Termination: Projected Demise
Text:/ Graeme Hague
I’m a creature of habit. Like, every Saturday at 1pm I meet my lovely wife for lunch after she closes her hairdressing salon. We always go to the same pub — to be fair, there’s only three in town and one recently got hit by a truck. My wife’s always late, so I go to the bar and carefully peruse the dozen or so taps of beer before ordering a pint of my usual Pilsener —which Nikki the barmaid is already pouring. Then I walk around to the Food Order counter and diligently check out the entire lunch menu, while Nikki gives me a kind of don’t do anything stupid look, because she’s already written ‘sticky chicken wings’ on the docket. A bit later, eating chicken wings and drinking Pilsener — yet again — I always look at the obsolete, motorised projector screen on wall and think, I wonder if they’ll ever take that down? The projector itself has been long gone for years after a punter did his best Tarzan impersonation from it. The likely answer is ‘no’, because an outmoded screen on the wall is far preferable to big cracks in the old brick where the mountings have been removed. At least the projector mount holes in the ceiling have been sort of plastered over — a practised eye can see them.
Of course, thanks to the wonders of modern technology and progress, the projection system was replaced ages ago with a network of television monitors and a music video streaming service that seems bizarrely locked on songs recorded pre-1990 in 4:3 ratio and the drummer’s always tipping water onto the snare drum.
There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of metres of unused projector screen real estate all over Australia, still screwed to walls and buried in dusty storerooms, never to be used again. Should we worry? Not to mention the projectors themselves. Because all those features that we thought were just awesome have become a pain in the… ah, arm, compared to AV displays. Just like the RSI we suffered from constantly waving an infrared remote controller at the projectors, trying to get the damned Settings menu to appear. Who needs screens with squashed moths and cigarette smoke stains, and projectors with myriad cables, connectors and interchangeable lens, when you can Bluetooth your iPad to the latest 56-inch 4K monitor? And those Settings menus? It was easier to reach Level 10 of Warcraft.
My memories of overhead projection systems can keep me awake all night. I installed one onto a very high ceiling in a North Queensland hotel. The projector was one of those monster three-canon RGB behemoths that weighed a tonne and really needed a scissor-lift, but no, two of us were up either side of a 4m ladder with this AV equivalent of a hatchback balanced on our heads as we tried to attach it to the mounting — when some wag chucked his pet carpet python in through the window. Funny… really f**king funny. Boy, did we laugh. And I’ll bet that projector is still there. It was amazing enough to find two blokes stupid enough to try and install it. No one would be so silly as to take it down again.
My least favourite projector was a proper one. A 35mm cinema projector that grumbled, rattled and wheezed in the middle of our performing arts centre Biobox when we showed a monthly foreign film (early management figured that showing movies would supplement income from live theatre — and they were right… until Hoyts moved next door). That projector was a temperamental beast, and loud — bloody loud. But after a while you learned to listen — like audio vital signs. You didn’t have to watch the actual screen (until the rude bits in the French flick came on). I read books, wrote books, played computer games… you could even slip outside onto the roof for a quick fag once a reel-splice had safely passed through. As long as you could still hear the projector and its familiar banging and flapping, it was safe. I got tricked once, though. Instead of snapping the film (it happened regularly), which brought everything to a crashing halt, the movie somehow began stripping down the middle after the lens gate, splitting it in half, which meant all the tension devices that had fail-safe micro-switches stayed in place, and the movie still ran. I ended up with a small mountain of shredded celluloid before I figured something was wrong. At 24 frames a second, 35mm projection stuff can go scarily wrong, surprisingly fast.
So while a million metres of obsolete projector screen might pose some ecological threat to the environment, and thousands of decommissioned projectors might blow up the planet if all the bulbs exploded at the same time, some of us aren’t saddened by the impending, total demise of projection systems. I still get a nervous tick and reach for my hip flask whenever someone says, ‘Powerpoint presentation’ out loud.
Long live the commercial display, I reckon. Bluetooth, wi-fi, even HDMI… you gotta love it.
You wait — Murphy’s Law. My pub’s screen will be taken down this Saturday. Then I’ll have to drink a different beer and I won’t be able to order the chicken wings.
When you think about it, modern technology and progress sucks, sometimes.