Dec '12 The Center has undertaken a project of restoring a very rare collector's 4 track magnetic sound, Technicolor imbibition print of MGM's classic BEN HUR. It has long been known that the Technicolor imbibition or dye-transfer process produced some of the most vibrant color ever put on film, with a wide color gamut and able to produce deep deep blacks. This process was abandoned in the late 60s because its cost became prohibitive. It has only been rivaled recently by Eastman Kodak's Vivid color process. Unfortunately, it is also widely known that the early triacetate film stocks that Techincolor used would eventually begin to deteriorate due to chemical changes in the structure of the base, eventually making the film distort and shrink to the point where it would become unrunable through a motion picture film projector. Because the chemical cascade process that causes this phenomenon produces a very pungent vinegar odor, it has become know in the film industry as Vinegar Syndrome.
The print we are working on has developed the dreaded VS. There are a few treatments that can be done with a print in which this chemical reaction has begun and before it warps the film base. We are applying those treatments in the hopes that the print can be saved, or at least have it's life extended. If successful, it will be one of only a few known Technicolor, full stereo sound film of this classic title, all of which are in the hands of collectors and not readily available for public exhibition. Wish us luck.
Nov '09 Because the Center commitment to make classic films available to our audience, and because so many of those classics were recorded with older analog soundtracks, we replaced our faithful, 20 year old Dolby Cinema Processor CP65 with the latest final version of the Panastereo Processor which many agree is the company's finest design. It is designed specifically to extract every nuance of sound from all analog soundtracks on older films. The audio signal path from the input on the Panastereo to it's full 7.1 channel output remains in the analog domain and it not processed digitally at any point. This gives the entire system a warm, fluid sound that is unmatched in the industry -- even by the current Dolby digital processors which focus primarily on digital soundtracks. Of course we do use Dolby Digital and DTS Digital processor for the playback of digital soundtracks, but when it comes to the delicate older analog tracks, they are routed through the Panastereo's truly "loss-less" processing where there is none of the loss-y compression used in the digital soundtracks.
June '08 - When the Gene Siskel Film Center undertook an ambitious retrospective of Katherine Hepburn's work, naturally included in their program would have to be Sidney Lumet's powerful film, LONG DAYS JOURNEY INTO NIGHT with Hepburn's brilliant, award winning performance (Best Actress -- Cannes, Golden Globe, DGA, among others) as Mary Tyrone. Problem is, that when Embassy Pictures released the film, it ran 173 minutes long. However in its subsequent releases, crucial scenes were excised to bring it down to a 133 minute version. The ghastly fact was, there were no longer any full length prints left through normal channels. Naturally the good people at the Siskel wanted to run the original COMPLETE film and not some bastardized version. They contacted us in the hopes that having negotiated with film collectors for many other rare and difficult-to-obtain prints here at Brooklyn Center Cinema, we might be able to connect them with a full length, original version of this classic. Happily we were able to locate an original, full length version and we set out spending long hours meticulously cleaning and restoring it, making it ready for a prestigious presentation in the Hepburn retrospective in Chicago honoring this great actress and Director Lumet.
It has been known now for some time that situations like this abound in the film industry -- works get lost, damaged or simply deteriorate to the point where they are not able to be shown the way they were intended, in a movie theatre with an audience and on a large screen. Believe it or not, they were not intended to be seen on a TV set, high definition or not, and CERTAINLY not on an iPod, iPad or cell phone. Lucky are the audiences in Chicago who were able to see these wonderful artist at the peak of their creative power, in a medium that surpasses all others in its ability to immerse a whole group of people in the emotions and the ideas conveyed by that art.
first time Brooklyn Center Cinema used a video projection system to present THE
SEARCHERS on our giant screen. While this was not 35mm film, it was
surprisingly good in terms of brightness and image clarity. It did still
have an "electronic" look to it, but it was not objectionable and because of the
growing loss of 35mm print materials, video may be the only way that we will be
able to still view our cinema heritage in a movie theatre setting. There
were no existing prints of this title in the studios inventory.
The Sanyo three chip LCD picture filled the 17 foot screen height with none of the limitations of a visible "screen door" effect that the older LCD technology used to exhibit. The good news is that video projection technology is advancing by leaps and bounds and this experiment. We are convinced that the newer 3 chip DLP technology will be even better in terms of getting to look as close to film as possible when paired with Hi Definition digital sources.
Center has commissioned composer/musician Tom Nazziola (co-founder with John
Florio of The BQE Project) to compose an original motion picture score for the
1920 silent classic DER GOLEM. We are also negotiating with the archive
repository at the
George Eastman House in Rochester -- one of
the country's most prestigious film preservation/archivist organizations -- to
loan Brooklyn Center Cinema its rare archive 35mm print of this feature for a
screening with live accompaniment in the spring.
The BQE Project has become synonymous with creating imaginative, provocative scores for classic silent films and even more exiting, for early sound films like Von Sternberg's THE BLUE ANGEL which, because of the primitive nature of sound technology at the time, has music accompanying only the opening credits. The BQE Project uses this happenstance as an opening in which to inject fresh, live music content with compelling results.
Watch for DER GOLEM with the BQE Project, live, this spring.
6 Oct '06 As with all things technical, the massive new EV speaker clusters, although they worked quite for the first show after the renovation, our resident sound guru came to the conclusion that given the superior design and quality of these state-of-the-art speakers, we should be getting better uniform sound coverage from them. He took to running computer simulations and doing audio tests with the most accurate audio analytical test instruments ever designed: the human ear of a well-seasoned audio engineer. After plotting out the changes to be made, the rigging company was summoned and they re-aimed the speaker clusters to Chet's specifications. For the rest of the day, the system was tested and finally when Chet was satisfied with the improvements, the speaker were hoisted into place and he called me in to hear the results. I must say, even though I thought the Whitman Theatre sound system was quite impressive the way it was originally installed, this variation and tweaking make it sound simply spectacular. Thanks to the Sound Department and the rigging crew for a job well-done.
The EV surround speaker clusters are hung. They are tested. The are
a thing of beauty to behold.
Unlike most multiplex theatres where surround speakers tend to be fairly small affairs and mounted on the sides of the audience, we have always opted for point-source surrounds which use much bigger and more robust (especially for reproducing extended bass) speaker systems in the rear corners of the house. The placement of the speakers behind the audience lends itself to a much more realistic "surround" sensation, with the sound actually coming from behind the audience rather than from the side. In one of the original THX technical white papers, they proposed moving away from what was then the common practice of using small side surrounds, and instead outfitting the corners of the theatre with full range speakers functioning in a point-source configuration. In this configuration, the surround speaker clusters closely match in size and output capability, what is obtainable from the front screen speaker systems. This was implemented in early the 70s with the Sensurround installations with massive speaker in the rear corners of the theatres. Once we experienced THAT system (Sensurround), it took no need for persuasion for us to adopt that THX recommendation.
12 Oct '04 The new EV Speaker clusters were flown into position and with computer assistance and the human expertise of Chet Green, our Audio Engineer, were aimed and voiced so that coverage was uniform across the across the enter theatre seating area. Special "fill" speaker units are used to cover areas like the mezzanine under the balcony over-hang and in the balcony itself. This new system still requires the left and right rear surround speaker systems to be installed, but when they are completed, we should be able to reproduce the quietest whisper to the thunderous roar of the EARTHQUAKE soundtrack with barely warming up the output transistors on the massive HH amplifiers.
15 Apr '04 Steve Bailey, our Lighting Director, and resident guru of all things electrical, sat down with the Cinema Director, Frank Angel, to plan the cinema portion of the new state-of-the-art theatrical lighting system which will be installed this summer as phase C of the Whitman/Gershwin renovation/rehabilitation project is implemented. The projection booth will be outfitted with "smart" controls that interface with the theatre's main digital lighting control system. The custom designed panels can be programmed to any desired lighting effect that one could possible want, and all on redundant panels the size of a TV remote control. When the installation is completed, these panels will be located at each projector position.
12 Jan '04 Happy New Year. The Cinema Director was seen lugging three massive rolls of sound absorbing insulation back to the theatre in his not-big-enough-for-this-king-of-thing Saturn. The bulky material will be used as sound abatement insulation in the "speaker loft" (the chamber just above the proscenium that houses the center channel and sub bass enhancement speaker bins. This material prevents sound reflection from bouncing around in the chamber and recombining with the direct speaker sound. Eliminating these echo reflections will improve speech intelligibility, making film dialogue more distinct.
19 Nov '03 Brooklyn Center Cinema came full circle today; 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY played again on the Giant Screen as it did back in 1969, the very first film to flicker across the screen with the newly installed 35mm projection system, complete with multi-track magnetic stereo surround sound; few of the commercial theatres, even the bigger ones, could play multitrack mag prints at the time. Most only had mono until well in to the late 70s when Mr. Ray Dolby introduced Dolby Stereo for cinemas. As this was the seminal film which started our proud history of presenting alternative and retrospective films in one of the finest screening facilities in the outer Boroughs, we continued to book it many times over the years, each time making Kubrick's brilliant work accessible to new and appreciative audiences, especially film students of Brooklyn College's Film Department, who get to see it, not on a low definition TV set, but as the director intended. The only difference this time is that we were honored by the presence of Mr. Keir Dullea. He spoke to the very enthusiastic audience for nearly an hour, wowing them with little know facts about the making of the film. The theatre crew enjoyed an even extended talk with this fine actor and gentleman back stage. Photos.
16 Oct '03 We just installed a Kelmar web media cleaner in the booth which will be used in conjunction with a state-of-the-art cleaning/protectant product by Film-Tech Industries called FilmGuard which can make old, beaten prints that sometimes are the only extant film available for these classic titles, look almost pristine. Although the chemical makeup of the product is a patented secret, the liquid, besides being able to clean the film better than most cleaners to date, also has a refractance coefficient which fills in the scratches and makes them less visible to the lens. However it works, the terrific thing is that it does and it's able to make prints that have been abused for 50 years or more, look nearly as good as a print that's just come out of the lab.
27 Sep '02 We are preparing for a more active season this year with the prospect of two Sneak Previews in the next month. In the meantime, we expect to replace our old RCA/Knesley rectifiers with Strong three phase units that will provide a higher voltage jump across the arcs, increasing light output on the screen.
Also, both projectors will be retrofitted with larger capacity water coolant tanks to maintain a non-critical temperature in the film gate.
15 Aug '01 After months of construction with scaffolding surrounding the theatre like a giant spider, the ten, four story windows (five on either side of the building) were bricked up. Although the interior windows were always covered with thick velour, there was always a problem with light spill during the late afternoons on bright sunny days. The windows are gone, although the curtains remain on the inside walls for acoustic purposes and until the next stage of the theatre refurbishment begins. The architectural firm Omni designed exquisite facing where the expansive windows once were. The designs consist of different colors and textures of patterned brick enhanced with stately and majestic metallic sculptures which echo the stainless steel accents of the theatre's interior faux art-deco design.
23 Oct '00 - The screening of PULP FICTION which is part of the on-going The Aesthetics of Wide Screen Motion Pictures series, highlighted the ever-growing problem that vexes the art house/retrospective cinema world --that of the continuing degradation of extant 35mm prints. As the film companies find less and less monastery return on older, classic titles, they become more and more reluctant to take the necessary steps to preserve the few prints that remain. In this case, the print was what is called a "cannibalized compilation" where a number of damaged prints are use to make up a single good print. What we received from Miramax was a print that consisted of some reels that had a Dolby A Type soundtrack and some had a Dolby SR type track. Naturally this caused a distracting change in sound quality between one reel and the next. This actually is not the distributor's fault. They don't actually handle the physical prints. They pay a third party company, in this case Technicolor Film Services, to store, inspect, clean and ship the release prints to various theatres. Evidently Miramax instructed them to put together a "good" print for our screening, taking the better reels from a number of "B" prints. What Technicolor neglected to check was what sound formats they were combining. In addition, the fact that reel 5 had the head and tail leaders spliced on backwards was a pretty good indication that "Leo" (the inspector who stuck his "inspected by Leo" sticker on each reel) had never even looked at these reels. But other than that, the audience seemed to enjoy this rather bloody Tarantino treatise on how the scum of the earth live and die.
Sept '00 - A collaboration between Liz LeDoux and Foster Hirsch of the Brooklyn College Film Department and Brooklyn Center Cinema has resulted in an important project, especially for film students -The Aesthetics of Wide Screen Motion Pictures - which opens on September 18th with THE ROBE. For a younger generation who may have been lead to believe that movies were made to be seen on a 19in television screen, this series running through December will open their eyes WIDE. Some of the finest films that are rarely shown in commercial theatres will be presented here in all their wide screen glory. As seen with a critical eye for composition, these screenings will be a chance once again to appreciate how the great directors and cinematographers used the expansive CinemaScope/Panavision canvas. For some of the younger crowd, perhaps these works will be seen for the first time. Finally, this eclectic playlist of classic titles will be given the presentation treatment they so richly deserve and in the process, edifying and enlightening us all.
10 Apr '00 - The Center's Sound Engineer, Chet Green, has begun installing new, high powered Crest Pro Line Power Amplifiers. These will replace the original Adcom and HH amps. The MegaSound ® system will be even more impressive once all of the upgrades are made. In addition to the new amps, the JBL speaker systems will be replaced by THX Approved Eastern Acoustics Works which will give added presence to sound reproduction and increase speech intelligibility significantly. The EAW sub bass components, which consist of specially designed long-throw, 18" sub bass drivers will, as we like to put it, RULE!
28 Mar '00 - The Center's Lighting Director, Steve Bailey, sketches in the finishing program design for a future booth lighting control system that will eventually be part of a major upgrade to the Whitman Theatre's lighting system. The new control system allows the Lighting Director to program lighting changes and sequences with a great deal of flexibility, something the old system lacked. Back-lit LCD TouchControl panels can be located where ever they are needed in the theatre. The lighting cues and macro sequences are all programmed from a lighting design program that can be run on a standard PC. Two TouchControl panels will be located in the booth and will eventually replace the physical pushbuttons that currently control the house and stage lights during a film exhibition.
10 Mar '00 - Adcom power amplifiers for the Surround Channels are moved to the projection booth to consolidated the system's component location. Previously surround signals were fed to a sound console in another control room. Now they will be routed from the cinema processor directly to the surround amplifiers in the same rack. The system wiring will allow Center Surround or "Circle Surround" to be added should that format become commonly used by the film producers. Currently this surround format has only been used on a few titles and it is not yet clear if the industry will adopt this variation of surround sound for the majority of its releases.
13 Feb '00 - The finishing touches have been made to the DTS installation of the digital code scanners. Because Brooklyn Center Cinema has 4 track magnetic head readers, or "penthouses" as they are called, the DTS readers require a special mounting arrangement to be made on the top of the magnetic reader. This allows the film to pass unimpeded down through the DTS reader, the mag penthouse and into to the projector mechanism. Some pretty unusual hoops had to be jumped through so the film path would be clear. For more information on DTS and Digital Sound, click here What's DTS
18 Dec '99 Installation is still under way of a new control system in the projection booth. The custom designed units will allow the projectionist to more fully control the various aspects of the presentation. House lights, curtain warmers, screen masking and curtain controls are all consolidated on panels mounted in front of the projectionist's view-ports, one for each of the 35mm projectors and a smaller modified control panel for the 16mm projector. The panels allow the projectionist to automate portions of the change-overs or to take manual control of picture and sound change-overs to accomplish them independently. In retrospective programming, many times the only existing prints are 20, 30, even 50 years old. For these older prints with missing footage, especially at the change-over points, being able to separate the sound and picture change-over frames can sometimes mean letting the audience hear the last word of a sentence or the last beat of the music, instead of having them chopped off by an automation system. Happily we note that the human factor can still out-perform the computer in these instances.
24 Nov '98 - The Simplex Soundhead transmission gear on Projector 1 failed during the special screening of Charlie Chaplin's CITY LIGHTS. In the process, the intermittent shaft gear and the drive shaft transfer gear all stripped 15 minutes into the film. The rest of the film was run on Projector 2; of course this necessitated stopping after each reel for a thread-up. The audience and the performing musicians (The BQE Project) were very understanding and some said it actually enhanced the "live" nature of the event. The BQE PROJECT is a Brooklyn based ensemble specializing in playing scores for silent films. The particular score for CITY LIGHTS was composed by Chaplin himself and resurrected as well as orchestrated and then performed by group. This Brooklyn-based group also composes some remarkable original scores for other silent films, like Chaplin's CITY LIGHTS; an original score was recently completed for Josef von Sternberg's classic, THE BLUE ANGEL.
The replacement parts and the intermittent repair for the projector were obtained from a long-time benefactor of Brooklyn Center Cinema, Bruce Sanders, of Sanders Cinema Consulting and Design in Florida. Mr. Sanders is one of the few remaining cinema craftsmen with specialized expertise in the BMW of cinema projectors, the Simplex XL, as well as every other projector design and components.
The projector was functional and purring sweetly for our special presentation of the MGM classic FORBIDDEN PLANET.