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The Film Mystery

32. Camera Evidence
Coming in from the bright light of open day, the projection room seemed a gloomy,
forbidding place, certainly well calculated to break down the reserve of perhaps the
cleverest criminal ever pitting his skill against the science of Craig Kennedy.
It was a small room, long and not so wide, with a comparatively low ceiling. In order to
obviate eye strain the walls were painted somberly and there were no light colors in
evidence except for a nearly square patch of white at the farther end, the screen upon
which the pictures were projected. The illumination was very dim. This was so that there
would be no great contrast between the light reflected from the images cast upon the
screen during pictures and the illumination in the room itself between reels; again
designed to prevent strain upon the eyes of the employees whose work was the constant
examination of film in various stages of its assembly.
The chairs were fastened to the floor, arranged in tiny crescents and placed so as not to
interfere with the throw of the pictures from behind. The projection machines themselves,
two in number in order to provide continuous projection by alternating the reels and so
threading one machine while running the other, were in a fireproof booth or separate
room, connected with the tiny auditorium only by slits in the wall and a sort of porthole
through which the operator could talk or take his instructions.
Directly beneath the openings to the booth were a table equipped with a shaded lamp, a
stand for manuscripts, and a signal button. Here the film cutters and editors sat, watching
the subject upon which they worked and making notes for changes, for bits of
superfluous action to be cut out, or for titles or spoken inserts to be moved. At a signal
the operator could be instructed to stop at any point, or to start, or to wind back and run
some given piece over again. The lights in the room were controlled from within the
booth and also by a switch just at the side of the door. A telephone on the table offered a
connection with any part of the studio or with the city exchanges, so that an official of the
company could be reached while viewing a picture.
As we entered I tried to study the different faces, but found it a hopeless task on account
of the poor light. Kennedy took his place at the little table, switching on the little shaded
lamp and motioning for Mackay to set the traveling bag so he could open it and view the
contents. Then Mackay took post at the door, a hand in his pocket, and I realized that the
district attorney clasped a weapon beneath the cover of his clothing, and was prepared for
trouble. I moved over to be ready to help Kennedy if necessary. As Kennedy took his
key, unlocking the bag, it would have been possible to have heard the slightest movement
of a hand or foot, the faintest gasp of breath, so tense was the silence.
First Kennedy took out the various rolls of film. Looking up, he caught the face of the
operator at the opening in the wall and handed them to him one by one.