Robin and I took a long lunch today and went to Lab-Link to see the first corrected print. The bad news is that there are lots of things wrong with it. First, the whole film was printed badly, so that it looked like a decaying nitrate film, with ripples of light over every image. Second, there is an annoying click, like a skipping record, over most of the second reel's sound track. It's not clear yet whether this problem came in when the print or the optical track was made. (Or even the mag track, though I heard that once and remember no click.) Third, though the timer corrected almost all of the problems we pointed out to him, there are three or four shots in the film that might still need adjustment.
The good news is that it's possible that none of these problems will cost me more money. Tony at Lab-Link was apologetic about the printing problem and said that they would strike a new print for me early next week. He was also generous about the timing problems, which would normally cost me another expensive print to fix; he said that I could come in on Monday and mark the locations of the problem shots, and that they would sneak the changes into the next print with no charge. As for the clicking on the sound track, he won't be able to check its origin until Monday, but if it is Lab-Link's problem, they will fix that for free as well. If the problem goes back to Zounds, the sound lab, then I'll have to negotiate with them separately.
The idea of retarding the sound track by one frame to fix my sync problems seemed to work, sort of. As best we can tell, the sync seems a little off at the beginning and end of the reels, and pretty accurate in the middle of reels. The problem is a little worse at the beginnings than at the ends, and Robin, who does this sort of thing for a living, was a little perturbed at the sync when she saw the first shots. But by the end of the screening she had concluded that the sync was good enough to go with.
The optical sound track was a little muffled at times, alarmingly so in one or two scenes. It's hard to tell how much of that is a result of possible defects, how much of the natural degradation of the optical format, and how much of poor speakers in the projection room. At this point, I'm thinking that I'll probably just live with the sound as it is rather than launch a time-consuming investigation. Interestingly, some of the little camera noise and ambience problems that Fran and Walter at Zounds said would be inaudible on an optical track were quite plain on today's print. Had I known that the optical track held this much information, I would have put in a little more work on the sound mix. But the glitches are not so obvious that I'm going to spend additional thousands to redo everything.
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