Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Endings - the screener DVD

After a lot of work and a particularly grueling weekend for those working on the film (and a really lousy Monday for the editor), the screener DVD is finally on its way to me.

This weekend, we were trying to wrap up a temp sound mix and all the animated shots in order to put the whole thing together and get a copy of the film done that would be adequate to send to festivals (there's a deadline coming up for a little festival you may have heard of, something called "Sundance"). One can send a rough cut of the film to many festivals, but let's face facts here -- even though a festival is willing to take a look at your rough cut, there's no getting around the notion that an unfinished work still looks unfinished, even to people who know what that looks like.

I really wanted to be completely done by now so that we could send the final cut with completed sound mix, but we just weren't there yet, so Kelley Baker, my excellent sound designer, and Wayne Woods, our excellent mixer, put together a temporary mix of the entire film. This had the benefit, in addition to enabling me to enter fests with a reasonably complete product, of revealing problem areas in the soundscape of the film. We still have quite a bit of work to do to get the film sounding professional and to eliminate noise. And while most of the music in what I'm calling the "festival cut" is original and complete, we did have to throw a few temporary pieces in there because it just wasn't all done yet (composers have to sleep on occasion, I'm told).

Wayne, who mixes sound for Sonic Media in Portland, was working all weekend to get the temp mix done, and was uploading these large sound files for me. Of course, this process is fraught with complications. Wayne had to put together all the original sound, add effects, add music, and get everything just right lest the director come back at him with venom for ruining his film. Okay, that never happened, but when you're mixing a film without the director present to comment on things and without time to make changes for little things like a misplaced music cue, there are bound to be revisions. We didn't have time for much of that, so I just had to look for emergency level stuff to fix in the first half of the film. My theory (and Wayne's and Kelley's) is that the first half of the film better sound great, because festival screening personnel will find a reason not to finish watching, and crappy sound in the first half of the film is a pretty easy reason (in large part because it's all too common in the indie film world).

Simon Tondeur, the film's editor, then had the task of assembling the mix and all the animated shots into the edit. This is where the weekend's fun really began. Simon really didn't want to work on Sunday, his birthday, but that plan got scuttled pretty quickly when the sound mixing went well into Sunday afternoon. Then Simon had to track and fix some sync problems -- when you're working with sound and picture in different places, if one thing gets changed ever so slightly, the whole thing goes out of sync.

Then Simon had to make a few fixes that I pleaded for -- i.e., a piece of music that occurs at a really critical juncture of the film was left out, and I just couldn't send the film out with no music over the climax. So Simon agreed to do some temp mixing on top of the temp mixing.

Then he left the film to export from his editing system in order to burn to a DVD on Monday morning, with plans to Fed Ex it to me.

But technology had other plans. The system had crashed for some unknown reason overnight, and Simon spent the next nine hours on Monday morning and into the afternoon re-exporting and trying to figure out what was causing the problem.

Late in the day, he found the issue: an animated clip toward the end of the film had become corrupted and caused the export to fail every time.

So - problem solved, and Simon could now complete the export and DVD-burning process.

Or, at least, that's the hope. I haven't heard anything positive or negative since last night, so I'm posting this in an attempt to reassure myself that I'll have the screener DVD in my hot little hands only one day later than expected.

And I'll try very very hard to forget this part of the process when I start planning my next film...

Update: Simon has confirmed - the DVD is on its way today!

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