35mm (and more) projection options

From: Tom Bray (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Jun 16 2009 - 09:27:40 PDT


I queried our fully restored & fully spectacular local Art House
Cinema about what formats they can properly screen here in Ann Arbor,

Scott Clarke, the Technical Director of Michigan Theater, which is
home to the Ann Arbor Film Festival, had his to say:

Hi Tom,

Ed is indeed correct about the fact that there are not many places
left who are equipped to screen multiple picture formats. Most
commercial theaters are limited to 1.85 and cinema scope as their
only available options.

For 35mm presentations the Michigan Theater maintains the following
capability: 1.33
1.55 (approx; it's Vista Vision)
and Cinema Scope.

In addition, we have several "odd size" apertures for things like
full frame silent film prints and other things that turn up that
don't fit any of the normal aspect ratios.

We also maintain variable speed drives for when we need to alter the
speed of the silent films and we utilize Selsun interlock motors for
screening dual strip 35mm for the occasional 3-D film presentation.

I realize that we are fast becoming a museum of film exhibition but
is still fun to be able to screen movies as they were originally
intended to be exhibited!


Two additional capabilities he did not mention (because I did not ask him) are:

70mm film projection

State of the Art Digital Cinema
   (4K Sony Cine Alta Digital Cinema DCI system with RealD 3D capability;
    Brand New, for the release of Pixar's "UP!")

So there still are a few places where one can screen whatever one might have.

I think his statement truly represents the spirit of the MTF in
wanting to always be able to play film formats properly. The General
Manager once referred to the Michigan Theater as a "Film House
Playback Archive" for just that reason.

And it is the knowledge of *how* to get it right (many of those film
gates are hand made by the projection staff) combined with the
insistence on actually getting it right that make the Michigan
Theater the perfect home for the Ann Arbor Film Festival. I don't
think anything has been handed to us in the last 5 years that we have
not been able to screen as intended, from odd frame formats to
multi-projector extravaganzas.

I was fortunate to be able to help the Michigan move into the digital
video age a few years ago with the purchase of 2 Christie Digital
DS+8K projectors, and since than the AAFF has been able to screen
video submissions in their native formats without concern over
PAL/NTSC issues, HD formats, or frame rates. It has been wonderful.

I can't wait to see what I can do with the Sony 4K system!


Tom Bray
Technical Director
2010 Ann Arbor Film Festival
March 23-28, Michigan Theater
email suppressed
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.