Monthly Archives: September 2001

Cool By Association

I have been busy getting 50 VHS copies of my film made to send out to the cast and crew–and 50 tapes make you realise how far you really live from the station when you walk home with half of them in a big bag.

I’ve also been finding out all about webhosting and preparing publicity material. I got in touch with KQED in San Francisco because they accept films from around the world and I can send them a video and I look for similar stations. I contact Whatever Pictures, the co-producers and talk to them about arranging screenings and distribution–their end of the deal as far as I’m concerned.

Plus I installed Photoshop 6.0 on my PC the other day and spent several hours last night playing around with it to make a video cover. So many new effects, so little time. Eventually I acheived something satisfactory at about 1.30am. And that means I’ve only had about three hours sleep. But…

But I discovered a really cool thing that will be of interest to practically nobody. The typeface (Blur) we used for the graphics on Last Train is a new design by cutting edge British typographer Neville Brody. Neville Brody is the ‘bad boy’ of graphic design who came to fame with his lettering work on a magazine called The Face in the eighties…

This is probably more information than anyone needs except what does it mean? Well, it means Last Train is even cooler than I thought and therefore I am cool by association. Possibly.

What Gives?

Okay, well here’s the latest in the film saga and life in general. In last month’s episode our friendly lab guys and girls lost the DAT containing the soundtrack for Last Train. This meant the film couldn’t be sent out to festivals or distributors as the video was mute. Our story begins this week with me returning home after a weekend away to find the following messages on the answer machine…


Pete (friend): “It’s half past five on Sunday. Elusive character aren’t you? What’ve you been up to? Been busy? Give us a call…” [I resist urge to reply with comment along the lines of ‘I’m compiling a bootleg CD made up of sampled messages but no, not really busy other than that.’]


Lucy (friend): “…I’ve just been to see A.I. and I’m in a state of shock because it’s probably one of the worst films I’ve ever seen in my life. The whole audience were in tears at the end and it was tears of pain…” [a few more minutes of ranting follows and make mental note to put her straight about why A.I. is important]


Matt the Grader [the audience cheers]: “Just calling to let you know we’ve done your sound layback [hooray!]… Do you want any VHS’s? [cries of yes! yes!]… the invoice cost is �496.16 including VAT…”

Woah there!

The invoice cost is how much? We agreed on a price of �185 plus �22.60 tape stock plus �40 for the sound layback plus tax (VAT). How, pray tell, did the final price double? I phone the lab. Of course, Matt’s at lunch. I ask for the nice Ted character who initially quoted for the project. He’s off sick. I twiddle my thumbs.

Some time later, I call back. “Oh,” says Matt, “apparently they’ve charged you for two hours telecine grading instead of one.” I reply, “It was maybe an hour ten at the most.” He responds, “Well there is set up time outside that… When can you come in?” I interject: “Er, I don’t think you understand. I don’t have �496 [lie]. I have budgetted for no more than �300. We need to discuss this.” Matt: “Oh, okay. I’ll get the person responsible to call you back.”

The rest of the day passes uneventfully. Certainly not interrupted by the phone ringing. I have enough time to reflect that the telecine grade probably took an hour and a quarter tops–not two hours. They kept me waiting so it started five minutes late anyway. The set up happened while I was there. And the telecine grader spent at least ten minutes trying to get a colour channel to work that just wouldn’t. Plus that’s on top of them losing the DAT and wasting a month. So I figure the two hour invoice is a leetle teensy bit cheeky.

I call the lab back the next day. Without a hint of irony, Matt asks, “Didn’t they call you back? Hang on, I’ll put you through…” [time passes, continents form, life evolves, the deadlines for the European Film Festival and Sundance pass into history] Matt returns: “They don’t seem to be around at the moment. I’ll get them to give you a ring this morning.” And of course they don’t.

And that brings us to today.

So, in short, I am an elusive character who doesn’t return all his messages, opinions vary on A.I. and I *still* don’t have Last Train on video. Which means I can’t get it shown anywhere. Which means I am no further forward. And the lab wants more money for the part of the job where *they* caused the most problems.

Meanwhile, a large chunk of Manhattan lies buried under a pile of smouldering rubble brought about by an incomprehensible form of hatred for life and freedom and the world has very definitely changed. Is Last Train anything anyone needs or wants or desires in the context of that? Maybe it says something about life and hatred too. Maybe it doesn’t. I don’t really know the answers to any of these things.

I guess I just keep putting one foot in front of the other so yesterday I also phoned the editor who’s helping out with Fate & Fortune. They’re re-doing the EDL–the only thing needed before finalising the graphics and getting the negative cut. They tell me that it could be–possibly, perhaps–done this coming weekend.

Yeah, right. Fat chance. I know, I know–it’s all favours favours favours. Still, somehow the prospect of finishing actually does buoy my spirits a little and I think of changing the end credits to read ‘copyright 2002’ which will mean I can enter it into next year’s festivals. In other words, I keep going. And that is always enough.

Woah. Never mind all that. I just came off the phone to the lab and explained to them about the telecine costs and that I’d only had an hour and ten minutes at the most and blah blah blah. So they gave me the story of the operator filling in the timesheet and “it’s always right” and “we’ve never had a problem before”. I argue. Of course.

Eventually the person on the end of the phone (the accountant, I think) gets bored. She suggests we call it an hour and a quarter and will adjust the invoice accordingly. I breathe a sigh of relief. And I continue to regale her with tales of the lost DAT and why I’m feeling like their company is not the wonderful experience–except for the nice operational staff–that I thought it might be.

I listen patiently and understandingly while she tells me this has never happened before. I only mention once that the rerecording mixer had the same problem with the same lab only a couple of months ago. I don’t repeat that again but do add that I’ve missed the European Film Festival and Sundance. Eventually she decides to give in and adjust the invoice so it’s back to the rate for one hour. Total: �279.18. Result.

I’ll be picking the DigiBeta up tomorrow.

They Were Just Going To Work

Oh, God. I just remembered that back in March I was standing in the bookshop on the ground floor of one of the Trade Center towers and I think of those people there, the people behind the counter and shopping for a book and today someone wants to kill them. Because they are different. Because they have something they don’t. For whatever reason, someone wants to take their lives.

Someone hates them so much that they would knowingly kill themselves in a fireball rather than allow those ordinary men and women to go on living their lives. And I hear the word ‘cowardly’ bandied about as though this wasn’t some coldly calculated attack. Maybe there are cowards, people who sent the hijackers out to their deaths. Maybe they held the hijackers’ families and children hostages to make them comply. Whatever. The cold immorality is numbing. Beyond comprehension.

I can only wrap my mind around it in an abstract ‘is this war?’ way and a ‘what will happen next?’ way. I cannot deal with those abstracts though–they are beyond my influence. The only reality I can touch is in my heart when I think of my friends, real people–Pat and Danielle, out there in Manhattan. I worry for them and their wellbeing and am glad to find they have both been online. I send a prayer for their families and friends and loved ones and hope they are safe.

And I think too of all my friends in the USA and I touch base with some of them and share this time, this impossible reality, these feelings of shock and nausea with them. I also try to share that they are loved and cared about…

And then I remember that I ordered another couple of books via the internet from the nice bookshop in the World Trade Center and I think of them. I go to my email and I find the receipt and think of those books… those wonderful books which gave me so much pleasure. I open up the email and go to send a reply so I can say… something… and I look at it… blank… and words won’t come… and I just start crying…

Dolby: The Truth

From Dolby’s website, I glean a whole heap of interesting information. Including the following…

Dolby SR = Dolby Spectral Recording
This is analog (as opposed to digital) sound. It is recorded next to the sprocket holes and the picture on a negative. Four channels of sound–front, centre, left and surround (LCRS)–can be mixed and encoded as two channels on the final film print. The surround track refers to one channel of sound that comes from the side and/or rear speaker or speakers.

Dolby SRD = Dolby Spectral Recording Digital
This is (wait for it) digital sound. It is recorded between the sprocket holes adjacent to the analog tracks. If it fails, the sound automatically switches to the analog Dolby SR recording. Up to six channels (5.1) are recorded–front left, front right, surround (side and rear) left, surround (side and rear) right, centre and low frequencies (0.1 of a track as played back by the subwoofer)–in a digital surround mix.

What have I got on Last Train? Dolby SR. ie. an analog surround sound mix, with LCRS tracks encoded as Dolby. That’s on the 35mm print. The video, of course, still has no sound because the DAT is still missing. The latest is that they are going to try to make a new DAT using the sound on the 35mm print. I will go in and listen to see if it’s okay.

Points: the print HAS got surround sound. The lab tells me one thing and then another and then another. The master sound mix is still missing…

What have I got on Fate & Fortune? A non-Dolby mix with LCR tracks and no surround.

Points: Will it make a difference? Will anyone care? More importantly I need to (a) phone the lab to make sure it will play out on theater systems if it’s not Dolby encoded and (b) I need to make sure I get at least two back-up copies of the DAT made before I give it to the next lab. If (a) turns out to be impossible, then we are back to getting it mixed again…

September 5th

Good news: I had a phone call from the rerecording mixer this morning to say he has found the master tape for Last Train and can make a new DAT for the lab people. There is much rejoicing.