February 22, 2005

Full moon? (concluded)

Part I. Part II. Part III.

Movie projectors are not intelligent. Start a projector and it will happily turn its little gears until it is told to stop. You could take a six foot length of 35mm film, splice the ends together, and the projector will play that endless loop forever.

A "brain" is an electronic gizmo that sits in the center of a film platter and controls the speed at which the film pays out--optimally, the same speed at which the projector gears are turning.

Basically, a movie leaves the platter through the brain, runs through the gears of the projector where it just happens to pass in front of a very powerful light that is shining toward a movie screen, and rewinds onto another platter.

Quite a few things can go wrong even with this apparently simple system. My least favorite is the "brain wrap." If the brain fails to do its job properly, the feeding-out platter could turn at the wrong speed or even stop, and instead of paying out smoothly at the same speed that the projector is turning and the other platter is rewinding, the film begins to wrap it self around the brain (hence the term). Eventually the film wraps itself tight enough that it can't pay out anymore. The projector, however, does not know that the film has stopped advancing--it just happily keeps turning its little gears while the take up platter pulls harder and harder. Eventually one of two things happens. Either the film breaks (which is unlikely unless there is a splice at one of the major stress points) or the frame stuck in front of the 2000 watt Xenon bulb begins to melt. At this point a patron usually mentions it to the theater staff.

The big problem with fixing a brain wrap is not cutting out the melted frame and splicing the movie back together. The big problem is that the film projection system is a one-way process. There is no re-wind on a movie projector. When the film is wrapped snugly around the brain like thread around a spool about the only thing you can do is cut the film out of the brain, unwind it onto the floor, and manually try and wind it back onto the platter. Unlike thread, though, film has a front and a back, and a tendency to curl up--imagine trying to put fly paper back into its can (without the stickiness, thank goodness) and you can see the chore it is.

Depending on many variables, a brain wrap can be fixed in about 10 minutes, allowing the movie to be resumed, or it could take several hours, in which case the patrons all get passes and are sent home. Either way, a brain wrap is not fun.

We had another brain wrap on Saturday. The sound in theater two continued to act up intermittently, although thankfully the customers were decent about it. One of the toilets in the the west men's room wouldn't stop flushing, and there were two major leaks over the concessions area that were steady enough to require buckets. I'm thinking about making a horror film called "The Curse of the Dollar Movies."

This story has a happy ending, though. Thank God for Monday! Repairmen work on Mondays. The landlord brought roofers to patch the hole in the roof over one of the leaks, and add flashing to the air conditioning ductwork, the runoff from which was causing the other leak. The plumber came and fixed the haunted toilet. The projector repairman promised to come out today and see if he could fix the sound in theater two and repair the brain that hemorrhaged. And I have today off!!!! Hurray!!!!

Posted by Susie at February 22, 2005 08:16 AM

But if everything gets fixed, what will you blog about?

Posted by: Victor and his seventeen pet rats at February 22, 2005 10:09 AM

Scantily-clad firemen, no doubt :-)

Glad things are going better for you.


Posted by: Harvey at February 22, 2005 10:14 AM

I'm a sucker for happy endings.

Your story was filled with mystery, action, adventure and it had a happy ending... It was perfect!

Posted by: contagion at February 22, 2005 12:21 PM

I dunno, guys. "Endings" at The El-Cheapo Dollar Theater are frequently like endings in those grade-B sci-fi movies that would have a "?" fade up after the final words appeared on the screen.

Posted by: Victor and his seventeen pet rats at February 22, 2005 12:56 PM


And they all lived happily ever after.

Until next Saturday.

Posted by: Jim at February 23, 2005 01:54 PM