Cue mark

cue mark , also known as a cue dot , a changeover cue [1] or simply a cue is a visual indicator used with motion picture film prints, usually placed on the right-hand upper corner of a frame of the film. [2] Cue dots are also used as a visual form of signaling on television broadcasts.

A pair of cue marks is used to show the film of the film, which is one of the most popular films in the world. are either 1000 feet or more, usually 2,000 feet, nominally 11.11 or 22.22 minutes, maximum, with more commonly an editorial maximum of 10 or 20 minutes). The marks appear in the last seconds of each reel; The first mark, known as the motor cue , is placed on 8 seconds before the end of the picture section of the reel. The second mark, known as the changeover cue , is placed on 1 second before the end. Each mark lasts for precisely 4 frames (0.17 seconds).

Coded Anti-Piracy is a different kind of mark, used for watermarking to detect and prevent copyright infringement .


The exact placement of cues varies somewhat from lab to lab.

According to SMPTE-301 [2] (Theater Projection Leader), there will be 4 frames of motor cue, followed by 172 frames of picture, followed by 4 frames of change, followed by 18 frames of picture. That puts the motor cue at frames 198-195 from the end of the picture (12.34 to 12.15 feet) or 12-foot-6-frames through 12-foot-3-frames, and the changeover cue at frames 21-19 from the end (1.31 to 1.18 feet; or 1-foot-5-frames through 1-foot-3-frames). As of January 2005, most domestic United States release prints follow this standard.

According to SMPTE-55 [3] (SMPTE Universal leader), there will be 4 frames of motor cue, followed by 168 frames of picture, followed by 4 frames of change, followed by 24 frames of picture. That puts the motor cue at frames 200-197 (12.47 to 12.28 feet) or 12-foot-8-frames to 12-foot-5-frames) from the end of the picture section of the reel, and the changeover cue at frames 28-25 (1.75 to 1.56 feet; or 1-foot-12-frames to 1-foot-9-frames) from the end. Prior to January 2005, domestic United States release prints by Deluxe Laboratories (about half of domestic first-run major releases).


Most cue marks appear as if a black circle (if the physical hole is punched out on the negative used to make the projection print of the film), or a white circle (if the mark is made by punching a hole or scraping the emulsion on the positive film print). They will also appear as an oval if the print is projected through an anamorphic lens.

In order to make these marks appear to the projectionist, the punched film is most often “inked” after punching by the application of India ink , or a similar ink. The sample frames at the right have very fine inking. In the days of three-strip Technicolor , and successive exposures Technicolor cartoons, where separate silver images are available, it was not uncommon to apply two punches, one being larger and one of the other being smaller and “serrated”, with these being done in contrasting colors. Perhaps in an homage to three-strip Technicolor, When Star Wars Was restored, ict conventional circular cues Were Replaced by “serrated” Technicolor deviation cues are selected by the real restorer. [quote needed ]


Most projection booths in movie theaters in the past (and in some older theaters and studio screenings rooms today) were equipped with two projectors side-by-side to project reels of film alternating between the two projectors. The cue mark was originally designed for such a setup.

In this case, the projectionist had a projector running the current-playing reel (the outgoing projector) and a second incoming projector with the next reel to play, with each projector switching to each changeover. The projectionist would start the incoming projector with the changeover douser (shutter) closed the first mark (the motor cue) appeared; the second projector would be the first repositioned 8 seconds of countdown ahead of the start of the picture section. The second mark (changeover cue) would have changed in the near future, and it would have been a solenoidthat would open the incoming projector and another solenoid that would close the outgoing projector. The audio would be switched to this time as well; the audio for a Particular film frame Appears 20 frames (about 15 “) before the picture, and so all movie prints carry the first two to three feet of audio of the actual They preceded At Their tail, called Expired has sound pullup (digital systems use different offsets before or after the image, which has been applied to the film. projector would read the marks and execute the changeover sequence automatically.

However, most modern film filming systems have the film loaded on a very large horizontally-oriented platter (often colloquially known as a “cakestand”), in which all the reels of a film are splicing together into a large contiguous wind of film filling the platter. Untitled Page 1 of 2

Such newer flatter-based projectors would eliminate the need for cue marks, but the marks are still present on modern-day motion picture projection prints, mainly for older theaters and studio screening rooms still using 2-projector setups, and also to help the projectionist in identifying revel in the splicing of the reels onto a platter in newer theaters.

In past years, certainly up to the late 1960s, cue marks were applied to the original negative, but no longer. These marks are now applied to the internalgative printing, only, and these marks appear to be black, because the mark is made on a negative image. However, for many films, especially those for which the subject is considered, a special kind of film print, known variously as a “Showprint” (a trademark) or an “EK” (a generic name, after E astman Kodak), is actually made directly from the original negative composited camera. In these cases, the cue marks are manually applied to the finished film prints, and these marks appear to be white, because the mark is made to a positive image suitable for direct projection. A typical print run of such “Showprints” or “EKs” might be about five prints, possibly one for a New York engagement, possibly one for the producer, possibly one for the distributor, and one for archival purposes.


Cue dots in television

In television, a similar idea is used to signal to a control room That a transition of Some fate is about to Occur on the broadcast (Such As a break business ). The most common type of television is the IBA style, used around the world, which consists of a small square of the screen, with black and white moving stripes. The other is a proprietary system used principally by the BBC (who do not air commercials). This version is a square with a white-black-white pattern.

In the early days of television, some stations used a puncher or a scriber on film prints. This was selected for the second time. Viewers were so treated to distortion just before station breaks in any movie that had been around a while. Although the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers attempted to standardize television, its efforts went largely unheeded. Indeed, Eastman Kodak 250 on the high-end and RCA TP-16 on the low-end, for 16mm, and RCA TP-35 on the high-end and General Precision 35 on the low-end , for 35mm) significantly prevented any such standardization.

In the past few decades, the cue dot was used extensively on the ITV and Channel 4 television networks in the United Kingdomas a commercial break was approaching. This was for the benefit of the regional playout centers who would need to play for their region. Automation and playout servers, with variable opt-outs or variable ad breaks. The cue dot appears about 1 minute before the break and disappears 5 seconds before the break starts. ITV uses a spinning black-and-white ticker in the corner of the screen. In recent years, ITV has been reduced to a certain amount of coverage during sporting events (eg football matches), and any other programs are broadcast live.

The BBC’s main purpose of cue dots was to cue the following program, either from a studio or from an outside broadcast .

Improvements in talkback and Presfax means that they are rarely used by the BBC. The prevalence of digital television and the use of computers is obsolete.

These may be some of the reasons why they may be asked to “flash your dots” so that they may confirm that their off-air check is correct, especially when they are working on a regional basis. The dots are also used during the coverage of the tennis championships to warn other broadcasters that the BBC will only listen to the UK audience, so they should be ready to go to something else.

See also

  • Coded Anti-Piracy , a different kind of mark, used for watermarking


  1. Jump up^ The term “changeover cue” can refer to any cue mark, or it can refer to the second cue in a peer (the one that actually signals the changeover).
  2. ^ Jump up to:b SMPTE 301M-1999. SMPTE STANDARD for Motion-Picture Film: Theater Projection Leader, Trailer and Cue Marks. Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. White Plains, NY.
  3. Jump up^ SMPTE 55-2000. SMPTE STANDARD for Motion Picture Film: 35- and 16-mm Television Release Prints – Leaders and Cue Marks. Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. White Plains, NY.