The Big Think

November 17, 2008

And Ten Thousand Pieces Fall Into Place

Filed under: Audio,Movies — jasony @ 12:45 pm

Get the gig. Research equipment needs. Hold breath and buy new equipment. Train on new stuff. Travel to Colorado. Shoot B-roll. Set up interviews. Lights in place? Anamorphic lens attached? Move that light, it’s too hot on his head. Whoops, there’s a shadow- gotta shift everything. Put up a blanket to block the sun. Need a reflector over here. I’m only one person! Thank wife because I’m actually not doing this alone. Get to know soldiers so they trust guy with the camera. Interview soldiers. Try not to get emotional as you hear their stories (on and off camera). Feel burdened to do them justice. Travel back from Colorado with 13 hours of footage, obsessively protecting it from every stray magnetic field and cosmic particle. Spend days importing all the footage. Spend weeks logging everything. Listen through hours of music to get exactly the right cuts. Move clips like puzzle pieces around on the timeline to tell the story. Figure out what the story actually is. Decide that wasn’t the story after all and start over. Reduce 7 hours of interviews down to 15 minutes. Further distill to 10 minutes. Cut out all but the best 6 minutes. Put everything into a logical order. Now make it all work with the music. Now cull through the 7 hours of B-roll for relevant footage. Find a great shot but spend two hours fixing part of it. Fit it into the timeline. Repeat until the story is told. Endure days of crushing self-doubt even though you’ve done it before and know you can do it but still can’t shake the idea that the final product will be a steaming pile of donkey offal. Spend a day doing a full audio mix. Spend hours laboriously getting rid of every “uh, um, er” just because they couldn’t take TWO SECONDS to say it right the first time. Spend several days tweaking the visuals (what’s the editing “language”? Does this clip feel better here… or here? Should I stay on his face an extra five frames? How long should this fade last. How about this one? What’s the best ending shot?). Go back and do the last ten steps when the client sends you “new” stuff they want to incorporate. Realize that none of the new stuff was shot anamorphic. Try to fix new stuff. Give up and use amazing photos instead of bad quality interviews from new stuff. Spend two days fighting with Final Cut Pro to make it output anamorphic footage correctly to iDVD. Realize that iDVD ignores the anamorphic flag. Curse under breath. Repeatedly. Have moment of panic that it’s not going to work and the client will be furious. Realize you didn’t charge enough. Have Lee bail you out because you don’t know how to use DVD Studio Pro. Thank Lee profusely. Spend two more days doing final tweaks (color correction, smoothing transitions). Burn test DVD. Stand back and watch final product on big TV.



Burn 40 DVD’s and send to client with invoice. Get caught up on sleep.

Realize that, no matter how much time and how many decisions went into the project, someone on the client team will inevitably find something that’s not to their taste and request a “little” change that will mean you have to go back fifteen steps to correct it (honestly, it’s like taking the salt out of a cake). Be grateful that you built language into the contract that you’ll get paid a princely fee if this happens. Realize that you still don’t want do change anything.

But no matter what happens from here on out, the DVD is done and you can look on all the thousands of little decisions and know that you did a pretty good job and, even though you don’t know everything there is to know about this incredibly technical, incredibly creative field, you might not be a total hack after all.

Realize that you have not just a mountain of unrelated work to do, but an entire mountain range.

Pause to enjoy the view. Take a breath. Start climbing again.


  1. And what an amazing, amazing job you did on this video. One that should make you very proud and also realize that you did justice to these wonderful people in the video who Deserve all of your hard work, as you know they did and which made you perfectly suited for this job. Good work, sweetie!!

    Comment by Erin — November 17, 2008 @ 1:14 pm

  2. Update: thank Wife for her unending love and support.

    Comment by jasony — November 17, 2008 @ 1:56 pm

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