Friday morning I dropped Paul off at the airport.  He’s heading to Bangkok to visit his girlfriend, Aori, meaning I’ll have the place to myself for the next week.  (Party at Paul’s!)

Afterwards, I stopped by the AMC Metreon 15 theater, which used to be the Sony Leows Metreon until AMC bought the Sony Leows theatre chain.  The theatre is now run by several former colleagues and employees of mine and I particularly wanted to stop by and visit Joel, the union projectionist who taught me the craft of being a motion picture projectionist some 19 years ago when I first started working at a movie theatre.

IMG_6075 Yes, my first job was as a movie theatre user at the AMC Sunnyvale 6, a cinema long since gone.  In my 15 years with AMC I did everything including being an usher, a projectionist, a manager, and finally was the senior and general manager of several theatres including what was the nation’s busiest (and is still regularly in the top 20), the AMC Mercado 20 in Santa Clara, CA.  I was also the opening general manager for the AMC Festival Walk 11 in Hong Kong.  Exciting, huh?

To this day, I’m always very interested in movie theatres and how they run.  When there’s a film problem at one of the cinemas in Khrungthep, I can barely resist the urge to offer to help fix it.

After lunch, Joel took me on a tour of the projection booth for their IMAX theatre, left.  I’ve never been inside an IMAX booth and it is quite impressive. 

The film is 70mm wide, versus the usual 35mm film, but the frames are arranged horizontally on the film (sprockets are on the top and bottom of the frame instead of the sides) meaning that the image resolution is significantly higher than on 35mm film. 

In the picture, Joel is holding a small roll of 35mm film next to the much larger IMAX film.  This particular print is the Harry Potter movie, which is being shown in 3D.  Because of that, it actually has two films, one projecting the left eye image and the other projecting the right eye image.  That’s a lot of film!

Below is a picture of the projectionists threading the film throughg the “brain” of the platter: the front of the film is in the center, is fed out through the brain to the projector.  It is then projected and feeds back onto another platter around a removable metal frame.  When the film is finished showing, it has essentially re-built itself onto another platter, and the metal frame can be taken out and the film threaded for the next showing, ending up on the platter it was on for the first showing.  Back and forth all day long.


IMG_6081 The other thing amazing about the IMAX projector is the xenon bulb.  In a typical movie projector, the highly-fragile (and highly explosive) bulb is about 3500 watts.  The picture below shows a 7000w bulb used in some of the large auditoriums at Metreon along with a 15,000 watt bulb used in the IMAX projector.

That’s quite a bulb.

There’s a really good description about the entire platter and reel process used in movie projectors here.

This evening I have the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner for Ryan and Sabrina’s wedding.  There’s a lot of back and forth this weekend: rehearsal in San Francisco, dinner in Burlingame, prepare for wedding in South San Francisco, wedding in San Francisco, pictures in Golden Gate Park, reception and banquet in San Mateo, Sunday brunch in Berkeley, afternoon show in San Francisco, dinner in San Jose.

To make it extra fun, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is closed for the entire weekend for a construction project!


3 thoughts on “IMAX!

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