Information about the Fylo/Hofstad tour movie

Saturday, March 05, 2005  

Once the DVDs arrived, I think I'd just felt such a relief to finally have everything finished that I became easily distracted by other things. I'd recently started a new job, had my sister visit from NYC, dealt with getting my practice space burglarized and then recovering some of the items, etc etc etc. So the final last step, the public release, seemed to be slipping away. I began to worry that I wouldn't have time to release it before Chad went off to Australia for a few weeks.

So last weekend I called up the Rendezvous and booked their newly renovated downstairs, "El Grotto". It turns out that I had my pick of nights since they had a pretty open schedule, but all the anxiety of letting everything slip by must have gotten to me, and I jumped at the first Wednesday I could get. That meant that I only gave everyone a 5 day notice.

But it worked out just fine in the end. John Cocci brought the video gear, including a projector that was amazingly crisp and bright. I brought my home stereo, which turned out to be plenty loud. The room was packed, not the 50 or 60 that I'd expected but it was full enough that latecomers had to stand in the neighboring room.

People seemed to catch all the "good" spots, especially with the subtitles turned on, so overall I have to say I am happy as could be with the results. There are still a lot of DVDs left but that just frees me up to give some to the local artsy video shops.

It's been a long road. The first post in this blog was on January 24, 2003, just a little over two years ago.

I want to thank Chad, Jon, Jeff, and Lance for letting me film their every waking moment for a solid week. Thanks to John Cocci for donating the equipment and Happy Palace mix. And thanks to everyone on the Fylo family tree for putting up with That Guy Jim's drunken tall tales about some great movie that no one ever really expected to see.

posted by Jim | 11:00 AM

Monday, January 10, 2005  

The DVDs have finally arrived. I just watched one in its entirety and it seemed OK. Everyone who's expecting one in the mail, you'll see it soon!

posted by Jim | 1:02 PM

Monday, January 03, 2005  

Status update: talked with "Josh" who said they are assembling the DVDs today and they should be shipped out tomorrow.

posted by Jim | 1:44 PM

Sunday, January 02, 2005  

Well, weeks have passed and I'm still waiting on CD Marksman to produce the copies. There have been a series of disappointments leading up to this huge delay:

a) Even though their website still claims that they make true non-burned ("replicated") DVDs at quanties as low as 100, they called me after a week to say that their website is incorrect, and that they only do that for quantities of 1000 or more. This was sad because that was the main reason I went with them over other companies.

b) Even though I sent them a full-size printed copy of the cover art, they still required me to approve a "proof" before they would send it to the printer. They sent email notifying me of this on December 8th, but my ISP's spam filter tagged it as spam, so I never saw it.

c) Finally, just before Christmas, I called up to find out what was up, and they said that they were just waiting for me to get back to them. They said they thought it was weird that my project "was up on the wall staring at us for two weeks in PENDING APPROVAL status" but never bothered to call. By this point I'd already switched over to Mozilla Thunderbird for my email client, and I was able to catch their email and approve the proofs.

d) On Monday after Christmas, I sent them email using the special "give me status on my order" email address they provide on their website. I got a quick response saying they'd get back to me in 24 hours.

e) Four days later, after not hearing from them, I called them again, and talked to a very embarassed guy who was apologetic and nice, but he gave me a story about the prints that I don't quite believe, even now. He says that for quantities less than 1000, they don't print in-house; they outsource it to a company in Illinois. And, "because of the big snow storms in the midwest", the printer has been unable to ship the cover art. He expected to get a tracking number that night, and said he will email it to me when he gets it.

f) Tonight is Sunday, January 2, and I haven't received any such email, so I'll have to call again tomorrow to find out where things stand.

I could have printed and burned 100 DVDs myself in this time.

If it's not obvious already - I can't say I recommend this company.

posted by Jim | 9:01 PM

Tuesday, November 23, 2004  

Everything looks good! Off to the post office!! If all goes well, I am hoping to get the order back on December 13.

posted by Jim | 3:37 PM

It's done! All progress meters at 100%, all forms filled out, all DVDs and CDs ready to be sent to the manufacturer.

The last remaining step is to watch the entire movie again from start to finish, to make sure the master copy I send away is free of any defects.

I thought I'd made the final master yesterday, but as soon as I started burning the disc, I realized I'd left John Cocci's name out of the credits. Not good. So last night I updated the credits and began the 9-hour process of rerendering the entire movie.

It's going to be hard to relax and feel like it's done until I actually send it out. And even then, I suppose it will be hard to relax until the DVDs arrive at my doorstep.

posted by Jim | 1:12 PM

Thursday, November 18, 2004  

Subtitles are basically done now except for final proofreading by Melanie.

posted by Jim | 5:04 PM

Wednesday, November 17, 2004  

Everything seems back on track, and I'm now 49:21 into the subtitles. Only 10 minutes left to transcribe.

posted by Jim | 5:36 PM

Tuesday, November 16, 2004  

WHEW. Everything is going to be fine after all.

Yesterday I brought my drive to "Disk Doctors" in Bellevue. Since it takes them a while to figure out what can be recovered from the drive, I spent a couple hours digging through old boxes, hoping to stumble upon the two missing backup DVDs. No luck. Today, 24 hours later, still no word from them.

So today I looked at the project again in the editing software. I wanted to see how much information they could provide about the missing clips. This way, I might be able to estimate how long it would take to recapture the missing clips from the original DV tapes, re-edit them into the timeline, etc. I figured it would be a pain in the ass but doable, and it would help sugarcoat the huge price needed for data restoration ($500 to $2500) if I knew that it would save me two more weeks of work.

Well, much to my surprise, the editing software kept a lot of information about the clips. In fact, it kept track of the exact in/out points of them on the original tapes. This means I would have a pretty easy time recapturing them.

But even better, I could select the missing clips and hit "batch capture", and pow! All the clips would be captured in one pass.

And that's what I just did. In a matter of minutes, I was able to recapture the clips from the DV tapes, and those gaps in the movie magically disappeared, everything looks exactly as it did before. No net loss.

Everything is also backed up on DVD in case it happens again. I still have to rerender the movie, but I can do that tomorrow when my replacement hard drive arrives.

Life is wonderful again.

posted by Jim | 4:26 PM

Saturday, November 13, 2004  

VERY BAD NEWS: Last night the hard drive that stores all my movie files decided to die. Some parts of the file system seem accessible, other parts are definitely hosed, or maybe the mechanism is hosed.

I believe I have backups of everything but this could definitely delay things.

posted by Jim | 1:44 PM

Friday, November 12, 2004  

I'm now about 29 minutes into the movie with subtitles. Only 50% left to go!

posted by Jim | 6:12 PM

Thursday, November 11, 2004  

Well the new software finally arrived, but it still didn't fix the problems with my old project, so I have to start over again from scratch with the subtitles.

This time I'm typing them up in an external text file, which I can import into the project all at once. That way, even if it crashes again in the future, I won't lose much work at all.

I just finished the first chapter, which is 11.5 minutes long. That took about three hours, so it's going pretty fast now and I'm past the point where I left off before.

It's been pretty easy to transcribe the slang, but so far the most difficult scene was the "melee vs. waylay" conversation. They have a word that sounds like "maylayer", for someone who melees. I didn't want to completely break the spelling so I used "melee'r". Sometimes people phrase sentences in ways that don't seem right, but I'm trying to enter exactly what they say, even if it looks like a typo.

That scene also has a lot of overlapping dialog, but fortunately a lot of it was repetitive so I was able to pick out a continuous thread that made sense and revealed all the comments.

Here's how it looks:

When you're a true Harbor melee'r dude. When you're a true Harbor melee'r.

When you're a true melee that is all about being drunk.

It's all about gettin' drunker, and gettin' drunker.

But really, melee is all about bein' ready to toss a couple fists.

Melee is all about not stoppin' until you drop.

But what's waylay?

Oh, waylay!


Take that M and turn it upside down, baby!

Waylay is the double time.

"The Shocker!" Yeah dude.

Waylay is a whole other story, dude.

Waylay is a complete other story, dude.

Actually it's a lot of fun to go through the dialog this deeply, and I discover little things that I hadn't really heard before.

On another note, over the past couple days I've been working on the DVD case, and it is starting to look pretty good. The overall design is mostly done, I just need to tweak a few things, particularly the explanatory text on the back that will try to convince strangers to watch the movie.

posted by Jim | 6:25 PM

Thursday, November 04, 2004  

I've been running into a lot of bugs in the DVD authoring package (Adobe Encore) as I add subtitles to the movie. Now, today, I cannot even open my project anymore, due to known bugs in their crappy subtitle support.

Adobe says the only solution to the bug is to upgrade to 1.5. Fine. But what pisses me off is that they refuse to discount the price of the upgrade. This isn't merely a new-feature upgrade for me - I'm upgrading because of a critical flaw in their product which has wasted hours of work and stopped me dead in my tracks.

Overall I think Adobe products are good, but if you aren't yet locked into any of them, consider this before you invest any amount of money or time in them.

The upgrade will arrive in a few days at which point I'll have to rebuild the DVD again from scratch. Until then, expect no progress.

posted by Jim | 2:18 PM

Tuesday, November 02, 2004  

I've started on the subtitles, and made it about 4.5 minutes into the movie. Sadly I also discovered that there was a stretch where the audio didn't match the video, so I had to fix that. This means I'll have to spend a few hours rerendering the DVD again later.

posted by Jim | 7:58 PM

Thursday, October 28, 2004  

This week has been focused on the quality of the DVD transfer. Until last night, all of my test DVDs had disappointing quality when it came to fades and credits. There were always noticable digital artifacts on the TV that I couldn't really see while editing on the computer.

At first I thought they were a result of the MPEG conversion, which is lossy. People are familiar with this from MP3 audio files - well the "MP" stands for MPEG, they are similar standards.

But after a lot of digging around and experimenting, I found out that the quality degradation came from the way I organized my projects. Instead of editing the entire movie with one gigantic timeline, I broke each day into its own separate project. Then, I render all the clips for a given day into an intermediate AVI file, and combine all eight chapters into one timeline at the end. Then I export that to DVD.

It turns out that when I rendered the individual days, it was faster and most efficient to use the DV standard used by my MiniDV camera. That way, most of the clips didn't need to be processed much and I didn't lose any quality. However, DV is also a lossy standard, and it turns out to be pretty damn crappy for things like smooth fades and text.

For an analogy in the audio world, this is like taking pristine digital audio and then rendering it as an MP3 file, and then making a CD out of the MP3s. Basically it lowered the quality in the middle of the process.

So eventually I figured out that I need to render the individual chapters as uncompressed AVI files. The sucky thing about this is that it takes about 10 times as much disk space, and also about 20 times longer to render. Fortunately I just bought an external 160GB hard drive for rendering, and suprisingly, it's already about 90% full just from these temporary files. Unbelievable. And slow.

But it looks as good as I can possibly get. Fades are now completely smooth, and there are no weird digital artifacts flying around in the background of black credits and titles.

Fortunately I'm entirely done with editing now, so today's MPEG conversion will be the last one, unless I need to make some change that I am not aware of right now.

Hopefully the subtitles will be done in about a week, and then I can send off the DVD for replication!

posted by Jim | 3:11 PM

Monday, October 25, 2004  

Good news on the 30 frames-per-second (fps) vs. 60 fps front. I accidentally shot the first two days of footage using 60 interlaced frames per second, and the rest of the movie at 30 fps non-interlaced. The result was that the first two days looked more like home video, and the rest of the movie looked more film-like.

I have been worried about this but knew that it didn't make sense to tackle it before getting all the editing done.

Yesterday I made draft DVD #4 of the movie, and experimented with a setting that to make the 60 fps look more like the 30 fps footage. As it turns out, it worked fantastically well, so now the entire movie has a consistent look (with regard to motion anyway).

Now the big challenge is to find a bitrate setting for the MPEG video on the DVD. Previous DVD drafts used a "variable bit rate" where the compression dynamically adjusts to the scene, overall averaging around 7 megabits per second. That worked fine for most cases, but fade-ins and fade-outs looked a little chunky.

So yesterday I tried a "constant bit rate" of 7 megabits per second. This made the fade-ins look a little less grid-like but made some diagonal lines more stair-stepped and pixelated. The one big advantage of this is that it only takes half the time to make the resulting MPEG video because CBR only requires one pass, while VBR takes two passes. That cuts the rendering time from 3 hours down to 1.5.

But I think I'm going to have to go back to VBR, only this time trying higher than 7. That's the suckiest problem with working at this stage, because the files are huge and most of my time is spent waiting hours for things to render.

posted by Jim | 1:59 PM

Saturday, October 23, 2004  

Whew, big relief. After hand-adjusting the look of every clip, I've finally seen the results on my TV and am satisfied with 99% of it. I probably boosted the brightness a bit too much on the Elbo Room show and the Happy Palace show, both of which were shot in very low light. Now the footage looks more grainy than it needs to, although it will be impossible to completely remove the graininess.

The DVD menus look fine, and the photo gallery works great. So I've only got a few more tweaks and then subtitles to go!

posted by Jim | 11:22 AM

Tuesday, October 19, 2004  

The DVD will have a photo gallery with 25 shots from the tour. This was an interesting learning experience, because it turns out that NTSC TV pixels are not square like the pixels on my computer and camera. Sadly I learned this only after cropping them all the wrong way, so I had to redo them all.

This turned out to be a good thing anyway, because the photos probably would have had some flicker to them on real television sets. NTSC doesn't have the full dynamic range of a computer, so I also had to apply a "broadcast-color" filter to the images as well.

Pretty much all that's left now is to make the optional subtitles.

posted by Jim | 5:57 PM

Color correction is complete now for the entire movie, although I saved the last one-percent in the progress meter for final proofing on a real TV.

posted by Jim | 9:46 AM

Monday, October 18, 2004  

Seven chapters are now color-corrected, so that only the last day remains. I still have to see how things look on a real TV before I'm convinced that I haven't destroyed the way things look. That would mean that I'd have to revisit everything all over again and lower the contrast. It's a fear but I'm trying to be optimistic.

I tweaked a couple more things in the credits, and now think it's safe to say they're 100 percent finished.

posted by Jim | 7:46 PM

Sunday, October 17, 2004  

Previously I'd said that I was more happy with the overall look of the footage than I'd expected, and that is still true. But after doing some comparisons with some of my favorite DVDs, I think that the movie still needs a little bit of color correction.

The good news is that it's a pretty quick process, basically just cranking up the contrast on each clip a little bit. This makes the blacks look black, instead of gray, and also makes for a more pleasing image overall.

Hopefully I haven't gone too far.

This afternoon I went through the first half of the movie and adjusted every single clip. So I'm demoting the color correction progress meter from 75% to 50%, but it's actually an improvement from the last time.

posted by Jim | 7:16 PM

Thursday, October 14, 2004  

Let me say a HUGE THANKS to Shawn, Gavin, Chad, Jeff, and Jon for helping me track down names for everyone in the credits.

On the topic of credits, I think they're probably done now, although I might remove one tiny self-serving surprise at the end.

posted by Jim | 5:54 PM

Friday, October 08, 2004  

Right now I'm rendering the second draft DVD. This is going to take a while, since I had to make one gigantic project with all eight chapters.

The neat thing about this layout is that I can finally see exactly how long the movie is. Even in the past few days, when someone would ask, I'd estimate "40 or 45 minutes" long. But the actual total, minus the still-unfinished credits at the end, is 58 minutes and 26 seconds.

posted by Jim | 2:00 PM

Wednesday, October 06, 2004  

Still making progress on those pesky little problems identified last week.

This allowed me to post a new clip of the week, a clip that was originally present in chapter two but is now removed. It just didn't seem to fit in well with the overall flow, and it wasn't clear to the audience where it was or why it was supposed to be interesting.

The scene takes place at an apartment in Olympia, as the band passed away the afternoon watching TV with Detroit Donny and Johnny Las Vegas.

posted by Jim | 4:48 PM

Friday, October 01, 2004  

This morning, Melanie and I watched the rough draft DVD again, and we came up with 48 tweaks to make for the next pass. Some of them were small, like moving a title to a different place on the screen. But some of them will have a big effect, like using a limiter on the audio to prevent the nasty digital clipping sounds.

Then this afternoon I cleaned up 30 of those 48.

I've also spent a good bit of time this week trying to make a clean-looking DVD menu. Originally I'd planned on using an old-fashioned map of the Northwest from 1855, but it didn't fit in with the present-day feel of the rest of the movie, so I'm scrapping that.

Then today I thought about using the actual tour T-shirt as a chapter map, but now I'm not as much of a fan of that idea because my chapters are based on the day of the week, whereas the tour shirt has a line for each show. So I still might use the shirt but use my own text for the chapters.

posted by Jim | 4:14 PM

Thursday, September 23, 2004  

Very good news to report! Overall the movie looks just fine on TV, and a lot of the things I was worried about are not so bad at all. For example, there's really no need for much color correction, it should take a day at most. Also, it's not really very noticable that the first couple days were shot at 60 fps compared to the rest of the movie, which was shot at 30 fps.

There were two big surprises. First, Adobe Premiere was handling digital peaks much nicer than DVD players. Every time the audio hit full volume on playback, you could hear a really awful digital clipping noise. I'll have to use a limiter plugin to fix this.

Second, the DVD authoring program wasn't written to handle the way my chapters are laid out. I edited each chapter separately in Premiere, expecting that it would be trivial to turn them into DVD chapter points. Unfortunately, Adobe Encore only lets you assign chapters within a single movie clip. I was able to sorta work around this in the draft DVD, but eventually I'll have to combine all the chapters into one gigantic project - otherwise the chapter skip buttons on the DVD remote will not work correctly.

There are lots of little tweaks that need fine-tuning, like transitions here and there, etc. But overall, it's a lot more polished than I was expecting.

Of course in a few days I'll think it sucks.

posted by Jim | 7:36 PM

It has taken all day to render the movie in the MPEG format used on DVD, but by this evening I hope have the first draft of the complete movie on DVD. No credits yet, but it even has a first attempt at the opening text. I'm using the Adobe defaults for DVD export, so I'm a little concerned that it won't look as good as I'd like. But there are higher-quality options for the final drafts.

The conversion process takes three times as long as the original material at these settings, so higher-quality rendering will probably take even longer than that.

The anticipation is killing me! More later when I see how it looks on a real TV...

posted by Jim | 3:31 PM

Wednesday, September 22, 2004  

The intro sequence is now fully blended into the first chapter, including the movie title and a couple of animated transitions. Now, all that remains for the beginning is to write the introductory titles, which I should be able to pound out pretty quickly.

It's a little scary to realize that I'm going to be watching it start-to-finish on a TV soon. Early on, I made a DVD with a clumsy draft of the first chapter, but I haven't seen anything on a real full-sized TV in a really long time. I hope it doesn't look like crap.

posted by Jim | 3:50 PM

Tuesday, September 21, 2004  

The intro sequence has gone faster than I expected. Today I finished most of the basic editing for it, but I still have the intro titles to work on, as well as the transition into the first chapter.

posted by Jim | 5:34 PM

Monday, September 20, 2004  

The biggest remaining hurdle is the intro sequence. Today I captured the last remaining clips for that, and I have a good idea of how it will all start now. This brings the "clip capture" progress meter to 100%, and the intro meter to 10%.

posted by Jim | 6:44 PM

Wednesday, September 15, 2004  

It's still hard for me to believe, but the final chapter of the movie is now basically done. That is, the Happy Palace show. The last big piece of editing work remaining now is for the intro sequence. Also the titles at the end, but that shouldn't be hard.

There's also a new clip, which is how I was originally going to start the final chapter. The more I watched it, the less I liked it, and eventually removed it altogether, but it works fine as a web clip.

posted by Jim | 4:28 PM

Tuesday, September 14, 2004  

Spent the afternoon trimming yet another minute off of the HGIH finale. The edit points sound surprisingly fine, but I'm running short on visuals because the second half of the song was played with the lights on, making most of the closeups from the first two sets useless (since they were shot with the lights off).

posted by Jim | 3:53 PM

Monday, September 13, 2004  

Today I started a new push, now that I'm starting to admit that I'm going to have to find a job again at some point. So now's it's becoming a race against time, to finish the one goal that I set for myself to accomplish during this big vacation.

This time I had a few good excuses for not working on the movie for a while, like being away from home for basically two of the last four weeks. But I also knew that I was going to have to edit down the "Heather Graham Is Hot" tune and it was going to be a pain.

So that's what I worked on today, trimming 14 minutes of clips down to less than half of that. The parts I trimmed out are:

1. John asking Julia to get him a beer while Chad is singing.

2. The lyrics about how "even the people on the internet" don't know why "Killing Me Softly" hasn't been released.

3. A lot of noise droning near the end.

Hopefully no one will notice except for the band.

posted by Jim | 3:37 PM
progress update
clips of the week