A Technology Moment….

From Michael SellersOne of the things that has always frustrated me as a film-maker is that in the “indie” world we inhabit, it has always been necessary to “lock the picture” before beginning work on the sound, and never “unlock” it thereafter.In other words — you finish shooting the movie, then you edit the picture using only the “production sound” (actual sound recorded, no sound effects) and temp music (music not written specifically for the film, rather “borrowed” from other films and pasted in). If you have special effects shots, you have at best a rough temp version of them. After many weeks of this work, (and with no sound work having even been started), you “lock the picture” – meaning you make what is intended to be the final decisions about the cuts, the takes, everything.Typically, at the point where you lock the picture, you would then divide it into 20 minute reels, and transfer each reel to videotape with time code, and then you would make 5 copies of the video tapes — one for the composer, one for the sound mixer, one for the special effects house, one for the titles/opticals people, and one to keep. All would then do their work off those locked videos, and any attempt to change the locked picture would be an enormous and expensive headache–this even though, as you can imagine, the completion process reveals things that will absolute cause the film-maker to want to make changes. Just to put this in perspective–with Vlad, when we did our test screening, based on certain things we learned we felt compelled to make three simple cuts and one change on the soundtrack. To make these three simple cuts and one sound track change, it cost about $22,000.So…..even as recently as Eye of the Dolphin, the problem still persisted. The point at which the picture was locked was later, thanks to technology, but as we were approaching the final weeks before release there was no option to unlock without it being a big headache and costing some thousands of dollars.Now comes Cryptid, weeks away from finalization, and finally — at long last — the paradigm is changed. Cryptid at this moment exists as a complete, fully mixed project on a one terrabye hard drive sitting on my desk. When I plug it into my laptop and open it up in Final Cut Pro HD, I am looking at the finished film in HD resolution with all the sound — music, effects, foley, the works — plus all special effects shots, everything. There are 30 tracks of sound. And … this is the amazing and wonderful part … I can make changes and it doesn’t cost anybody anything. If I make a trim (and often that’s what’s in play at this point — making trims to help the pace), everything is automatically updated and there is no cost implication. If I add something, the only issue is that the sound and other people will have to through and make sure that there is proper sound (and at this point it’s pretty unusual to be adding stuff — it’s mostly about tightening).This probably sounds a bit arcane and geeky — but I have to tell you that after so many years of always having this “lock the picture” limitation, there is a great sense of empowerment that comes from being able to continue to make changes right up to the end without it costing thousands of dollars every time you trim 10 frames.

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~ by Michael Sellers on October 11, 2007.

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