Part 1


Start here



Welcome to the fascinating, versatile, challenging world of 16 mm. A 16 mm system,
comprising projector, speaker and screen can be set up almost anywhere in just a few
minutes. The whole system is no more difficult to transport than a couple of small suitcases,
yet a 16 mm screening can be as stimulating and rewarding as a night out at a major cinema.


The range of film available on 16 mm extends from obscure documentaries to specialised
training and motivational shorts to popular blockbusters. For this reason, 16 mm was
extremely important for around thirty years following the end of the Second World War.
Until the introduction of the video cassette recorder (VCR), 16 mm provided much of the
film entertainment seen by people who lived in rural and remote areas. It made the latest
films available to people in the bush, on islands and in Antarctica. Local clubs had regular
film nights, and film fund raisers were common in church halls across the country. For
about 20 years, all films seen on television were 16 mm prints. Sixteen millimetre film
was also an important teaching and training aid. Every school had at least one projector.
All government departments and large companies screened 16 mm films in special theatrettes
as part of their training programs. Governments and commercial distributors maintained
huge libraries of 16 mm films that travelled all over the country. If you wanted to buy a
new 16 mm projector there was plenty of choice. Competition between manufacturers
was keen, and back-up service was always obtainable. In the cities technicians were
only a phone call away, and service centres repaired projectors sent in from rural areas.
It was big business.


But that was before the introduction of video tape and the VCR in the mid 1970s.
The VCR made everything easier, it simplified the presentation of instructional material
and revolutionised the entertainment industry by transforming homes into private cinemas.
By the early 1980s trainers had stopped using film. Schools and clubs no longer needed
their projectors, and countless thousands were dumped, simply because there was no
longer any use for them and no one wanted them, at any price.


Since then, it has been almost all downhill for 16 mm, except for a small band of people
who enjoy the 16 mm film experience so much they think it should be kept alive.
Their philosophy is reflected in the existence of several hundred Australian film societies
and in the National Film and Sound Archive, which maintains a collection of film from all
round the world. If, as many people maintain, film was the most important contributor to
the popular culture of the 20th century, the film that is left is especially important. It is not
just a means of preserving a link to our cultural heritage, but of making it accessible to
present and future generations. That is, of course, provided the film is preserved and the
equipment needed to screen it is maintained in working condition.


Interestingly, technology is now developing so quickly that the VCR is already obsolescent,
and DVD will be out of date within a few years. It won’t be long before commercial cinema
will be a completely digital (or whatever) experience, with image and sound arriving via
satellite direct from the distributor in San Francisco, Hong Kong or New Delhi.


But the old films, and many contemporary ones, will still be with us in those libraries able to
maintain them, for years to come. So while 16 mm technology is no longer state of the art,
it still has a following among film lovers, who enjoy not just the film, but the whole experience,
the good moments and the bad, the uncertainty, the challenge, the hands-on approach
and the constant feeling that disaster can strike at any moment, especially with a very old,
buckled and much-spliced print as it passes through an ancient projector. It is an atmosphere
that the sterile perfection of digital projection cannot hope to match.


Under these conditions, audiences are very forgiving. But that is no reason for projectionists
to take their responsibilities lightly. The projectionist is the final link in the production chain.
It is up to the projectionist to present each film so that the work of the writer, director, cast
and everyone else involved is seen and heard at its best. The fact that the entire artistic
achievement is contained on a strip of film, a fragile medium that is easily damaged by careless handling or poorly maintained equipment adds an extra dimension to the challenge.


In the end, perhaps the best barometer of the projectionist’s performance is the audience.
The projectionist should aim to make the film experience so enjoyable everyone in the
audience will want to come back again.


About This Manual

This manual is a compilation of information that every projectionist needs to get started
and keep going. It is divided into five parts. You are reading Part 1- The Introduction.


Part 2 - The Basics, is where you get down to business. It is designed mainly for people
who are not used to working with film or projectors, but also as a reference for more
experienced operators. The content is arranged so that as you proceed you will cover
the material in more or less the order in which things happen in practice. The technical
information in this part is basic and generic, so if you run into a problem with your
particular machine you may need to refer to your Projector’s User Handbook - Part 4
or a Technical Manual - Part 5.


Part 3 - Miscellaneous Information, contains snippets that may be useful or just
interesting. This part can be added to when you run across things you think could
supplement the general sum of knowledge.   


Part 4 - User Handbooks, contains user handbooks for particular projectors,
either in their original form or as compilations of general information. They will help
fill in the gaps left by Part 2. If you have a user handbook that is not included in
Part 4, it could be helpful to other projectionists, so please consider sending it or a
copy to the Australian Council of Film Societies (ACOFS) for inclusion (details below).


Part 5 - Technical Manuals, contains copies of original technical and workshop
manuals, and is aimed at projectionists who need specific technical information to
maintain their machines. If this section does not contain a manual you need, refer
to the Internet sites: and, where you
may find the information you are seeking. Alternatively, if you have a technical
manual that is not included, please forward it or a copy to ACOFS (details below)
for inclusion.




Information contained in this compilation is drawn from a variety of sources.
ACOFS is happy to acknowledge the debt owed to particular individuals and
publications and to and for their contributions.
ACOFS makes no claim to copyright in relation to any of the information contained
in this compilation, as we believe it is in the public interest to have the information
preserved and freely available to everyone who needs it.



Using and Improving This Manual

All of the information in Part 1 and Part 2 is in MS Word © format. The files
in Part 3 are a mixture of Word, PDF and HTML. Parts 4 and 5 are in either
Word or as a PDF.
To read PDFfiles you will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader © installed.
A good first step would be to copy the whole manual to your C drive, and then
make a CD-ROM copy.


All the information in this manual can be printed out on A4 paper and inserted
into loose leaf binders. If you don’t need all the information in an entire Part,
print only the pages you want, and file them in your folder. In time, you will
work out your own ways of doing things and solving problems. Make notes
as you go and if you think they could be useful to other projectionists, send
them to ACOFS for inclusion. Illustrations would be particularly welcome.


Perhaps in time ACOFS can set up a web page like that at,
where people can exchange information in an interactive forum.


Contact ACOFS at the following addresses:

President - Bryan Putt

Please address all correspondence to:
Secretary -
Eric Dixon
(03) 9561 7713 or 0430 134 273
or email:


You Will Need


To get the best out of this manual you will need to have direct access to the following:


·        A 16 mm projector with an external speaker and speaker lead


·        A table, bench or projector stand


·        Electrical power (240 volt AC)


·        A screen or section of suitable wall


·        A short 16 mm film (400 ‘ is a good size) on a reel for setting up


·        A longer 16 mm film comprising more than one reel, for screening practice


·        Spare reels in different sizes


·        Spare lamp and spare exciter lamp


·        A rewind bench. It doesn’t have to be a permanent bench.
Winders mounted on a piece of 19 mm particle board will do the job.


·        A 16 mm tape splicer


·        Splicing tape


·        A loupe (a jeweller’s magnifying eyepiece) or a large magnifying glass


·        Cleaning gear: toothbrush, cotton buds, small plastic scraper, soft cloth,
Isopropyl alcohol (obtainable from any pharmacy), an aerosol can of Inox,
DW 40 or similar, puffer and soft brush for removing dust from lenses,
lens cleaning cloth and fluid, or lens cleaning tissues.


·        Cotton gloves (not essential, but highly desirable)


It is also a good idea to have an experienced projectionist with you when you start out.
But you will be on your own most of the time, so you will quickly need to become
familiar with basic maintenance and to cope with unexpected disasters. In the longer term,
unless you have a technician on call, you will also have to carry out your own repairs.
And hopefully, that’s where this manual will really help.



Michael Lines-Kelly

Mullumbimby, January 2006