January 19, 1998

After a frustrating day of not being able to secure a projector or work out scheduling to examine the prints, Robin called me in the afternoon with a good-news tone in her voice. She'd spoken to Nice Shoes to alert them to the defective video transfer, and their experts got together and figured out the problem, without my having to play detective. It turns out that the flaring was a result of bleedthrough from the film's optical track, which runs along the right side of the film frame. Nice Shoes specializes in commercials and doesn't deal that often with films with optical tracks, and especially not 16mm films, so Lenny had never seen this symptom before. But there is a way to prevent the flaring, which involves Nice Shoes picking up an extra part for the Rank system. Lenny apologized to me on the phone, and I'm set up to return there on Thursday night, where we'll redo the transfer for nothing.

I really should have been able to figure this out. The problem started two minutes into the second reel, at exactly the spot where the actors start talking: the more sound on the track, the more the optical flared into the image. My filmmaker friend Michael Gitlin, whom I'd talked to this afternoon, hit on the idea of the optical track; I thought about it and rejected it, telling him that in some scenes the flares seemed to be all over the screen, not just on the right side where the optical track is. But, when I think back, those really bad flares happened right at the points when the actors were screaming! Neither Lenny nor I made the connection between the amount of flaring and the amount of sound.

The sense of relief is overwhelming. I've been walking around for days fearing that my negative was damaged, that I'd never be able to show my film because of technical defects. I should be able to enjoy this new lease on life for the usual 36 hours or so before I get jaded again.

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