Monday, May 29, 2006

Momma said knock you out

It was a steamy Saturday afternoon in Bartlett, Tennessee. Long, arduous hours had been spent twisted in a battle of wits... Man vs. Machine, Art vs. Technology. Neither side would give an inch of ground as the Earth stressed and tore beneath them. Finally, something slipped. Perhaps, the computer wasn't paying attention... Or perhaps after weeks of delivering and absorbing disastrous, destructive blows the processor had finally made the decision to throw in the towel and let the feeble humans take some joy in their small victory... Or perhaps the binary Gods that lingered somewhere in the electronic hum of the "great unknown" took pity upon those poor souls that had prayed and troubled over such a silly thing as a movie. We may never know what happened or why this bright burst of change had taken place. One thing is certain, Bevan and Anthony have won the match. After months of slaving away, the DVD problems (amid the home studio) have been solved and Rusted Sun Film's second feature film DIVINE MANIPULATION OF THE THREADS can now be sent off to be duplicated, wrapped up, and made available to all of you. Within two or three weeks, we should have the DVDs. There are extras. There is new artwork. There is a love to share all of this with all of you and it is now finally possible!
I admit, when the infamous "layer break" issue had finally been solved I jumped into the air and came crashing down with "Hi-fives," joyous cheers, and middle fingers pressed firmly into the invisible barrier between the computer and the downstairs television.
"I beat you Motherf#({er," I screamed in delight. "I beat you." I smiled a painfully stretched grin of pure pleasure. The underdog had taken the heavyweight down. My eyes were wide and sparkled with psychosis. It was done. It was finally done.
So there was a knockout in round five. The count is still slowly coming across and we are waiting to see if the computer is going to get up to deal a few more blows (because in my daydream world of movies and technology time doesn't operate the way that it's supposed to... which might offer a small explanation for the extraordinarily long delay).
Yes, I realize that with the film's premiere release at Malco Studio on the Square and the subsequent release of the DVD actually works out to about 3 months-- The standard time of operation between films that actually have budgets and then a distribution release. However, I have learned that when films do come out, they don't always comply to a 3 month period between releases. I'm still waiting on the DVD release of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and The Matador. Don't even get me started on why Brick hasn't even played here yet. Maybe we'll have a DVD release party where everyone can meet with the filmmakers and cast, get things signed, make-out in a dark corner, possibly have a few drinks, and... oh yeah... pick up a copy of the movie. I'll keep you informed of how it goes. It's not too far away. Start taking your orders down on slips of paper. They're going to be priced to move. I'll have to make sure I can give correct change in return.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

over the millionth hurdle and into the pond...

I will make one small admission. There are times when I prepare for battle against an unknown foe knowing that I am going to lose the first few rounds. I have heart. It's the only thing that keeps me taking punches to the nose. Who is this invisible foe that strikes from the darkness with sucker-punched glee? A f-ing computer. I read. I study. I have discussions with intelligent and well versed individuals on subjects that are meant to teach, enlighten, and spread the secret experiences behind the post-production hell of making a film with little (or NO) budget. I have spent a great deal of time hacking and chopping my way through the thick-wet crunches of "group of images" and layer break calculation coding. Much like the search for Solomon's Gold, there is the constant draw and hope that treasure is hiding beneath an unturned rock. After spending $125 on Dual Layer disks and laying them to waste as drink coasters at five dollars a pop, we have had a break through. Anthony put some money down for a new burner... Low-and-behold the madness!!! We are now capable of burning dual layer DVDs! Yes, there is a fabled light at the end of the edit bay. However, this light has pulled another small issue out of the digital muddled darkness and brought it to feast before the eyes. Apparently layer breaks pause for about a second while in transition. This I know. There has to be a small amount of time in which the laser readjusts so that it can read the information off of "Layer1" (as opposed to Layer 0-- stupid binary codes)... and that switching between layers causes the video and audio to pause for about a second (or half-a-second).

That small gap is too long for my taste... especially when the computer decides that it wants to put this layer break in the middle of a piece of dialogue or some other inappropriate segement that jars the senses and stops all elements of spatial enjoyment. The pause comes off looking like an unintentional glitch and I do not wish to simply "settle" with a layerbreak pause when we have spent so much time and effort to make this film as perfect as possible. So, we continue to burn disks at five dollars a pop until we can find a reasonable point of agreement with the computer. You see... the program doesn't like where I want to put the layer break. We've tried manually placing the break at several points. Most films find a fade to black or entail some kind of transition that appears to be seamless when the layer switch is made. I haven't found that "easy" transition yet. It's just not working right. So I argue with the computer and ask it "Why computer? Why won't you let me put the layer break where it will go unnoticed? Why won't you just work with me a little and stop wasting these precious disks? Why won't you listen to reason?" There is no answer. I want to take those 1's and 0's and stick them sideways up it's USB port. It's like arguing with a cat.

That's pretty much the latest update. We're burning money, burning disks (that actually do work... just not like I want them to), and burning a little more time before we write someone a $1700 check for 1000 DVDs. Trust me, the film will be on DVD soon. I'll be glad when it's in someone else's hands... because I'm tired of trying to get the damn thing out of the computer. Well... we can get it out of the computer, just like you can take a child to the grocery store... but I want to avoid a half-naked DVD screaming around the feminine hygiene product aisle... or maybe I can use that as an advertising ploy. Okay, maybe that's not a good analogy. By the end of next week we'll have the answer.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

No solution/ Music fest/Will Oldham

When there is no immediate solution to a problem, odds are I (we - Anthony and I) continue to slave away at the brick wall towering overhead with clenched jaws, determination, and a genuine vibrant mind full of ideas. We try to imagine that there is always some logical solution to a problem... even if we don't understand it completely (or have the apparent programming knowledge in which to bypass a certain problematic element of DVD structure). Still, we slave on... day after day... night after night. We make phonecalls, e-mail friends and colleagues, and post little love notes on the Adobe forums that beg and plead for help. Somewhere around Friday afternoon, Anthony and I both decided to give up trying until Monday. With all of this stress and frustration that cannot be pointed toward a physical element (in which to smash into little pieces, in my case) we respectively decided to give it a rest for two days... rest the brain... slip away from the doldrums of work and the work week... and well... just drink.
So, Friday night Christine and I went down to the muddy-trampled riverside with the rest of the beer-soaked cretins. I have to say that I've had my fair share of inebriated reverie while listening to the not-so-satisfying live sounds of a Memphis in May hand picked band. Well, turning a few years older and not entering the park until after 10pm is quite a different sight to behold. The curbs were littered with drooling half-awake drunkards... full from a day of heat, rain, and a steady regimen of pot and beer. Kids, rednecks, adults... small children... it was quite sobering for a person that had a few gin and tonics at a high class eatery earlier in the evening. I wasn't fall-over-and-puke drunk... but I knew that I couldn't handle a high quantity slosh like the dirty little garden gnomes spread out across the pavement anymore.
We marched past the display of broken humans and approached the stage where BB King would play. His band opened, he stumbled out on stage, played a little guitar, never sang and played at the same time, told some jokes about viagara, and we left about four or five songs into the set. Christine just wanted to see him. He's 80, he's a legend... so is James Brown... so is Jimi Hendrix. Do you know why Hendrix sells more albums than both of them? Because we never got to see Jimi grow old. He's stuck in time, youthful, vibrant, and eternal. He will never fall or fail because we never got to see him continue on. BB and James made fantastic songs and albums as well. But now... it's just kind of a novelty. Hey, I saw Iggy Pop a few years ago. He's still got it. David Bowie too. The Rolling Stones don't have it... Paul McCartney doesn't have it anymore. Some people can still kick it out with age. Anyway...
Saturday night we returned for Cake's show. It was a long ass walk from one end of the park to the other. My thighs hurt. Christine can speed walk something fierce. We arrived just as they were taking the stage. They started with "Frank Sinatra" and after about 45 seconds and three loud-squealed feedback punches later, the vocalist stopped the song approached the mic and said, "Thank you for coming out, we love all of you, we'll be back in five minutes when they figure out what the fuck is wrong with the sound system." And yes, they left the stage... to a fair amount of "boos"... but they did return and play a massively sloppy set. The only humorous part of the show was when the singer started to heckle the crowd saying, "This next one is from our first album... but you don't know what albums are anymore do you? No, you just steal songs from the internet." The crowd responded with a resounding cheer. He continued, "Well I think all music should be free. That's right. It should all be free. I'm also of the opinion that all sandwiches should be free." The crowd laughed. "I will gladly trade you a song for a sandwich." about a minute later someone threw a sandwich on stage. I guess you have to be careful what you ask for.
On Tuesday evening I was working nights at the station and my old roommate James Satcher decided to remind me that Bonnie "Prince" Billy (Will Oldham) was playing that night at the Young Avenue Deli. I made sure to go. Matt Sweeney would be taking the stage with him that night as well. After paying 12 bucks to get in the door and another $5.50 for two Miller Highlifes, I found a place in the room and waited for the show to start. I have to say, as the show went on I was further and further impressed with the material. After the show ended, the band packed up their own gear and mingled with those that decided to stick around the bar. I approached Matt Sweeney and thanked him for an inspiring show, asked him what happened to Zwan, and bought him a beer. We talked about movies, music, and what places he should check out tomorrow since tonight was the end of their long tour.
We headed out to Alex's tavern proceeded to get shitfaced and I got a call from Christine somewhere around 3:30am to make sure that I wasn't dead. She was kind of pissed. I said my goodbyes, told Will Oldham that my friend Daniel (who is living in Jena) was jealous and would have loved to hang out tonight, and I went home to vomit. Yeah, I forgot to mention the Jager-shot that James made me drink after having 6 beers previous.
I've continued to work nights, have had a hell of a busy schedule and still don't have an answer to the wonderful DVD issue. We'll see what happens next week. I'm supposed to film with Arnold Edwards this weekend. I'm also on call. Let the games begin.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Just when you think it's easy...

It would be redundant to say that while making our second feature film, DIVINE MANIPULATION OF THE THREADS, we've learned a few important lessons of "how-to-do" and equally "what-not-to-do." You take these little tidbits of golden-nugget knowledge and try to apply them to the appropriate sized problematic holes so that our respective brains don't rattle around and fall out of our ears. From time to time -- it actually works. I would assume that we've learned from our episodes of misinformation while fumbling our way through a No-Budget Independent film. Hopefully it will be a little easier (and relatively quicker) on the "next go 'round." We will most likely purchase and/or make a few more items of equipment. There may be some relatively more complex shoots... but it will get done... with a little bitching and elbow grease. All of that seems a "million smiles" away in comparison to the "post-production hell" that Anthony and I have been wading through.
Digital technology is a wonderful thing. It's easy, it's fast, it's makes fascinating leaps of quality. However, it sinks you into an ass-deep sludge of "do-it-yourself" f#(k ups on a daily basis. Our newest conundrum deals with the majestic realms of DVD+R Dual Layer discs. Dual Layer technology has been used by Hollywood for years. When pushing out the twenty-dollar "gotta-have" DVD home movie with commentary tracks and little "peeks" behind-the-scene featurettes, the consumer never thinks about how they get all of that information on a single disk.
Here's a few things I've learned. When using dual layer technology, there can only be about 50 minutes of the film on one side of the disc when you have three audio (ac3) tracks, the visual portion of the film, and a featurette. The video and audio tracks are separate pieces of digital information that are played simultaneously, depending on which "Audio Option" you chose. If you chose stereo... the movie and the stereo track are played. If you chose Dolby 5.1... the movie and the surround track are played. When you chose commentary... the movie and the commentary track are played (the movie audio you here just under the "talking" is actually mixed on that track). With all of the menu information pre-writing and 94 minutes worth of movie, and a 31 minute "Making Of Documentary/Blooper segment" you're going to run into a problem with available disk size. Enter the Dual layer disc.
I've been told the way that this f-ing thing is supposed to work is that there is a calculated point in which the reading laser switches from the first layer (layer 0) to the second layer (layer 1) and continues on with the movie or allows the viewer to access the other entertaining features that were crammed onto the disc. There's a lot of binary number crunching, a turning of the laser, blah blah blah, technology is a wonderfully complex rash eating away at my ass. It's frustrating... because this consumer version of dual layer technology is new... Therefore, there hasn't been a sure fire way to burn a disc every time. There are programs that are used to burn these fantastic little pieces of shit. Unfortunately half of the programs tell you to go buy or download another program when it doesn't work the way you want it to. Then you have to guess your way through that mess of a binary shit storm. I'm not good with all of this sector value, division of 16, 10001100010101010111000101010 crack pot horseshit. Can you tell I'm frustrated? Good. Because this movie making thing isn't getting any easier this week. We cannot get the disc to make the switch from the first layer to the second. It locks up or kicks back out to the main menu. When it gets to the point in the film at which the disc is supposed to switch from layer to layer... it freezes, locks up, makes a terrible "whirring-chunk-whir-chunk" sound and makes me want to put my foot through the face of whoever put out this program without making sure that the thing works correctly. There's stuff on the disc. We just can't see what's on the "rumored" second layer. Bill Gates, we need to talk.
We're still trying to get the film out to the company that will ask a hefty price to replicate/duplicate a 1000 discs so that our wonderful fans can finally have a copy of our film with a few choice "extras" that are sure to entice a few more laughs. I don't know what the solution is right now. We're working on the solution... which translates to "We're working on the DVD." I don't have a date but I promise that before everyone loses interest in our local film we should have discs to sell. They will be sold at a reasonable price but because of the unreasonable price that we will have to pay to get these f#(king things made, we'll have to sell them (with an obvious exception to those that acted and helped in the production of the film-- since we couldn't pay them, they'll get a copy for all of their hard work-- least we can do, right?)
My plea for help would be that someone can assist in finding a solution. Any success with a dual layer disc? Tell us. Any access to a DLT machine? Please let us know. Any chance that we can get a cheap(er) price on having 1000 discs mastered and pressed? I would love to hear from you. That's where we are kids. Enjoy your week. I'll keep reading discussion forums and making phone calls until I can figure out how to get this movie out of the machine the way that we intended it.