First off, let me preface this post as saying that, a lot of the time, I am not a one-man-band. I get plenty of help behind the camera on a number of projects.
But. I have taken it upon myself to learn as much as I can and do as much as I can, so that in certain circumstances, I can accomplish much of what happens on a low-budget set. And, during post production.
Now, over the course of the last month or so, I have been sending out dvd screeners of 5AM. But, because of my inexperience, I was exporting my… shit.
Ok, so. There are a number of ways to burn a DVD so that it plays like a DVD. There are also a number of programs that’ll do it for you. I have two. DVD Studio Pro, which is part of the Final Cut Suite, and Toast Titanium.
Now, I had been using DVD Studio Pro (from here on known as DVDSP) because it works seamlessly with FCP and Compressor. What I’ve been doing is, exporting a full contained movie from FCP, and then creating an HD MPEG-2 file from one of the Apple DVD presets in Compressor. This was giving me a gorgeous 1080p file, with an aac sound file, and everything seemed right with the world.
The thing is, DVDs program in at 720p. Fuck.
Now, I didn’t know this because, for some GODDAMN reason, whenever I burned a DVD in DVDSP using this 1080p file onto a regular DVD, it would say the burn was successful, I would put it on my iMac, and the fucking thing would play. Perfectly. So, I sent out 8 of these screeners.
A couple of days ago I received word from one of the festivals I’d sent the screener to, and they said that it didn’t work. Ok, whatever. I’ll try sending them out another one, maybe it was one of those things.
Now, I thought that playing it on a machine I did not burn the disc on was a reasonable enough control group. Color me surprised when I couldn’t get these discs to play on my laptop, my x-box, or my dvd player.
This happened last night at about 11pm, and Karen decided to put me on suicide watch. I had spent the last month busting my ass to get these goddamn screeners out, and not a single one of them worked.
I spent the night and the first part of my day watching tutorial after tutorial on how to get these screeners to work. I exported all new files in 720p. I followed all of the instructions in youtube videos that had successful comments and people cheering the posters.
I slowly went insane. I went so far as to throw my sweatshirt onto the ground and stomp on it, instead of my laptop, which was my first choice.
My head was no longer in the correct frame of mind, and all of the words I read on forums and articles on how to export for a great DVD experience were no longer making sense.
And then I remembered that, when we showed The Thing at Anthology Archives and New Filmmakers, that I had created a preset for a contained MPEG-2 file (both video and audio). If I had the rest of my life to try and remember how in the hell I created that preset, I still wouldn’t be able to come up with the ‘how’.
I burned my first dvd, the light in my eyes slowly dimming, and it worked. It worked on my x-box, my laptop, and my imac. I had a trifecta, and I thought I was going to swoon.
I burned my second. It worked on my laptop, my x-box… and not my iMac.
What the shit.
I tried it in my DVD player. Worked fine.
I simply couldn’t believe this was happening. Why in the hell wasn’t it working on my iMac?
Thoughts raced through my head. Do I go with what I have? I have to get these screeners out there. What are my options?
It’s about this time that I realize that my great 1080p dvd that I sent to Soho won’t work as a screener. It won’t work. I want it to look good, for god sake, and the fact is that I’m doing something wrong with my regular DVD output because, on my TV (it’s a big one) the image looks pixilated. I don’t want that for the screening.
So, I check my options.
Blu Ray is one of them. Cool. I do some research. Blu Ray burns 1080p. Fantastic.
I get some pricing. It’s absurd. Now, mind you, it was the first place I called… $100 for a master Blu Ray, and $20 a copy.
I went to J&R and bought a Blu Ray burner for $240, and some discs. I mean, why not at that point. Hell, I can start charging people myself, now.
So. I did some more research and found a cheaper place in mid-town. I might call them tomorrow, see what the deal is. At this point… well, let me get back on track.
I’ve got a stack of DVDs that work in 3 out of 4 machines. As Meatloaf said ‘two out of three ain’t bad.’ Bear with me.
I label them up, I get them out the door to the post office. I send them to four out of 8 festivals… and I’m relieved. But it’s a temporary relief because if yesterday showed me anything it’s that even though it looks like I know what I’m doing, I don’t. Not fully. I thought I had a handle on the DVD screeners. I really did. You’d figure that a program that is designed to BURN DVDS would not say ‘your DVD burned successfully’ when it’s clearly unplayable.
This happened across the board with each and every dual MPEG-2 and AAC file I brought it, even the 720p’s. It wasn’t until the contained file that I got any cooperation at all.
So. I have to figure out what went wrong. Which is exhausting, but it’ll save me money in the long run. I spent another $25 in postage today because of what amounts to a stupid mistake. Stupid for a number of reasons, not just user error.
I got little sleep last night, so I’m heading off to bed soon. I have Internet Affairs to finish editing. I have episode 7 of The Thing to polish. We wrapped on episode 8 on Sunday. It’s a good one.
Tonight I went to see Last Man Club at Axis Company. It’s a good production, well acted, good story. If you’re in NYC, I’d recommend it.
Two videos for you:
The Career of Paul Thomas Anderson in Five Shots from Kevin B. Lee on Vimeo.
Breaking the 4th Wall Movie Supercut from Leigh Singer on Vimeo.
Tomorrow, Lynn and I do some location scouting. I’ll report back with pictures.
Thanks for reading. If you’re ever in need to figure out 1,000 ways how not to burn a DVD, ask me.