Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Times That I Live In Are Not Made For a Railroad Man

I recently found out that the art house theatre company that I work for plans to go digital by 2013. I did some research and found that it's going to be an industry standard that all theatres in the US are going digital by 2013 and about half of the theatres worldwide will follow suit. The title of my post (a quote from an Eels song) had me thinking about how I was truly born in the wrong era.

The vintage clothes...the camera collection...the love of antique stores...old all points in one direction...

Being a full time union projectionist would be a dream job for me. I've worked projection at three other theatres in the past, not to mention I have a degree in film. Each film booth that I've worked in has its own quirks and charms. I LOVE working in the booth. It's much more than something I like or think is cool...I live and breath film. It's the smell of age old machinery....the sound of the whirring platters...the feel of warm oil dripping on your fingers as you thread...the dreamlike quality of watching the picture from the booth window...

Looking at this from an audience's point of view the experience of going to the movies will have lost its touch. The aspect ratios of film and video are very different and even the biggest budget film shot with the best camera and shown on the most expensive digital projector can't compare with film. Every year they get better and closer to film, but they can't match it. In my opinion I feel that a film can't feel real, meaning you can't 'lose yourself' in a film if you're aware of the fact that you're a viewer. We've all experienced the feeling of forgetting we're in a theatre and becoming completely immersed in the story line. This is because the atmosphere created by the film has enough distance from reality that we're able to follow along as welcomed voyeurs the way we would in a dream. Video as a medium is very flat as the depth of field is incredibly short. As a result when viewing something shot on video it ends up looking like you're on set watching a take. There's no cognitive distance between yourself and what you're watching because it's just as real as the theatre you're sitting in. Of course movies that are shot on film, then transfered to video and projected digitally are better (this is what most companies do these days, although with RedCam and other superior digital devices this too is starting to fade). However, the digital projection also falls flat in comparison to film. For one, you don't get the whirring noise of the projector. This may not be a big deal for most people, but for me it helps to transition from real life to movie life. The human quality of marks, scratches, and cue spots are gone and replaced with glitchy pixels and a product that is prone to skipping. Finally coming from a point of view that most people will understand more - you're paying top dollar to watch a dvd or sometimes just a digital download! I mean, doesn't that get your blood boiling?

Everyone keeps telling me to be happy that I know how to use film because I'm among the last few people who were properly taught. I keep waiting for an opportunity to show itself, but the future of film keeps looking dimmer and dimmer.

"Railroad Man by The Eels"

Feel like an old railroad man
Ridin' out on the bluemont line
Hummin' along old dominion blues
Not much to see and not much left to lose
And i know i can walk along the tracks
It may take a little longer but i'll know
How to find my way back

I feel like an old railroad man
Who's really tried the best that he can
To make his life add up to something good
But this engine no longer burns on wood
And i guess i may never understand
The times that i live in
Are not made for a railroad man

I feel like an old railroad man
Getting on board at the end of an age
The station's empty and the whistle blows
Things are faster now
And this train is just too slow
And i know i can walk along the tracks
It may take a little longer but i'll know
How to find my way back


1 comment:

  1. Aww, look at look cute in your little hat....and it sounds like you are really doing well in your new digs:)

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