The Mutant Pancake

Last Train has now been blown up to 35mm and I went to have a look at the print today. This is first time I’ve seen it complete with soundtrack since doing the audio mix earlier in the year. I have to say that I think it looks and sounds really great. The camerawork, editing, lighting, music and sound really are all first-class. You know, for a mutant pancake, I think this is very acceptable.

Matt the grader has washed out the last few shots on my instruction leaving these ghostly white images that work really well to create a kind of haunted feel at the end. It is superb to see that working together with Andy the composer’s music. There are a few little tweaks here and there which I still want, like less light here and more grain there and what’s that big blob in the opening? Oops. It will get removed and everything will be done and…

Hey, on the whole, I’m thinking this looks and sounds really good. I go back to have a final look next week and will be presented with the (scary) bill. Then it’s festival time!

Fate & Fortune meanwhile plods along at its usual hard to see pace. Seasons come and go but this postproduction remains. I’ve delivered all the material, including rushes videos, to the new editor. However, she couldn’t do a new EDL for me because she uses Avid Media Composer and not Avid Film Composer–two different editing systems made by the same manufacturer–so she’s passed everything on to someone else again.

Then I phone the rerecording mixer and phone the rerecording mixer and phone the rerecording mixer… I’m probably driving her dotty but at last I get through and we get to have a talk about the notes I’ve sent her. She tells me that she can’t do all the surround sound effects I want because the sound editor didn’t lay tracks down. He also didn’t lay various effects down that I need. I sigh.

The discussion is still useful because we can at least go through a few things before getting in the studio. No. There still isn’t studio time available. I sigh again. But going through notes like this on the phone will save time when we get there so maybe it will be for the best. I’ve arranged to phone her tomorrow evening to see exactly what we can and can’t do on my list of wants and needs.

One thing struck me about my mutant pancake, though, which should help. Last Train allegedly has a 5.1 surround sound mix and it sounded just like stereo to me as there are no left/right or rear effects. I couldn’t swear to it but I’m wondering if the rerecording mixer on that has done a stereo mix. And the thing is this: it sounds absolutely great. So maybe I’m worrying over nothing and I needed to hear the mutant pancake to enable me to proceed with confidence on Fate & Fortune.

Therefore I think studio time now, right now, would be a very good thing. Pleeeeeeeeeeeease!

August 10th:

So, our favourite rerecording mixer was at work without the notes when I called. She said she’d be home in an hour. Fair enough. I called again then, it rang and I got a machine. Left it 15 minutes in case she was still on her way home. Called again. Machine. Left message. No reply.

Gosh. What a big surprise.

I really really want my freaking dialogue tapes back NOW.

August 24th

Earlier this week I went along to do a graded telecine transfer of Last Train. Telecine means transferring the film to video tape by scanning each frame. Graded means there is a person (called a grader) who sits with me and adjusts the contrast, colour and brightness (yes, the same three controls as on your television but a little more sophisticated) to make each shot look right for television.

I have to say, it was money and time well spent. I think it looks damn fine.

All that’s left to do now is to put the sound on to videotape with the pictures. How hard can that be? Erm… well, guess what? The lab has lost the DAT with soundtrack. I kid you not. Can I get them another one? They’ll pay. I sigh as I so often do with this crazy project and I phone the sound people who mixed Last Train. The person I need is on holiday until next Wednesday… Well, of course they are. I should have known.

The phrases infinite patience, long suffering and banging head on wall (again) spring to mind).

Oh and to complete my joy, while I was talking to the lab I asked if the film soundtrack–which does sound superb–had been done as stereo or surround. They said the optical soundtrack is in stereo. So all the effort of getting a surround mix was kind of lost. Lost train. Hahahystericalha. Apparently I ordered a Dolby SR sound negative. If I’d wanted a 5.1 negative I should have asked for digital, which would be a Dolby SRD. There is no possible way of guessing these things is there? Really. No.

I like my mutant pancake, though, stereo and all as it is. It still tastes good, good and dark and a little disturbing as intended, and I learn to cook with celluloid.