Posts Tagged: Learned the Hard Way

Learned the Hard Way #1: Output Follow Through

You have spent days, even weeks, on your edit. You lived in the footage, heard it in your dreams, might even buy stock in the company you edited it for; its that close to you. The client session went amazing, you made the revisions, and now they want to get it out there. Finally, you are home free. Time to set the computer up for lay-off to tape or maybe to compress a file that’s going to get posted to their website. You hit enter and go do a little arm in arm celebratory swing dance with the single receptionist on your way to smoke a cigar by the dumpster out back. Hazahh! The tape gets shipped out on time or the file gets uploaded successfully to your FTP site, now for margaritas.

Or this happens…

Rewind! (Cue fast tape rewind sound effect)

What I described above is not how this photo came about, but in a weird delusional way it might be. This was early on in my career, maybe even within the first 2 months. I had to make a couple text changes to a spot that my senior editor had cut. Something in the realm of “Buy 2 cars and you can touch our pup tiger” being changed to “Buy 2 cars and you can touch our pet tiger”. Something important. So the changes were made and I had to make dubs for the stations. I won’t say I didn’t check the tapes in master control, but I certainly didn’t watch the actual layoff and turn the volume up on the speakers to hear at a proper level. On a quick playback everything looked good, changes were apparent, and the audiometers were bouncing. All good, tapes were taken up front to the receptionist and I returned to whatever compressions I was doing before the change request came in.

The tapes had 3 30-second spots on them. With bars, slates, and black between spots there was maybe 4 minutes of content on the tapes. Had I taken 4 minutes out of my day to stand in master control and focus, I would have noticed that the audio levels starting to fluctuate midway through the second spot. Had I spend those 4 minutes; I would have realized the audio of the third spot was almost entirely overdriven. It seems our Beta SP deck was deciding to do its own damn thing on one of the input channels and I would have noticed if I had the volume up and actually been listening to it. Needless to say the stations rejected the tapes and my boss got a very passionate call from the owner of the ad agency in charge of the commercials. After much discussion my boss asked what he could do to resolve the situation.

I want you to put a stake through the head of the guy who did this.

My interpretation was that he wanted to feed me delicious meats, but my boss decided that it would be hilarious to take a photo of yours truly and send it to the ad agency. Those 4 minutes led to one of the most embarrassing things in my professional career, and it is embarrassing to retell it. But that embarrassment taught me one of the most important lessons as well.

No matter how good your project is, or how happy the clients are with it in the suite, if it is messed up on output, even a little thing, all the good aspects are negated. That could be an audio issue when laying to tape or it could be some stutters in the final file. If you are watching that final output, it is an opportunity to catch that little something that can embarrass you for the rest of your life.

Fast Forward! (Cue another speeding tape sound effect)

A couple months ago I was in the final stages of a short film I had been working on for months. It was a labor of love project that I was doing after hours. I was in the process of making all the final deliverables and caught something while checking one of the BluRay discs. It was one shot that didn’t have a vignette were it was supposed to. For a second a little demon on my shoulder spoke up.

Seriously, no one is going to notice that. Think of how much work you have to go back and do to fix this. You have to re-render it, you have to make all those files, and you have to re-burn all those discs. You will be the only one that will ever notice this.

Yes, I listened to the little guy for a bit while wanting to cry at the thought of it all. This was a case where no one would send out a photo with a stake through my head, but I would know that mistake was there. All the hard work late at night and on the weekends would be trashed due to something I now had the opportunity to change. Which is the second point. You have to be willing to watch that program you have seen a million times one more time, and you have to be willing to revisit the program if you find something that will leave egg all over your face. Or a picture of you with a stake through your head.

Yes, I did go back and lay that vignette on that shot. I did re-compress the 20-minute short, and make a huge amount of deliverables that took well over 5 hours. But now I can watch that short without feeling nauseous every time it comes to the scene, because I watched the output and caught it. It sucked to have to learn this lesson that way, but it is one of the most important lessons in this field. Ask any of the pros who have been doing it for decades, they all adhere to this because it’s what keeps them employed, and keeps this from happening.

I’ll never forget, because I learned it the hard way.