Training for Non-Technical Cinema Employees

Routines to Self-Certify – Checklists and Employee Training – Part I

Self-Certify – What does this mean? …and why would anyone want it?

Certification, or Certifying, is a process that reviews the condition of something, or some things, or some set of action(s).

For example, we often see  tools and lamps and other electrical devices with UL or CE labels on them – which means that the tools have been certified by these groups. The certification means that the tools is safe to use, or at least that it is fit to do a job. (Safety is the responsibility of the user.)

But we can also certify a process. For example, the process of making popcorn has several steps that must be done in the correct order, with correct amounts of popcorn and oil and time. If we are all taught the wrong process, and someone comes to inspect our work, it is the training process that is at fault. If the manager was asked to make certain that everything is OK at our cinema, s/he could say to the big boss that everything can be certified as OK, except for the process that we were taught for making popcorn.

Here is another example in the cinema we work in. The projectors in every cinema are certified that they comply with the standards set by the studio group, Digital Cinema Initiatives. The projectors and media servers got tested for the ability to transfer and make a perfect image and sound to the screen and speakers, and that the files cannot be stolen by pirates.


But there are many more devices and processes in the cinema facility than the projector and media player. And there are many things and parts that get old, or misplaced, or ignored. These things can make the customers experience less than should be expected.

Some of these things have to do with safety. Some have to do with quality. But they all need your help to certify that the jobs were done well, and the parts are all ready for service. And this needs to be done regularly and consistently.


The best way to certify something is a regular check done in a particular way – and that requires a Checklist. In the old days that meant a piece of paper and a pen that checked off all the items. Then the paper goes somewhere. Now, it can be done electronically, and the forms go into what is called a Repository. This information in this repository can be examined easily by a Quality Control staff to see how well things are going and to prevent problems with our tools or techniques before problems happen.

And if we can do our examinations in a  particular way, the users – our customers – will know that our facility is safe and can be relied upon to show quality that is consistently worthy of their money. …because we can “Certify” that.


At the studios, there are engineers who check the rooms every day, or even more often if a different director comes in to work on their movie. On the exhibition side, there are some companies who will come in once a year to certify that the light and sound values are correct.

But we know that problems can happen during the weeks or months in between. We want to catch them before the customers do. SelfCertify Triangle

It can be very expensive and inefficient to have some professional come every week or every month to make sure these goals are met. So we learn to Self-Certify. Perhaps the professional comes once a year, or when things break…or if we are clever, the process of self-certifying will allow us to catch problems before things break. And, for marketing purposes, it is quite cool to tell customers that we meet some standards. Usually every industry has some group that says “these are the standards to meet.” The standard can also be set by the boss, or the owner, or the quality control cheif who says – we want to be the best. Perhaps the boss says we don’t need to be the best, but we do want to supply decent products that are not expensive but will last a couple of years. For a lot of clients, that is all they need.


For example: For example, my company makes ceiling tiles. I have 3 kinds: Super ceiling tiles that will last for decades or Super Cheap ones that will last for 2 seasons and need replacing. We also make a version Not Super, but in between. Each type must go through a process to insure a particular degree of fire resistance, which is specified by a national fire standards organization. Now here is where it gets clever. When the company was small, I could rely upon my reputation and prices to make my sales. But I want to get an order from a company that requires that I certify my production quality. They want to know what I do to ensure that all the tiles they buy from us meet the fire standards and will last for the 10 years that I promise. My team decides to make a list of rules that we and all of our suppliers must follow. They specify what equipment and parts to use, and how the people using the equipment will be trained and how often the equipment will be cleaned and tested. It will also check how the tiles are packaged and sent so they can be received properly. Any person who is going to validate that the steps are being followed has to be trained to spot problems, and follow certain procedures, and fill out certain forms. If they complete the steps on the forms, and validate that the equipment is working right, and everyone is trained correctly, and the product is going to meet the standards, then they sign the form – and we are self-certified. At this point the customer might be satisfied. Or they might ask that someone who is an expert come in every month or once a year, and check that these things are being done. There is an organization named the ISO which has made standards of many things. One of them is the management technique of Quality Management. It is called ISO 9000/9001. It covers many of these steps, plus many more.


So what?: Some cinemas have auditoriums that are called Premium. If I go to that theater, I expect the sound to be correct in all speakers without rattles and buzzes and hums. I expect that the screen is clean and that the light levels are set correctly. I want to see deep into the shadows, and I want to hear bells ring clearly.

In the movie business, the Standards organisation is The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, which is called SMPTE (pronounced Sim Tee.) The same ISO mentioned above works with SMPTE and other groups to make standards that can apply around the world.

If I own a cinema, I may want to follow the SMPTE standards perfectly. But to be ISO 9001 certified I also have to make certain that my accounting system and trash system and everything in the cinema is up to a certain standard. Most groups are not prepared to put their whole company through these processes. Or they hire outside services for these things, or the home office takes care of this. It takes a lot of effort and an organization to become ISO certified.

On the other hand, the processes of Self-Certifying the main equipment – the very complicated equipment that makes the pictures and sound that our customers see – to show them that this is checked regularly can have great benefit. And not only the sound and picture equipment, but the safety equipment and staff processes.


One last side note: There is an important difference between Standards and Recommended Practices.

Standards make certain that equipment and software works together.

But the specification for things like the light level expected in a cinema theatre are detailed in a document called a Recommended Practice or an Engineering Guideline.

Here is an example of why we care about things like this: The recommended light level for the projector to the screen can be 10% higher or 10% lower than the specified amount. Here is the important part: Some cinemas will take advantage of that 20% variation by saying, we want to stay within that 10% high and 10% low level . But some of the owners or bosses might say, “I want to check every day, and be within 2%.”

This is an agreement between the cinema owner and the customer. If I am going to pay $25 for a ticket to a movie I certainly expect more than if I spend $7 for a movie.


The Checklists can be seen and used at the pulldown menu on the main Cinema Test Tools page.

Further Courses, including the next one in this series, can be found at: Technical Training for the Non-Technical – Cinema

OK; let’s take a break, then go into a little more detail about how we get to use these ideas.

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