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Are "cigarette burns" in films shown in theaters a myth?

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Are "cigarette burns" in films shown in theaters a myth?

Old 12-17-05, 11:22 AM
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Are "cigarette burns" in films shown in theaters a myth?

So far I have heard two sources of these so called "cigarette burns". David Fincher's "Fight Club" describes it as the little circular marks indicating the change of reel for films shown in the theater.

Showtimes horror anthology "Masters of Horror" specifically this week's episode "John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns" indicates they are the circular marks that indicate a dramatic change in the story, that something is about to happen.

So are these things real and can the naked eye see them when you are watching a movie in the theater? And if so, what are they for?
Old 12-17-05, 11:26 AM
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Nah, not a myth, I see 'em all the time ... or at least I used to ... immediately followed by an awkwardly timed cut. Fincher is right. On a full sized theater screen, they're about 3' wide.

"It lasts for 4 frames (1/6th of a second), and is a signal that a changeover is due in 12 feet of film, when it runs out. This means there is about 8 seconds until the reel's end. Then there's one more, around 1 foot ... Now, most modern theaters have the whole movie on a 6-foot diameter platter, obviating the need for the Cigarette burns, but they're still there. I like 'em, maybe I have sharper eyes."

Last edited by BigPete; 12-17-05 at 11:32 AM.
Old 12-17-05, 11:36 AM
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Speaking from experience in projection, they are not a myth. Now, never used them. The projectors I built the movies upon were spun onto a large 3 platter tower. So you could put the whole movie onto a platter, thread up the projector and hook it onto one of the others, so while the movie played it would wind itself up and be ready to play instantly.

The cigarette burns were geared more towards projectors that had to switch reels in the middle of the movie. Most of the time I see the burn in the top right corner, but then there's about 5 seconds till another one and right after the second, the film jumps for a brief second. This still signifies the changing of a reel, not physically but one that is spliced together. The jump comes from the splicing tape running through the gate. And most movies usually come on about 6 reels, so there's about 5 times average during a movie that you can spot a burn.
Old 12-17-05, 12:01 PM
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so which movies have you seen them in? any recently or are they just there all the time? and 3 feet wide?
Old 12-17-05, 12:05 PM
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I used to work at an old theater that still had two projectors and I'd have to switch them over from reel to reel just at the right time. It wasn't very much fun, but I'd often load one reel backwards and have to stop the film and announce that there was a problem with the reel, that I was ok and no one should be worried and that it'd be fixed in a few minutes. Nowadays movie theaters edit all the reels (a 2-hour movie would have 6 or 7, maybe) and instead of being the reel feeding in vertically, the giant reel lays flat.
Old 12-17-05, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by scott1598
so which movies have you seen them in? any recently or are they just there all the time? and 3 feet wide?
They've been in every movie I've ever seen in the theater.
Old 12-17-05, 12:19 PM
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Yeah i see them all the time, i saw quite a few in King Kong last night.
Old 12-17-05, 12:41 PM
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Before I saw Fight Club I never saw them, after I saw Fight Club I see them all the time.

They appear in the upper right hand corner of the screen and from my experience, they appear once, disappear for a few second and then appear again
Old 12-17-05, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by GoldenJCJ
Before I saw Fight Club I never saw them, after I saw Fight Club I see them all the time.
Ditto here, although before Fight Club I think I would occasionally notice them, along with the more noticable splices.

Fight Club has it right by the way, they're used to indicate reel changes. Films are sent to theaters in reels of approx 10 minutes in length. They usually try to place the end and beginning of reels in places where the changeover won't be as noticable, usually at the point of a cut to a new scene. Before the use of platters become prevelant, which splice all the reels together into on giant reel that plays continuously, theaters used to use a two-projector system. On projector would be playing one reel, with the other threaded up to start playing the next one. The cigarette burns would be an inidactor to the projectionist to get ready to switch pojectors, quickly turning one off and starting up the projector for the next reel. Even though this system isn't that common anymore, all theatrical prints still go out with the cigarette burns to accomodate the few that do.

These cigarette burns sometimes even show up on home video, although this is very rare now. Most video masters nowadays are made from an interpositive or other print that lacks the cigarette burns. However, occasionally a print with the burns is used. An example I have in my collection is the R1 DVD of Castle of Cagliostro.
Old 12-17-05, 01:48 PM
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Where Fight Club is wrong, however, is that even a single frame spliced into a movie is very noticable. Especially because the splicing tape is doubled up on one frame. And (because one of the guys up there actually tried this on a late night screening we had of Ella Enchanted) if there's a DTS disc that goes with the movie, the sound may or may not POP really loudly and scare the crap out of you, hehe.
Old 12-17-05, 03:29 PM
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I see them in pretty much every movie I see in the theater.

-JP
Old 12-17-05, 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by GoldenJCJ
Before I saw Fight Club I never saw them, after I saw Fight Club I see them all the time.
Same here.
Old 12-17-05, 04:48 PM
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I noticed them before i saw fight club and it always bothered me until i found out what they were.
Old 12-17-05, 05:30 PM
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i dunno. i have never noticed, but then again i am not looking. how can you notice them if you are paying attention to the movie? also, i assume they are no where to be seen on their dvds, correct?
Old 12-17-05, 05:43 PM
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Oh I dunno, Lets say we are talking and then someone punches you out of nowhere and runs away. Sure, you may be paying attention to me as I speak but someone punching you would somewhat come to your attention.

I always noticed them and knew why they were there and accepted them.
Old 12-17-05, 08:09 PM
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only place i see them now are on old prints at retrospective/revival theaters.
Old 12-17-05, 09:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Jackskeleton
Oh I dunno, Lets say we are talking and then someone punches you out of nowhere and runs away. Sure, you may be paying attention to me as I speak but someone punching you would somewhat come to your attention.

I always noticed them and knew why they were there and accepted them.
You hit the nail on the head. Everytime I see them at the theater I feel like I've been punched in the face.
Old 12-17-05, 09:35 PM
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The jarring cut always annoys me more.
Old 12-18-05, 01:05 AM
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I watched Pride & Prejudice tonight, and saw that the burn was an oval. Are all like that? I'm guessing it's because it was projected through an anamorphic lense.
Old 12-18-05, 01:11 AM
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Now, is it true that in Fight Club, when Tyler points up in the corner at the burn, that cigarette burn is the actual real life signal for the reel change and, for the purpose of the movie, they just extended it to make it more noticable and added the sound?
Old 12-18-05, 02:18 AM
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A myth? I see 'em all the time. And those damn anti-piracy red dots right in the center of the screen.
Old 12-18-05, 03:22 AM
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Originally Posted by darkflounder
Now, is it true that in Fight Club, when Tyler points up in the corner at the burn, that cigarette burn is the actual real life signal for the reel change and, for the purpose of the movie, they just extended it to make it more noticable and added the sound?
I saw Fight Club in theaters, but sadly I don't remember this exactly. It's possible that it signaled an actual reel change, but from the way I remember the film playing, I don't think it did.

Originally Posted by PopcornTreeCt
A myth? I see 'em all the time. And those damn anti-piracy red dots right in the center of the screen.
I was about to say, Jackskeleton and Poggle must get really upset about the piracy dots, since they don't serve as nearly a utilitarian purpose as the cigarette burns.
Old 12-18-05, 03:23 AM
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Originally Posted by PopcornTreeCt
A myth? I see 'em all the time. And those damn anti-piracy red dots right in the center of the screen.
To tell you the truth, I really don't notice the cigarette burns; but I can ALWAYS spot the anti-piracy red dots.
Old 12-18-05, 03:33 AM
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I see both the burns and the red dots. I'm not real thrilled with either, but am only detracted for a second.

When my Mom and sister went to see the first Ring movie, my Mom pointed them out to my sister, asking her if she saw "The Ring". It freaked her out pretty good, and we all had a good laugh at her around the next holiday dinner table.
Old 12-18-05, 04:03 AM
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Know where I see them usually? DVDs of some movies. Doesn't drive me nuts, but bothers me that they couldn't clean it up for that frame, or that a negative no longer exists.

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