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This Will Go Over Well, We’re Sure: Michael Bay Writes To Theater Projectionists

This Will Go Over Well, We're Sure: Michael Bay Writes To Theater Projectionists

We’d always assumed the humble projectionist had next-to-no contact with the people who actually made the movies, but recent weeks have shown that that’s not true at all; the recent disclosure that Terrence Malick had personally written to theaters across the country with certain specifications for “The Tree of Life” has unleashed a sea of similar memos, including Stanley Kubrick on “Barry Lyndon” and David Lynch on “Mulholland Drive.” And it’s not surprising, considering that all filmmakers worth their salt would want their film to be displayed in the best possible manner. The latest to join them? Michael Bay.

Hot on the heels of last week’s announcement that “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” has been specially graded, at almost twice the brightness of most films, to adjust for complaints about dimly-projected 3D films, Deadline has acquired a letter written by Bay to projectionists across the country before they unspool the film tomorrow, emphasizing the need for brightness in the projection of the film, and telling his new friends that they’re “all in this together.”

You can read the full text on page 2, but The Playlist have also acquired a letter of response, from the chairman of PjGA East — the East Coast branch of the Projectionist’s Guild of America. You can read that letter on the nex page as well, and check if “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is being projected to Bay’s standards from tomorrow, June 28th. 

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I think the fourth transformers should have all the primes in it!!!

Octomus Prime ,The Fallen ,Sentanal Prime ,and the three primes that made the cave in the desert.


If any body knows Michael Bay’s email it would be great, or a web site that I could get it from. If so please Email it to me at THANKS!


I thought the letter from Micheal Bay,was a very polite,& genuine letter.I also think its nice he actually recognises that the projectionist has a part to play in the whole thing,& thinks of them as part of the team.I thought the reply sent was rude,uncalled for,& if anything,that was sarcastic & condesending,& showed no class.All that after admiting that brightness can ruin a film RE:Green Hornet.All the guy wanted,was to have the work he’d probably put alot into showed how it is meant to be shown! Just saying..


We do websites, and our designers accompany the programmers all the way to the website launch. They don’t simply hand out their photoshop files, they make sure that every single pixel is in the right place when the coders transform it from photoshop to HTML.. If Beethoven was still alive, he’d invent a better music notation system to make sure that his music was interpreted as he had intended. Shall I post more examples using my enormously vast knowledge spanning 7,000 years of human artistic creations?


Harmony Korine makes sublime movies. His movie Gummo is one of the few movies I will still think about on my deathbed…hopefully in a very long time.

Willy Ford

2d, 3d, Some of us remember that last time this technological marvel was imposed on us,House of Wax, It came from outer space, Bad day at Black Rock. Then it was to combat falling audiences, it didnt, television grew and grew, but our fellows are flocking back to the theatres, why? Kings Speech as an example of well made ENTERTAINMENT.

An old time Westrex engineer who was in at the beginning of sound on film explained,” Its all about bums on seats, this business, its not art, its not reality,
people have got that, its escapist entertainment

All of the expert and not so expert individuals in the film making process should not forget it.

Rob Neal

I haven’t been to a cinema in years.
They are cramped, expensive, full of idiots whooping and hollering, mobile phones constantly going off, and they charge extortionate amounts of money just for a bit of confectionery and a drink, and NO, you’re not allowed to bring your own.)
Then you have to sit through mountains of interminably dull advertisements before finally getting to watch a 3D movie in deafening surround sound and you end up leaving the theatre both motion sick and stone deaf.
In my day you could drape your legs over the seat in front, watch a ‘B’ Movie as well and even have a few cigarettes as well.
I’ll stay at home and watch it on my own home cinema system thanks.

Dana Jae

filmteknik – please hit me with your regular email. Mine is:

This is one of the problems, folks. Projectionists, other than filmteknik noted here, know nothing of the real light projection standards and have no control over the how those are set. Yes, it’s true. A current film shot in HD need differing standards that it’s SD counterpart. Theaters are just now learning about the workflow we have been dealing with for the past several years.

This is a great funny thread on content and “high-five” those who get it. But it still leaves the post-production editor and director with the reality that the final projection is truly how your piece of art will be absorbed by the masses. (I’ll give that to George Lucas and Tomlinson Holman of THX among other great technological virtues: The technology must be addressed in all areas of the “workflow”.)

Mr Tvgames

And it is for this reason that Lucasfilm developed standards a la THX after Lucas was tired of seeing crapped out theaters showing Star Wars.

I would go to a THX certified theater any day as I know to hold the certification they are checked numerous times over the span of 12 months. THX pays people to go to the movies to see if the theaters are doing what they should be.


How many Projectionists are getting residuals like Michael Bay is? In other words, why should anyone else care?


One thing I’ve noticed is that 3D only benefits from direction which was intended to exploit it. Toy Story 3 was necessarily a film about closeup shots for the most part (almost everything takes place indoors and/or dialogue closeups) and as such, depth of field isn’t really that important compared to say, How to Train Your Dragon where we’re looking at large sweeping areas and a number of flight sequences.

Megamind is another good example of a CGI film that exploits 3D well. Live action films ideally ought to be storyboarded and directed with depth in mind if they’re going to be shot in 3D (please no more postproduction 3D).

pris robichaud

I look forward to the day when the public receives notes on how to react to films.


If a movie is truly good, it could be projected onto a dingy sheet at an oblique angle with an office projector your boss would fire you for using to show him a powerpoint presentation and still touch the viewer’s heart.

I recently viewed Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights” under just such circumstances… in a smoky bar with and through the verte-tinted glasses of a few too many classes of absinthe to boot… and for the two dozenth or so time, no less… and once again the ending broke my heart.

A movie that depends on perfect brightness, contrast and sound reproduction for its impact needn’t bother trying to touch the viewer’s feelings as it’s almost certainly far too busy attempting to molest his senses.

Some dude who is bored and can't wank right now

I hope Mr. Bay gets to read that letter in it’s entirety


I was a projectionist in another life and it was a horrible dog turd of a job which has only gotten worse. Modern movie theatre chains are run by large corporations which are then micromanaged by dipshit regional supervisors who dont want to put any money into maintaining or even (sweet baby jeebus no!) upgrading the horrible equipment. Add to that the fact that you get paid slightly more than nothing and are also expected to sell tickets, (and listen to people gripe about the prices) and sell concession garbage, (and listen to people gripe about the prices) and its a hell of a job. If you’re really lucky you get to clean up after the rotund children eat too much poopcorn and get nausea watching Michael Bay poop on the screen. Such a great experience these movies can be.


I thought the first Transformers movie was quite good, one of the best things I’d seen in a while. The second one still had awesome special effects, but an arguably worse plot; I’m hoping the third will be an improvement. Either way, I don’t really care if a movie is the height of cinema if I’m entertained by it. The special effects are what sell Transformers, just like you don’t go see a Tony Jaa movie for the plot.


Film makers spend millions of studio money doing so. Many also draw salaries in the millions. If a movie fails, the onus should be on them. Projectionists, baked or not, love movies and are not in it for the money. They know what they are doing. Bey’s letter is condescending and ridiculous. He’s an oblivious rich man who makes terrible (but profitable) live cartoons. His paycheck for one film equals the lifetime earnings of how many projectionists? Bey tells them first to follow the directions (implying that they usually don’t). Then he lays on the guilt trip; Projectionists need to consider the hard work, money, and equipment that went into this. So, if the audience doesn’t like it – it’s THEIR fault. Even if that letter was never sent (I hope it was), it was worth notice.

Toots McGee

What’s the problem here?

If I’m gonna pay $40+ to see a movie with my family, I want to see it as the director specifies. If you can’t be bothered to follow the director’s instructions, find a new job, such as serving me my ice cream at the local parlor after I’m done watching the movie. I’ll tip you, you’ll likely need the money more than I.


I thought new movies didn’t have cue marks other than occasionally for the look… certainly the 3D projectors probably use horizontal platters so no cigarette burns…


Carl Fake = False prophet of a new generation.


I heard they took gullible out of the dictionary…


Hey, ‘The Playlist’, it was a good joke, really. I’m only saying it would have been funnier if you’d given a little more attention to detail. Don’t let me keep you from patting yourself on the back, though!


Funny how people now hold BLOGGERS and blog websites to higher standards than Faux News or CNN. It’s almost like they know the difference.

I blog for the Seattle P.I. and after a year I turned off all comments. 90% of the responses are drivel, and the other 10% try to rake me over the coals for some perceived slight against journalism. Responding that I actually have a BA in literature doesn’t seem to hold water with those people. I was accosted daily with harsh insults, alongside high fives and profound thanks.

It was hard to turn the comments off, but it was harder to read them. Most were nonsense, and there was a lot of spam despite captcha and moderation, so it just wasn’t worth keeping the comments alive.

To those few people who post intelligent replies, I really want to thank you. You’re in the minority. I don’t mean just positive replies, but well-spoken criticism too.

What drew me here to “teh” comments field was the presence of more blog-bashing by commenters. Hello! If you don’t like blogs, why are you here? Go back to CNN and Fox, and take your medication. ;)


Seriously? A projectionist chews out Michael Bay? Sure, the guy doesn’t even bother with character development, but his films do entertain. What does a projectionist do? Oh, he specializes in the operation of a piece of equipment.

It is NOT at all unusual for an artist to make requests for how his work is to be displayed. It’s not douchey or smug, or condescending.

Asking a projectionist to allow the film to show brightly is not like asking your audience to please drink the same cognac that you were drinking when you painted your “woman pissing in the River Seine”.

The Playlist

“whoever faked”

The Playlist

This thread is comedy gold.


Heh. I like how whoever faked the response letter didn’t even bother to remove the red spellcheck warnings before taking a screenshot.

Edward Davis

Guys, do you really not get this joke yet?


Carl Fake Rules! I love it when the working man cuts some self important douchbag down to turf level. I haven’t been to a theater or rented any of the ‘latest, coolest, magnificent, blah blah blah’ movies in years. Moron-a-Vision doesn’t impress me.

Bay’s letter tells why. With ‘directors’ like him, who needs tampons.


As funny as Carl Fake’s letter was, I sadly have to take Bay’s side on this one.

About every second time I watch a movie in my city, it is the wrong lens, curtain isn’t open all the way, the room lights are left on, or the second real is played first. The camera’s are run by 16 year olds who were given 5 minutes of training and aren’t paid enough to care.

One movie I was able to see the boom mike over every scene and even after complaining they never fixed it because the “projectionist” was too busy running the other 17 rooms in their super-ultra-mega-plex.

I’m sorry if the real projectionist got offended but I think it’s reached a point where directors *need* to take an interest in how their movies are actually being shown.

C.C. Clark

What delicious irony that a relatively high tech, high maintenance operating technique like 3D should become all pervasive on the heels of the exhibitors firing all the qualified personnel who could have made it operate properly. I was involved in 3D presentation from 1970 on and it simply is beyond the ‘ken’ of the popcorn boy (or girl) who is in charge of running the machinery these days. It’s rather like walking into a MacDonalds and demanding escargot and foie gras. Mr Bey would do well to revise his expectations for presentation because without the experienced and well trained (and believe or not, caring) projectionists to perform the necessary adjustments and the knowledge to run the equipment properly, the audience is pretty much doomed to sit in dark underlit theatres watching out-of-focus, out-of-frame, out of phase and out of sync presentations. They’ll come away feeling nausea and headache from watching bad 3D and finally stop coming altogether (read: already happened). Believe me when I say that in my 40 odd years in the business, the ONLY real quality control was the projectionist. We wouldn’t let management get away with the cheap-assed cut corner crap they’re pulling on the audiences now, the good ones wouldn’t, anyway. This is what we warned about. This is what paying top buck for a second-class product looks like. Get used to it Mr. Bey, it’s going to get worse, much worse.

Edward Davis

re: 3) Glad someone is catching on.


1. The second Transformers movie was so bad that the visual effects were all it had going for it. Obviously under those circumstances, you’d want them to look their best.

2. It’s rarely projectionists who are responsible for dim images – it’s the theater owners, who save money on their electricity bills by running the bulbs lower.

3. The Fake letter is just that. But it’s hysterical, nonetheless.


fuck michael bay.


Projectionists have little ability to change brightness if equipment was installed that is incapable of producing a bright enough picture.

What is especially annoying is what is considered the acceptable standard for 3D projection.

The standard for film projection is 16 foot-Lamberts (fL). This is measured as the white light reflected from the screen with the projector running but no film running through it. Because even clear filmstock will eat up a little bit of light the brightest white that a film can show will illuminate the screen to about 14 fL.

For that reason the standard for digital projection is 14fL. So 14fL is what is considered the proper level of illumination to produce quality pictures.

That’s for 2D.

For 3D, because the process eats up so much light the standard was only 4.5 fL. However, many theatres cannot even do that much so Hollywood now adjusts the images (timing, it’s called) for only 3.5 fL.

Think about it. 14fL vs. 3.5 fL. That’s considered acceptable for 3D. No wonder people complain. Sure, the images are adjusted for that low a level but no way will that ever looked as good as a 14fL (with the image timed for it).

It’s all about money. Giving proper illumination for 3D, as seen by the viewer’s eyes after the 3D glasses, is simply too expensive. Yet we pay more for this crappy image.

The note from Bay simply means that for those theatres that can exceed these really low expectations by a few fL they will supply a version that looks good at that level. Otherwise with the images timed for 3.5 fL if a theatre did run it much brighter it would look washed out. But jeez…6 fL…even that is crap compared to 14fL (digital) or 16fL (film).

No wonder people play more to see films in IMAX. Both the digital Fake IMAX and the traditional 70mm film IMAX use two projectors (or special double projector for some film theatres). That’s really the best way to do 3D.


Carl Fake writes better than the legions of writers employed by Michael Bay in his nail in the coffin of cinematic greatness.

Did I say legions of writers? I meant the unpaid intern from Bulgaria who’s learning English and was asked to type up some words for the movie, in-between fetching doughnuts and coffee for Mr. Bay.

Carl Fake

I’m not sure if ‘The Playlist’ is just going along with the gag,
or if they really didn’t notice Carl Fake’s phone number had
555 in it. Maybe the last name would have been a clue.


How about 2D?


wait. I don’t get it. Am I reading the Onion? This is just manufactured news bullshit to make fun of Michael Bay. If you pay to see a Michael Bay movie, you know what to expect. So, what’s the point in slamming the guy, especially with a lame fake letter that sounds like it came from some film school dropout who doesn’t have the guts to do anything of real value with their life. dumb.
Do I expect to have an out of body, spiritual experience on a rollercoaster? no. Well, that’s a Michael Bay film. A rollercoaster. Amusement, not high ART. Accept it for what it is. I think I’ll probably like the movie, cuz sometimes I like a good rollercoaster ride and I don’t expect it to be a religious experience. jeez.

Jafarius the Liontamer

Seriously loved that response fromt he PjGA, but all fun aside, TURN UP THE DAMN PROJECTOR LIGHT IN EVERY THEATER I’VE BEEN TO IN THE LAST 5 YEARS!!! Everything looks like it’s in the damn shadows, Michael Bay may be a horrible screenwriter and a hack at directing, but he’s right as right can be about this, I’m tired of poorly lit projectors in the movie theaters.


I think the real difference between Malick and Bay is that Malick’s movie might actually play in theaters that employ projectionists.


Seriously, what the hell? Are we supposed to piss on Michael Bay whenever he does anything? Can we not acknowledge this as at least a half-step in the right direction?

Mr. Arkadin

Bay should also personally visit homes and calibrate home-cinemas (i.e. TVs), because most people have no fucking clue and everything looks like shit.

anyway nice story ;)

Revenant Shadow

THAT was a superb retort,Mr. Fake!

Kimber Myers

Nice reporting, Oli!

Edward Davis

Major LOLS at Kyle.


Michael Bay is a terrible director, but that projectionist comes across as a smug loser who can’t show basic respect to one of the people who provides him with a job. I won’t see Transformers 3, and the sooner Bay’s career ends the better, but I’m glad someone actually cares about giving the audience the best theater experience possible. Cinephiles should be thanking Michael Bay for this.


So what you’re saying is that for Terrence Malick, who is without question a better filmmaker than Michael Bay, is less of a dick for sending out a letter to projectionists saying “I’d like my film to look this way,” since he hasn’t made a film in six years, as opposed to Michael Bay, who’s worked hard to deliver a specific visual experience on a film that is admittedly based on a toy line, but is nonetheless important to the filmmaker, and is more of a dick for sending a letter to projectionists detailing how he’d like his film to be presented because he’s not Terrence Malick?

That’s like if you’re at a dinner party, and your kid, who often accompanies you to dinner parties, bites a guest, and everyone says, “What a shitty kid, he bit that guest,” only to see another kid bite another guest, but excuse his behavior on the grounds that “He hasn’t been to a dinner party in five years. He doesn’t know any better.” Maybe he hasn’t, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that he bit a guest. Filmmakers shouldn’t tell projectionists how to present their films, but you can’t blame them for wanting to hold that presentation to a certain standard. Many artists have certain standards for how they want their pieces to be presented. Even the sub-standard ones should be allowed to have as such.


The REAL projectionists union, IATSE, has so few members running shows that it’s likely that the person showing YOU a video presentation is a minimum wage worker whose duties include taking tickets and cleaning up after the show. In all probability that person is not in the projection room during the show. If you experience a poor presentation when you sit through the show you paid eight or ten bucks per person to watch, thank the owners of the theater chain for canning the responsible adult who used to show your presentation. I won’t call it a FILM as it probably isn’t one. No, you are paying top dollar to watch someones tv. A big tv admittedly but thats what it is nowadays. Mr. Bay would be better off to send his letter to the purchasing agents of the theater chain who constantly order lamps with too low a wattage to be effective or the bean counters that require managers to milk ten thousand hours out of a lamp that is rated at three. “childrens toy.”….good one.


That Harmony Korine story sounds awesome.


Carl Fake?!!!!! Ahahahaha. If this ‘Fake’ person is real, though, he may have some issues. I am thankful that he merely expresses it in this letter, instead of a shotgun on a crowded theatre.


“Also, congratulations are in order for making a movie based on a children’s toy that’s ten minutes longer than 2001!”


This is pretty great!




Edward Davis

Wow, i tip my cap to you, Sir Lyttelton. Someone knight this man.


I’m stoked. Now I need to find the nearest 6-foot lambert screen in my ‘hood. I’ll settle for nothing less.

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