.

Oh yes, this is the point where those smaller tripod screens and well ironed sheets come in handy.

Loops on 16mm projectors are basically the same as Super 8 only because they always have sprocketed teeth they are more likely to crunch the loop! If you have a very awkward loop try projecting it backwards as this can sometimes solve the problem.

OVERHEAD PROJECTORS:

These are an underrated, and so underexploited, boon. For one thing you can photocopy/ write/ scratch/ print/ lay anything you want on to acetate and project it strong and large. For another these give off a lot of peripheral light and so can help illuminate rooms and nooks away from the main screen. Even a few methodically torn bits of paper - strategically arranged - can produce a beguiling bit of shadow decoration. A transparent tank of water laid on top, a couple of coloured gels ..... well, the potential's imponderable.

SLIDES:

Projected 35mm slides make top decor especially if you distort the projected image by angling the beam along walls and ceilings.