Moving Product Off the Shelf

BSE Witnesses End of an Era in Film

By coincidence, on the very day Philip had sent one of his 16mm films – Metro 6000 – to AlfaCine for digital transfer to upload to BSE’s YouTube site, we decided to see “Argo” at Portland’s Cinemagic Theater that night.  After discovering the theater in total darkness, Philip went back out and encountered a tech guy, and asked when they planned to switch to digital projection.

“Actually, that’s why the theater is dark,” he said, “we’re in the midst of the changeover right now. So the film may be a bit delayed.”

Philip asked if he could come see it, and the fellow said, “Sure, come up after the show!”

As the credits were rolling, we left the plush theater to climb the rickety stairs to the projection booth, where we felt the ghosts of Fellini’s “Eight and a Half,” “The Wild Bunch,” and Roger Vadim’s “Barbarella” hanging in the air. The Christie 35mm Projector lay in a corner, a discarded relic of yesteryear – its only value as scrap metal.

The ugly, bare walls showed evidence of frustrated projectionists, whose fists had penetrated its walls when broken film sprockets jumped out of the gate or a short loop caused the film to break.

Reams of raw footage lay scattered underfoot amid discarded takeup spools and splits.

In their place, was a gleaming, but incongruous computer-driven digital system.

Christie Digital Projector

The digital film lay inanimately in an oblong cassette.

Digital Film Cassette

Having worked on many film sets in London, Philip always volunteered to take the film canisters to London’s various labs – Rank, CFI, or Technicolor. “I just thought the lab was such an interesting part of the filmmaking process,” recalls Philip. “When a film was finished, I would sit with ‘The Timer’ working on the Hazeltine machine, which analyzed how to ‘time’ a film print for the proper amounts of red, blue, and green light.”

“I have worked in film since I was a kid,” continues Philip, “and learned every aspect, from pre-production to distribution and exhibition. Being present to witness the very moment when 100-year-old cinema technology vanished and a radical change was put in place seemed perfect to me, who has successfully embraced such inventions as the YouTube phenomena.”

Ironically, it is Philip’s vintage film “The Heaviest Load,” that has garnered more than 2 million viewers on our YouTube page, and I, who have written for Hollywood films, who got to edit some of the film clips for his Blackstone Edge Band, which uses cutting edge technology and wireless, mini computers to drive the clips to 14 different screens during the performance.

It may be the end of an era, but with Philip’s brilliant ability to see the future and embrace it wholeheartedly, I’m certain we’ll continue to stay ahead of the curve. Thank you, Philip, for your incredible vision!


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