projection speeds

July 29, 2009 § Leave a comment

That other little pesky problem of silent film exhibition. Here’s the situation from 1923 :

At the time of writing there is a rumour of action about to be taken both by Northern Licensing Justices and by the Council of the Kinematograph Renters’ Society to prevent film being shown at speeds greater than 15 minutes to the 1,000 ft (equivalent to just under eighteen picture shifts a second). Meanwhile, present average projection speed is more like 12 to 13 minutes for the 1,000 ft. [or about 22 fps]. What complicates the situation to a point where any attempt to lay down a general rule becomes hopeless, is that many motion picture producers are deliberately directing the action of staged films in such a way that their subsequent projection at the olld standard sixteen-picture rate would be ruinous to any sense of life and brightness in the film’s screen effect. (Bennett, Guide to Kinematography, 1923, p. 164)

First time I hear about an attempt to license projection speed, though it makes sense and there may be other instances. Wonder what happened to that action…

This would fit, though, with what Kevin Brownlow has described here*: 16 fps was described as the ‘correct’ shooting speed in most magazines and articles…yet his experience shows that most films were projected at much higher speeds 22-24 fps, and cue sheets confirm that. His conclusion ? Undercranking allowed for brisker pictures when shown at 20+ fps.

*If you’ve never done so, check out the Silent Film Bookshelf for reprints of invaluable articles and books.

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