Carbon arc projectors

Technically-oriented discussion of classic films on everything from 35mm to Blu-Ray
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Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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Carbon arc projectors

PostThu Jan 11, 2018 8:27 am

Anyone ever see a film projected from a carbon arc projector?

What was it like? How did they handle the rod changes.
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Richard P. May

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Re: Carbon arc projectors

PostThu Jan 11, 2018 9:53 am

Yes, that's what was used when I started in the business. What did it look like? A movie on the screen. As long as the carbons were adjusted properly, a nice white light. Changing the carbon rods was done between reels, similar to putting the next reel of film on the idle projector.
I know there will be people commenting on this, advocating carbon arc vs. xenon. I won't argue for one or the other, it's just the way things were done at the time.
Dick May
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Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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Re: Carbon arc projectors

PostThu Jan 11, 2018 10:47 am

Thanks!

I was just curious if the light was a different hue or look than bulbs or if there was a flicker in the arc light. It sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Arc light and nitrate film!
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wingate

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Re: Carbon arc projectors

PostThu Jan 11, 2018 11:18 am

There were nitrate fires in cinemas.
In the UK there had to be a projectionist on duty by the running projector all the time.There were metal gates by the port which would be brought down if required.
In the fifties I have clear memories of the picture fading to brown because the projectionist failing to attend to the arcs.
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barry byrne

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Re: Carbon arc projectors

PostFri Jan 12, 2018 7:52 am

These were the usual means of projection when I was young.

In properly run cinemas the projectionist managed the carbons and the gap very carefully to ensure even illumination through all shows. Some of the third rate places ran down the carbons below acceptable levels to cut costs, which led to some flickering and low light levels.

I still regard the Xenon lamp as a pretty recent innovation, which may explain why I follow this site.
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sethb

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Re: Carbon arc projectors

PostSat Jan 13, 2018 9:13 am

A carbon arc lamphouse produces a perfectly fine white light --- if the carbons are aligned properly and gapped correctly, and if the lamphouse mirror is clean and focused properly, and if the rectifier (which converts AC to DC for the lamphouse power source) is adjusted correctly. That's what experienced, good projectionists did!

Xenon bulbs also produce great illumination, and probably more light (and heat) than a carbon arc setup. Of course, they are also a lot more expensive to run! But I have seen more than a few Xenon bulbs explode inside the lamphouse, likely as the result of fingerprints on the bulb glass, which can create hotspots because oil from the fingertips on the glass absorbs heat. (The bulbs are supposed to be installed while wearing gloves.) In addition to being very dangerous, that also creates one heck of a mess to clean up. SETH
"Novelty is always welcome, but talking pictures are just a fad." -- Irving Thalberg
"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk ?" -- Harry Warner
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Jack Theakston

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Re: Carbon arc projectors

PostSat Jan 13, 2018 9:37 pm

Having run both extensively, the difference between the two is negligible (maybe +1 for Xenon because the arc is generally more stable). But running carbon is fun, to say the least.
J. Theakston
"You get more out of life when you go out to a movie!"

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