Monday, August 22, 2011

The digital state of things - what you want or what they want.

I missed my Thursday blog due to the ongoing conflicts between my Mac computer and Final Cut Pro,  an editing software that cost around $1200 and was intended as an upstart "affordable" software to do battle with the gorilla in the room, namely Avid, which has been a standard in digital editing for years.

I started editing on FCP about ten years ago and it took me a good 2 years to really become comfortable with it. You might ask why film editing for a writer and sometimes director and/or producer?

I started out in editing, got a job at a TV station and I cut in 16mm commercials into the late movies for the station. In addition I worked in TV news, first as a soundman and then later as a news cameraman on the streets. I also edited news stories.

Somewhere afterwards I began to write, produce and direct commercials and corporate films and finally filmed, along with my partner Phil Borsos,  a short film called Cooperage, about a barrel factory that won several international awards and was a finalist for the 1976 Academy Awards.

Then came my first feature, Ghostkeeper, followed by my moving to USA in 1990 and a reasonably good list of screenwriting credits.

And then, with digital video, came home editing and this changed my life once again. I didn't care for the amateur systems and since I got comp classes at UCLA while I taught extension classes there, I took several FCP classes with DV (digital video).

What it gave me was a whole new world of creativity, because now I could shoot and edit a complete documentary or short film all by myself. Gone were film costs, lab costs, post production costs.  I could do it all on a Mac. (Incidentally 90% of what I do is on PC). As I write this I am finishing a documentary I shot on Highway 50 in Nevada, dubbed the "loneliest highway in America". In fact the highway image at the top of the blog is a still from my Hwy 50 doc. 

I also shot and edited a 45 minute doc on my home town's 100th anniversary and sold over 200 copies at $20 each.

Then came High Definition.

I held out for years but in the last 3 weeks, I was dragged into the HD world whether I wanted to or not. Which brings me to the title of this blog.

The digital world gives sharp and clear pictures. But getting something finished isn't always easy. It's a world of codecs and formats and conflicts between the edit system and the information found in HD. There are a hell of a lot more 1's & O's than DV and a lot more problems.

Going back to flatbed film edit systems, all that you needed to know was that you flipped a switch ahead or back and the film would go in that direction. The only technical part came if the machines broke down. Which they rarely if ever did.

Not so with digital. I am finishing the "extras" for the Ghostkeeper 1980 re-release and had footage from two places, Calgary and Vancouver, with interviews of one of the actresses and the DP.

The actress footage, about 47 minutes, was done with the Canon 5D slr, in other words a still camera that has suddenly become hot for filmmakers as it's chip is equal to the size of a 35mm film frame. That means a better picture.

However the sound was done on a separate recorder. Which meant that I had to sync up the sound with the picture. In film it was done with the help of a tuning fork in both the film camera and the recording player. Now you would think that would be easy in digital as film is so "analog".

But no, you sync digital video and audio manually with a slate or "Hand Clap". Why digital doesn't have a more sophisticated system is a mystery. Film cameras had it for maybe 50 years or so.

Problems started at the outset, and continued, the colors were wrong, the sync wouldn't sync and on and on. And the other footage wasn't very sharp and had dropouts. Now remember this is all the wonderful digital age system.

Thankfully, I had Shirley. You remember her from Travel Day, the film that Shirley and I attempted to make, and the title of my entire blog. Not only is she a genius at FCP, she also knows codecs and all that stuff.

But another sync problem happened over the wk-end and I'm back, to some point, at the beginning. I spoke to the distributor Friday and he's okay with it but will contact the dvd duplicator later this week.

So I have another 48 hours or so, and I still have to edit the now fixed-up footage of the DP.

This is why I go on mini-vacations.

And yeah, that guy with the hair and the beard is me a million years ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment