Archive for December, 2007

Computers are great, but we are losing our video shows forever!

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

We transferred some footage recently from Hi-8. Actually, I’m guessing the “master” was actually a sub-master from another Hi-8… or worse… (please don’t say it) a VHS master! The footage was absolutely loaded with blurry video noise. It was really important footage for an educational project and the footage was in really bad shape.


Then the thought dawned on me that our culture is losing so many valuable tapes everyday due to video disintegration and poor storage.


Back in 1980’s, movie film ended it’s century long reign as the archiving/mastering format of choice. Producers and studio vice presidents decided that video was here to stay (not to mention 10 times cheaper) and hundreds of thousands of television programs were mastered on 1″ reel-to-reel tape. Often times, the original film negatives were literally tossed in the trash to make room on the vault shelves for the shiny new videotape masters. Giant post houses across Hollywood were churning out telecine film transfers to tape at a break-neck pace.  And the footage actually looked amazing. Plus it was so fun and easy to manipulate, adding color saturation and playing with contrast and compositing all with a couple keystrokes on a computer.


Cut to 25 years later. Every time we transfer one of those 1″ masters to a current format, it makes me almost want to cry because the image has become so soft and noisy.  People worked so hard to make the original program, and much of this footage is valuable to our cultural history and entertainment. But the beautiful 1″ tapes just didn’t hold up to the test of time. It’s like a kind of extinction, the extinction of a whole era of visual gems.


So maybe I wasn’t so surprised to see the hi-8 footage also looking so badly after all these years.  But it makes me wonder if we are on the right course with all this digital media and everything on hard drives. Consider an event like Hurricane Katrina. If your masters were there on a hard drive and flooded with water, that would be that. However, if it were backed up on film, it could be salvageable.


The loss of this part of our culture really strikes a sad chord with me.  One of my favorite documentaries of all time “One Foot”, a 1979 PBS program produced by San Francisco’s KQED is gone forever. Nobody can every see it. That’s that.


Moral of the story… it makes a lot of sense to have redundant masters in different formats and locations. In other words, store a set of important masters in your mom’s attic and another entirely different format in your own closet.

Distributor for your film? You’re it!

Monday, December 10th, 2007

These days it’s easy to get your films shown to millions thanks to YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Atom Films, and all the other social networking sites out there. But if you want a distributor and want to actually make money from your films, that is an entirely different matter.  Now it’s time to take control of your project’s destiny and self-distribute. If you believe in your show and feel that it has a potential paying audience, you owe it to yourself and your beloved project to post it online as a downloadable quicktime movie or iPod-ready film.  Just compress it down using Quicktime Pro, Final Cut Pro, Compressor, or whatever.  Next build a website to market your film. Finally, post the file at and let them handle the shopping cart and all the download security for a few bucks a month. It’s an amazing service. You keep your own website and just stick a button on there that says “Purchase Download Now” and e-Junkie handles the rest. You don’t need a major $75/month shopping cart to handle your digital downloads. E-Junkie works perfectly and is affordable enough for a student to use.  You can even put any other digital file on there for sale such as .mp3’s, PDFs, etc.  For that matter, just sell your Grandma’s recipes on there to finance your next movie. Kirk 

PAL to NTSC – Don’t Change Horses in the middle of the video stream.

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

Yikes! We’re getting more and more of these crazy PAL dailies! It’s perfectly fine to shoot in PAL and convert to NTSC. No biggie. But PLEASE DON’T DO IT WITH YOUR DAILIES.

Just shoot in the format you intend on finishing in. Really! The cost and headaches of making a primo standards conversion are extremely  high, so doing it with ALL the footage of the dailies (sometimes a 30 to 1 ratio) is about as fun as hitting yourself with a sledge hammer.

The best choice is to finish your film in the original format, THEN do the standards conversion with the final cut material.  That way, every shot can look its best and real attention can be given to the problem areas. Producers will appreciate saving major budget money on only converting shots that will actually end up in the picture.

If you are stuck with doing the conversion from the foreign dailies, then please pay for the editor do a rough cut assemblage in the PAL format (it could be done on a laptop at low rez) in order to make a culled down batch of footage. So instead of a 30 to 1 ratio, maybe it’s trimmed down to about 5 to 1.  Otherwise, do you really want to be paying all this money and time in order to convert the standards for shots like false starts, slates, stupid flubs, camera problems, etc.?