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Avoiding Film Festival Projection Woes

by Andy and Amy Collen
Happy Trails Animation
October 30, 2005

We recently attended the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), where we watched a program of animated shorts, including our film “Winter.” A few films, including ours, were 35mm prints and they looked fine.

However, most films were projected digitally from DVDs and these films looked horrible. They were grainy, and all of the colors were blown out. In fact, it was so bad that during the following question period, someone asked us what we thought of the quality, complaining that it was the worst he had ever seen.

At that time, I assumed that the digital projector was old, and we encouraged everyone to support the SIFF festival so that they could replace their digital projector. Since then, we discovered the truth: for efficiency, film festivals often copy films from the submission DVD for projecting at the shows. Ugh!

Festivals do not notify filmmakers of this standard practice. The sad thing is, it is not necessary for them to make dirty dubs for projection. Instead, they need to change their protocol.

Festivals should allow DVDs for preview purposes only. Then, if accepted, they should require filmmakers to submit a raw Quicktime MPEG 2 (.m2v) along with an AIFF file so that the festival can cut their film into the collection for projection as needed.

Ultimately, it is best to transfer your film to 35mm and avoid this problem altogether. For copies to 35mm, we recommend working with Michael at GW Hannaway and Associates: 303-440-9631.

As things stand now, filmmakers who want to supply their MPEG2/AIFF to festivals file are in for a bit of work. We have found that it takes a good amount of phone calling to set things up.

You will want to find the person who will be cutting the show together and get your files to that person. Then it is important to follow-up and make sure that they have actually gone through the trouble to use the files you have sent to them.

Film festivals must raise their digital projection standards. Please do what you can to promote this notion.