The New Phoenix is equipped with a single Italian-made Cinemeccanica Victoria 5 projector. This still uses the same basic system, running 35mm film, as, for example, the British Thomson Huston projectors used in the 'old' Phoenix Cinema, dating back to the 1950s!
There are two main differences, however. The Vic 5 has a modern Xenon discharge lamp whilst the BTHs had carbon arc lamps - with the carbon needing to be constantly fed in to maintain the arc. Secondly, the Vic 5 can take well over 3 hours of film on its reels whilst the BTHs were limited to about 20 minutes. Therefore the old cinemas had to have at least two projectors to show a film continuously - which also meant that the old-time projectionists were very busy throughout a show, rewinding and re-lacing - unlike their modern counterparts!
The film carries an optical soundtrack - this can be seen as the two, very closely spaced, cyan-coloured stripes at the left of the film strip. The soundtrack is 2-channel analogue with Dolby SR encoding. The cyan soundtrack requires red light and this is shone through it onto a photoelectric cell which converts the modulated light into an electrical signal.
The cinema's Dolby CP45 processor decodes this into 5-channels of sound (left, centre, right, sub-woofer and surround) which feed a bank of amplifiers and then the speakers. The left, centre and right speakers are mounted high-up behind the screen, with the sub-woofer mounted centrally on the floor, also behind the screen. There are 14 surround speakers spread around the 243-seat auditorium.
The film is projected at 24 frames per second so there is a special 'intermittent' gearbox which stops the film every 24th of a second with a film frame centrally in the 'gate'. Whilst the film is stationary the shutter opens and closes twice to project the image onto the screen (to maintain balance the rotating shutter has two blades). With the shutter closed the film moves forward one frame and then the process is repeated.
This picture shows the toothed intermittent drive. The cyan film soundtrack can clearly be seen - just to the left of the front teeth.
There are two lenses, on a rotating turret. Commercials and film trailers are in 'wide-screen' format, as are the majority of films - with an aspect ration of 1.85:1. However, the remaining films are in 'Cinemascope' - even wider than widescreen with an aspect ration of 2.35:1 - and these require a special lens. To obtain the maximum possible quality Cinemascope uses the whole of the available film and so squashes the picture horizontally.
This means that circles become vertical ellipses. The film is projected through an anamorphic lens which stretches the image back into its original aspect ratio and therefore converts the ellipse back into circles.
One of the original BTH projectors from the old Phoenix has been restored and prepared for exhibition by Restart Orkney - www.orkneycommunities.co.uk/restartorkney/ - and is now on display in the New Phoenix foyer. More information on this projector and the old Orkney cinemas can be found at www.scottishcinemas.org.uk/scotland/kirkwall/