April 2, 1998

I spoke today to Richie, the projectionist at AMMI, to ask him an old question that I'd never had answered: how can a projectionist make a clean reel change on my film when the print doesn't contain any cue marks?  I found out that the cue marks can be placed either onto the negative by the lab (in which case they appear as black) or on the release print by a projectionist if he or she has the proper piece of equipment (in which case the marks are white).  Richie doesn't have that proper piece of equipment for 16mm films, but it doesn't matter, because...AMMI has only one projector.  To avoid pauses in mid-movie, AMMI projectionists splice all the reels together into one huge reel, then splice the film back together before they return it.

I was uneasy about having my film cut up in such a fashion until I realized that my film couldn't be projected in this fashion anyway.  Because I told Lab-Link six months ago that I didn't need pull-ups!  That issue seemed so irrelevant at the time, and now it has returned to bite me.  Without pull-ups, Richie's splicing would leave a one-second hole in my sound track at each reel change.  Maybe that wouldn't be the end of the world, but I certainly don't want to cut up my movie if I'm not even going to get smooth reel changes out of it.  So screening at AMMI means taking two mid-film pauses to change reels.

Richie insists that all the 16mm venues that he knows of (he mentioned the Museum of Modern Art in particular) use this method, instead of the two-projector system that I assumed everyone used.  If this is really true, then I may eventually need to redo my prints with pull-ups, and get over my squeamishness about splicing.  But I recall the people at Anthology Film Archive (the only other venue I'd considered that is of comparable size and almost-comparable price) saying that they were about to buy a second 16mm projector to prevent pauses between reels.  I now have to decide whether to have the screening at AMMI with two reel change breaks, or to pay more money and move the screening to Anthology or somewhere else.  Personally, I'm used to waiting for reel changes at 16mm screenings; it's hard for me to figure out how bush-league those pauses will seem to non-buffs. I need to ask for advice, and learn more about comtemporary 16mm projection practices.

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