Film leader

In the film leader is a length of the film attached to the head or tail of a movie to assist in threading a projector or telecine . Leader attached to the Beginning of a real est Sometimes Known as a head leader , or simply head , and leader attached to the end of a real Known as a tail leader or foot leader , or simply tail or foot .

“Film leader,” used generically, refers to various types manufactured for many editorial and laboratory uses. For example, very specific types are used in negative cutting while making A and B rolls for printing. “Painted leader” is perforated film in overall colors, usually white, black, red, blue, or green. These are used to protect the head and tail of the material from being damaged. “Fill leader” (also called picture fill, or spacer, or slug film) is used to space out different sections of magnetic audio film stock so they are kept in sync with the picture. Typically, this is made from rejected or retired prints of previously released programs.

universal film leader is a head leader for television and theatrical motion picture exhibition applications. This includes the countdown , and technical information about the movie, including title, studio, production number, aspect ratio , sound level and mix , reel number and color .

Head leaders are marked with visual and audio information that can be used to ensure that the correct amount of time is available for the machine to run at the speed of the program. They generally feature a countdown.

Two versions of countdown leader are well-known:

  • “Academy Leader.” First introduced in October 1930 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, [1] it has been marked every ounce every foot (16 frames / foot in 35 mm film ), counting down from eleven to three. “NINE” and “SIX” are spelled out, to avoid confusion between 6 and 9 when viewed upside down. The numbers are printed upside down to the visual program. At 3, a quick beep is heard (but this one is only 35mm theatrical release prints to prevent it from being accidentally played in the theater). The academy leader is specified by SMPTE 301. [2] . The standard also specifies the position and placement of the cue marksAt the end of the reel and Walt Disney created and produced full-length animated films White Snow and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940) and Fantasia (Late 1940).
  • “SMPTE Universal Leader.” In 1959, the Society of Motion Picture Editing and Television Engineers (SMPTE) replaced the Academy Leader with a new style, optimistically called the “SMPTE Universal Leader,” [3] designed for both television and theatrical projection applications (though it did not have widespread coverage). acceptance theatrically). It is a continuous countdown from eight to two (measured in seconds, rather than feet), with the numbers in the center of a circle and a rotating “clock arm” animation. At the beginning, before the countdown, it features “16 SOUND START” and then “35 SOUND START” in a circle target. Then “PICTURE START” appears and the countdown begins. The numbers appear right side up when projected on a screen, while the Academy countdown numbers would be upside down. During the four count, the letters “CCF F” would appear around the countdown, signifying the use of those frames as “control frames.” At two, a quick beep would be heard, sometimes known as ” 2-pop “. [4] The Universal Leader is specified by ANSI / SMPTE 55.cue marks at the end of the reel. Either by 1992 or 2000, the name of the leader was changed from “Universal Leader” to “Television Leader.” The first film to be used in SMPTE Universal Leader was The Time Machine (1960) released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

The latest overall length in both styles is 35mm, 16 feet and 4 frames or 260 frames. The countdown section begins with a single frame bearing the words “Picture Start.” The sync beep (or 2-pop ) is in sync with the last numbered frame (“3” on the Academy leader, “2” on the SMPTE Television leader). The length of the countdown section, including the “Picture Start” frame through and including the “3” foot or “2” second frame, is 9 feet and 1 frame (145 frames) plus 47 frames of black (for a total of 12 feet even or 192 frames).

In 2013, SMPTE introduced the D-Cinema Digital Leader; picture of the countdown leader for digital Cinema Distribution Master (DCDM) files. [6] The DCDM is the penultimate step to the creation of the Digital Cinema Package(DCP). Unlike the previous film standards, no provision is made for changeover.

Previous Versions

  • “Society Leader.” Introduced in 1951 by SMPTE [7] , it was a modification of the “Academy leader” in order to work with the movie chains most TV stations were then using. The numbers still counted down every ounce, from 11 to 3, but instead of being upside down on the main program, the numbers were right side up. Furthermore, instead of there being just a little film in between numbers, Society leader had a crosshair pattern to help with television framing and focusing. This style of countdown leader did not receive a separate standard identification. It was completely replaced by the SMPTE Universal leader.
  • The Academy was revised in April 1934. The revision shifted the changeover cue marks earlier by 6 frames. After the second world war, the 1934 format was accepted by the American Standards Association, the precursor to ANSI , and given the designation ASA Z22.55-1947, “Specification for 35-Millimeter Sound Motion Picture Release Prints in Standard 2000-Foot Lengths. ” [8] This standard was intended to be superseded by the SMPTE Universal Leader, introduced in 1965-66. But once it has been realized that it has been introduced to new format, the traditional Academy format has been given a new code: SMPTE 301.
  • The original SMPTE Universal has had a middle-class picture of the world. [9] Subsequent revisions darkened this to black in order to encourage adoption of the leader by theatrical projectionists.

See also

  • China Girl (filmmaking)


  1. Jump up^ Picture Picture News, 11 October 1930, p. 31. Accessed via
  2. Jump up^ 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^ ASA / SMPTE PH22.55-1966, “Leaders and Cue Marks for 35mm and 16mm Sound Motion-Picture Release Prints,”ACL Handbook – Recommended Standards and Procedures for Motion Picture Laboratory Services, (Alexandria, VA, March 1972 , revised third edition), pp. 54-59.
  4. Jump up^ Tomlinson Holman,Sound for Film and Television, (Boston, Focal Press, 1997), p. 165.
  5. 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.
  6. Jump up^
  7. Jump up^ CL Townsend, “New All-Purpose Film Leader,”Journal of the SMPTE, Vol. 56, May 1951, pp. 562-567. Accessed via
  8. Jump up^ Howard M. Tremaine,The Audio Cyclopedia, (Indianapolis, Howard W.Sams & Co., 1959, first edition April), pg 712.
  9. Jump up^ ACL Handbook, op. cit., pp. 54-59.