January 13, 1998

Tonight was the start of the very expensive process of making a video master from my finished film print at Nice Shoes. I had somehow hoped that things would go quickly and I would be able to finish the whole process in one evening, but we had completed only one reel by the end of the night. It was incredibly nerve-wracking to see my money flying away at the rate of $250 an hour (one dollar every 14 seconds...), but the process was interesting and fairly enjoyable. The colorist, Lenny, was quite good and pleasant to work with, and he was able to do some amazing things with the images, like cut down on glaring spots and make different changes to different parts of the same image. He wasn't quite able to get rid of the one problem that I hoped to fix--the too-bright highlights in the night bedroom scenes--but his changes helped some.

Robin had a conflict tonight and didn't think she could make it to the session, which made me a bit nervous, as she has so much experience in video transfer. But I wound up cooling my heels in Nice Shoes' luxurious offices for almost two hours because the previous session had run well over time (I was paying low night rates and was therefore bumpable), and Robin arrived before I started and saw me through the first hour of transfer before she had to leave. It's interesting that the colors of the film print didn't simply show up unchanged on the video screen--often Lenny had to do a lot of fiddling just to recover the original look. Most of the work was like being at the optometrist: Lenny would make a change and show us the before and after versions and ask which we preferred. In general, the choices were easy, but once in a while it wasn't obvious to Lenny what the original image looked like, and I had to point him. I have a sneaking feeling that it's possible to make a film look a little more ordinary at this stage by getting rid of all excesses and imperfections. Once in a while I would opt for a slightly rawer look; usually I sat back and let Lenny do his stuff. I think I saw one mistake go by as we were laying down reel one, but at these prices there's no hope of going back to redo anything.

For sound, we used the original DATs that came out of the mix sessions instead of the optical track that was on the film. I was worried about getting the sync right, because of all the troubles we had getting the prints to match up--but the first reel was in perfect sync. This supports the theory that the slight sound slippage that we experienced when making the first married prints was due, not to defects in the DATs, but in an imperfect transfer from the DATs to the mag track at Zounds.

Lenny is getting married next week and going on a honeymoon to his grandmother's cottage in the Poconos. I told him that maybe he didn't want to watch this particular movie right now, but he's a tough guy and has no worries about his honeymoon. When the couple in the film traveled to Pennsylvania, Lenny said, "Boy, it's going to be so nice to get out of the city." And when they arrived at the lakeside cottage, he said, "That's one thing we're not going to have--there's no lake where we're going." At this point, I'll take any way I can get to hook an audience. I wonder how he's going to feel about reel two....

The night cost me $812.50. The first reel contains almost half the shots in the film, but I'm still scared at the almost certain prospect that this process will cost more than the $1500 I'd expected. When this transfer is done, I'll be nearly out of money--but hopefully there won't be any more expenses this big.

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