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Meet the Montrealer keeping analog film projectors alive in a digital world

In a time when digital is king, Robert Miniaci works tirelessly to make sure film keeps on rolling.

The Montrealer is one of the few projectionists left in the world who can repair, maintain and even build analog film projectors. Most of his contemporaries are now in their 80s, so Miniaci's work is in high demand.

"I always say yes, and then worry about it after and make it happen," he laughs.

His regular clients include private collectors, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, galleries and museums, including the Smithsonian, as well as independent theatres and festivals still screening movies on film.

Even though he is now in his late 60s and could retire, Miniaci's passion for the medium keeps him going.

As a child in Calabria, in southern Italy, he used to watch movies projected in the village square and became obsessed with film.

By age 12, he was tinkering with projectors -- and never looked back.

"The presentation medium became an obsession, and just the light coming out, this beam, and then seeing the images on screen, it was very impressive," he said.

His obsession hasn't waned. Miniaci has warehouses filled with virtually every type of celluloid projector, including equipment from Expo 67.

"Whatever we cannot have, as much as possible, we repurpose from other industries, but we also when necessary, build it, and have machine shops make the actual parts that are no longer made when necessary."

In his home garage, he is working away on a projector from the Cinematheque, surrounded by film reels, lenses, and other parts that fill the shelves throughout his workshop.

"I will also create special optics that are no longer available because manufacturers no longer provide it for the film side, so I'll build the lenses or whatever is required."

Robert Miniaci, of Montreal, Que., is one of the few projectionists left in the world who can repair, maintain and even build analog film projectors. (CTV News/Angela Mackenzie)

Miniaci is also an inventor. His Technalight system, a smaller light source for film projectors that uses half the energy of the old bulbs but gives 50 per cent more light onto the screen, is now industry standard.

Galeries around the world use his active looper, which can project up to half an hour of 35mm film on a continuous loop.

Even when digital arrived -- and all but killed film -- Miniaci never lost hope.

"Today, with digital, it's too static," he said. "It's like you walk into a box, you come out of a box -- that's not an experience. There has to be an involvement, which is what film used to do. Because of that fact that there's something moving, you hear the clicking, it attracts people a lot more to feel that they're part of an experience rather than just a presentation."

Miniaci is confident there's enough people out there as excited about the medium as he is to keep it going for many years to come.

As he looks to the future, he's hoping to start teaching his craft in order to pass on his knowledge to the next generation.

"There's a movement out there, and it's going to continue, and as long as the demand is there it will keep going and preservation will continue forever, I hope." Top Stories

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