Soon to be released in the US superhero movie the Avengers left a screening room full of critics and comic book aficionados baying for blood last week. However, the anger was not because the movie was bad, it wasn’t. In fact, the movie is currently raking in the cash oversees prior to its May 4th domestic release. The problem seems to have been that a projectionist, most likely still not completely familiar with the new digital projectors being rolled out in theaters across the country, deleted the file for the film and was unable to recover it.
While the issue was resolved, it highlighted one of the unforeseen difficulties of switching from analog to digital projection: erasure.
“How easy is it for a digital projectionist to delete an entire film? Slate asked Steve Kraus, whom Roger Ebert has called one of ‘the best projectionists in the nation.’ Kraus told us that it’s as easy as deleting any important file from your computer. ‘It’s click to delete from the server and an ‘Are you sure?’ confirmation,’ he explained over email. ‘Of course, as with most computers it’s not really gone … but probably only a real computer geek could get into the system to ‘undelete.’”
According to Ebert, reported Slate, “Many people employed as digital projectionists lack the skill and training to switch out 3D lenses when projecting 2D films, an oversight that results in dim projections. Whereas film projectionists are skilled workers—and used to be compensated accordingly—digital projection requires the bare minimum of menial tasks, and movie theaters may be tempted to hire (and pay) their new projectionists with that in mind.”
However, as the new technology gains traction, such mistakes will become less frequent, especially if theaters back up the movies on a second server or set them to read only. And, honestly, who can say that they prefer analogue’s lower image quality to that of digital projection?