Switches in Filmmaking: Celebrating the Return to Movie Theaters

Before the pandemic, I had planned for my friends and I to make a pilgrimage to The Fallon Theatre, the “old-timey theatre (if it’s still there) nearest to what is now the Top Gun Naval Base in Western Nevada” for the release of Top Gun: Maverick on Dec. 3, 2020. That’s how much my friends and I love Top Gun. It’s the single greatest piece of recruiting propaganda ever produced in the United States.

Navy enrollment in 2021 was just 33,559 despite all-time high enlistment bonuses of $50,000. In the four years following Top Gun‘s release, the number of Navy recruits increased more than eight percent to more than 95,000. The sequel is expected to have a similar effect, but might not have if not for Tom Cruise, who fought for delaying the film’s debut until it could safely be seen in theaters as he intended.

The COVID-19 pandemic altered our viewing habits for years, and it was believed by many that the change would be permanent. We in the switch industry are thrilled with the increasing quality, availability, and affordability of home theater and audio equipment. That equipment requires a lot of switches to produce, and we love that more audio/visual content being available more immediately has resulted in increased demand for those home theater products. More on the movie-making switches later, but going to the movie theater seemed silly to a lot of people for a long time. That sentiment was shared by stock traders who sold off cinema stockholdings during the pandemic.

Cinemark stock lost more than 60 percent of its value between Feb. 21 and March 20 of 2020. It has struggled to rebound since. Warner Bros. cancelled the release of Batgirl to claim a $95-million loss on its taxes, but AMC Entertainment has rebounded from the pandemic thanks to box office revenue. If the advertising budget for Bullet Train is any indication, the film industry is doing just fine. By the time I saw the new Brad Pitt film in a theater, for six months I had seen the trailer or versions of it, either on television, online, or in theaters, more than I’d seen any other movie trailer ever. The box office indicates that 2022 will be remembered for the return of the masses to movie theaters everywhere.

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) got the box office ball rolling with a $32.6-million weekend to open the year – its fourth consecutive weekend atop the box office. The Batman then opened with over $134 million in ticket sales on March 6, topping the box office for a total of three weeks. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness pulled in $187.4 million two months later and stayed atop the box office for a total of three weeks. Then Tom Cruise made a mint by waiting out the pandemic to debut Maverick in theaters – the way it ought to be.

After grossing over $126 million in its first weekend, Maverick had the best second weekend of any film debuting with over $100 million in its first ($90 million). It’s now made more at the box office than Titanic, making it the seventh-highest grossing film of all time with more than $673.7 million in box office revenue domestically.

With the holiday blockbusters still to come, six films have grossed more than $300 million in the United States this year, including Minions: The Rise of Gru and Thor: Love and Thunder. In 2021 there was one such movie. In 2020, no film made more than $300 million. In 2019, 10 films did. To celebrate the success of Maverick and these other movies of 2022, let’s celebrate the switches in filmmaking that make these movies possible.

Lights

Before there was color in cinema there was only light, and light is still the most important aspect of shooting a movie. Take it from someone who’s graduated from film school. You can rerecord audio and dub it without reshooting scenes, but if you screw up the lighting, you might as well schedule another shooting day.

Most lights used in filmmaking run high currents and require high power ratings as well as high operating temperature ranges. These lights get very hot, which is why so many of the switches on them are high-power rockers. E-Switch offers a wide array of rocker switches suitable for film and stage lights. The R6 Series slim power rocker switch has an electrical rating of up to 10 amps and is perfect for portable lighting applications. Its 6.65 mm by 19.2 mm profile is ideal for compact light designs, and its operating temperature range of -20 to 65°C is plenty large enough to handle most shooting locations and shooting day lengths.

For outdoor shoots, the RB2 Series high-current power rocker switch features an electrical rating of up to 20 amps with cURus certification. Its operating temperature range of -20 to 65 °C and IP54 rating for protection from dust and moisture allow it to operate in the elements.

Perhaps the most suitable rocker switch for film and theater lighting that E-Switch offers is the WB2 Series. It has an internal seal protecting from dust and moisture at an IP55 rating. It has an electrical rating for up to 20 amps with cURus certification, and it’ll operate in temperatures ranging from -20 to 65°C at minimum.

Camera (and Audio)

The technology required to record high-quality video and audio for a movie worthy of the silver screen is basically as small as the technology featured in the smartphone in your pocket. As a result, the switches included on the camera and audio recording devices for managing video and audio settings have gotten smaller.

The record button is still one that tends to stand out, with its red actuator, and the TL3300 Series surface mountable tactile switch features that red actuator. The 160-gram operating force option also features a 200,000-cycle life expectancy. Its 12 mm by 12 mm size might be suitable for professional cameras, while the TL3301 Series is half the size and still features a life expectancy of up to 100,000 cycles. Multiple operating forces and actuator lengths are also available, as are multiple caps.

For camera designs requiring switches mountable at a right angle, the TL6155 Series is a good choice. Not only are these switches small, with a 6.4 mm by 6.55 mm footprint, but they’re rated IP67 for dust and moisture protection. These switches will work in the harshest environments, either in the desert or underwater, and operating in temperatures ranging from -40 to 85°C.

Action

Nothing makes a movie more worthy of a theater audience than action. Even the animated movie, Minions: The Rise of Gru is an action movie. But live-action films require more switches for making movie magic. Pyrotechnics, for example, are usually activated via a set of remote toggle switches like the ST2 and ST3 Series high current toggle switches from E-Switch. The ST2 Series handles up to 20 amps, and the ST3 handles up to 24 amps, with both featuring cURus certifications.

For harsh environments running lower electrical currents, the ST4 Series sealed toggle switch provides dust and moisture protection at an IP68 rating, which makes it ideal for jungle and seaside settings. And when the heat is overwhelming, the ST5 Series high temperature toggle switch operates in temperatures ranging from -10 to 125°C.

Pushbutton switches are also popular for remote detonating pyrotechnics, and illuminated versions allow for working in the dark. The LA Series, fittingly named, is rated IP65 for dust and moisture protection and is cURus certified for direct and alternating currents. It features signal light illumination via LED, neon, or incandescent lamps in multiple colors and offers momentary, maintained, and pilot functionality.

The next time you’re in a movie theater watching the trailers for the upcoming attractions, think of all the switches that make those movies possible. If you design and produce filmmaking equipment, please don’t hesitate to ask our sales and service team about switches suitable for your designs. You can always configure your own switch on our website as well.

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