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I saw this cue mark multiple times in the Mank (2020) movie:

still showing the thin outline of a white circle in the top right

What's the significance of "cue marks" in the movie?

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    You mean as more than a nod to the old projectionist cues on movie prints?
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 7, 2023 at 9:54
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    To dow voters: explain why you’re downvoting. This is a reasonable question to ask. For example, [fight-club] had cue marks as an important stylistic decision by the director. And movies today do not need cue marks, as they are no longer released on actual reels of film, so this was an intentional (and highly visible) decision. Jan 7, 2023 at 14:39
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    @JacobKrall There are a handful of users here that will downvote pretty much EVERYTHING. It's super frustrating, but there's nothing that can be done about it. It's sad, but we just have to deal with it. This is a perfectly acceptable and interesting question. No reason to downvote it in my opinion. Jan 7, 2023 at 17:38
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    ... and they're entitled to, and if people were supposed to leave an explanation of their votes, there would be a box that they would have to fill in when they clicked the vote button.
    – hobbs
    Jan 7, 2023 at 22:17
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    @JacobKrall: By the same director, even. Sounds like Fincher loves these retro cinema-history touches. Jan 8, 2023 at 2:56

1 Answer 1

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As explained by Fincher:

Mark Harris (Vulture): The film looks and sounds like something created in the studio era.

David Fincher: Ren Klyce, who is the sound designer, and I started talking years ago about how we wanted to make this feel like it was found in the UCLA archives — or in Martin Scorsese’s basement on its way to restoration. Everything has been compressed and made to sound like the 1940s. The music has been recorded with older microphones so it has a sort of sizzle and wheeze around the edges — you get it from strings, but you mostly get it from brass. What you’re hearing is a revival house — an old theater playing a movie. It’s funny because I’ve played it for some people who ask, “What is going on with the sound? It’s so warm.” And I respond, “Well, what you mean when you say ‘warm’ is, it sounds like an old movie. It sounds analog.” We went three weeks over schedule on the mix trying to figure out how to split that atom. [Visually,] our notion was we’re going to shoot super-high resolution and then we’re going to degrade it. So we took most everything and softened it to an absurd extent to try to match the look of the era. We probably lost two-thirds of the resolution in order to make it have the same feel, and then we put in little scratches and digs and cigarette burns.

Mark Harris (Vulture): I noticed you put in reel-change circles.

David Fincher: Yes, and we made the soundtrack pop like it does when you do a reel changeover. It’s one of the most comforting sounds in my life. They’re so little that they’re very difficult to hear until you hear them. It has what we ended up calling patina, these tiny little pops and crackles that happen, and they’re very beautiful.

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  • Haven't seen this one, but I'm quietly applauding the attention to detail. Yes, on actual film those are reel-change cues, used to signal switchover to another projector preloaded with the next reel of the movie. These days, with everything run either from platters (spliced together into one giant reel) or from digital, there's no need for the cues -- except when, as here, you want the film to look like it dates back to the earlier technology.
    – keshlam
    Jan 8, 2023 at 0:44
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    In case anyone reading this answer doesn’t already know: “cigarette burns” are an industry term for the holes punched in film to indicate timing for reel changes. Those are the circles being asked about. One thing strange about the ones created in this movie is that usually they did not look circular in theaters. That’s because they would be circles on the film but the projection lens would distort them into ovals, depending on the type of print and aspect ratio. Jan 8, 2023 at 14:15

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