Darryl G. Jones
Churchville, New York, USA
Projection in its essence is nothing more than creating a shadow on a reflective surface. The shadow can be black and white or glorious colour and the shadow’s image can be highly detailed. More often than not, the shadow is accompanied with sound. You start with a very bright beam of light and you attenuate that beam with an image from film, a DLP or a LCD device to form a recognizable shadow.
As a boy, I enjoyed movies as much as the next kid but I really had little interest in how the pictures were formed on the screen. My interest in the technical side of projection was stirred a little bit during one afternoon at the local movie house. I had just finished watching a Tarzan picture, but I was not ready to leave the theatre when the show was over. As the feature repeated, I fixated on the beam of light that emanated from a window in the back wall of the theatre. The beam seemed to take on a life of its own and appeared to dance against the darkened ceiling of the auditorium. Suddenly, the beam appeared to jump from its original window to another window in the back wall! At that point, I thought I was imagining things. How could a beam of light jump from one window to another. (What I had just witnessed was a changeover from one reel to the next.) I left the theatre a little perplexed by the experience, but a few years later the mystery of the ‘jumping’ beam of light would be solved for me.
I turned 16 in 1962. One Saturday afternoon, my parents took me to see a movie entitled The Seven Wonders of the World. This travelogue was presented in something called Cinerama and it was shown at the Monroe Theatre in Rochester, N.Y. The movie-going experience had just become a lot more exciting for me. During the movie, I again glanced toward the back of the theatre; this time there were three beams of light. Cinerama would ultimately stir my interest in photography and motion picture projection.
In 1965, I enrolled in the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Evening College and began my study of professional photography. Unfortunately, because of the Vietnam War and my part-time student status, my education was interrupted for a tour of duty in the U.S. Army beginning in 1967. I was trained as a radar technician and was subsequently shipped to Wildflicken, Germany to work on a Hawk Missile Site.
Our barracks in Germany consisted of two-man rooms. My roommate was also a radar technician, but as luck would have it, he was also one of the projectionists serving the post’s theatre. One night, he asked me if I’d like to visit him in the booth of the Little Paradise theatre. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance. During my visit, I asked my roommate if he would train me to operate the two 35mm Simplex XL projectors and he agreed. By late 1968, I was working as a regular projectionist at the Little Paradise theatre.
After the service, I finished my degree in professional photography and joined the Eastman Kodak Company where I spent the next 33 years. While at Kodak, I enjoyed working in several areas using my photographic skills. Outside of Kodak, I continued to work as a theatre projectionist on a part-time basis. The last assignment at Kodak was with the Entertainment Imaging Division where I became a Cinema Specialist for the division.
I retired from Kodak in 2007, but I continue to project film in three Rochester Area Theatres. Probably the best know of these theatres is the Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman House.
In closing, I really don’t know what career path I would have chosen if it had not been for my exposure to Cinerama all those years ago.
© copyright caboose 2012
Darryl G. Jones has worked as a projectionist since 1968 and is currently a contract projection service engineer with Kodak and an adjunct professor at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, in addition to serving as a relief projectionist for the George Eastman House and a number of regional movie theatres. He was employed by the Eastman Kodak Company from 1974-2007 as a systems development technician on traditional photographic, video, and digital cameras. His traditional film format projection experience includes 8mm, 16mm, 35mm and 70mm; his video projection experience includes CRT, LCD and DLP projection; and his tape format experience includes ¾ inch U-Matic, Beta-SP, DigiBeta, DVCAM and HDCAM. He is the past president of Movies on a Shoestring and has been their projection chairperson since 1975 through present. He is a life member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE).