How the Final Rounds Go

Posted: June 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: production | 5 Comments »

This posting is entirely technical, doesn’t have an illustration to go with it, really (but I’ll stick one in anyway) and is of very little use to most people buying the documentary. But I did want to get it down somewhere, especially while the machine keeps getting tied up with this very process and I can’t do other editing.

GET LAMP is a series of episodes, bonus features, and additional material in a DVD-ROM section.  In the parlance of DVD making, these are called “assets”, and you add menus and the rest from these “assets”, like “make a menu which has this asset for a background and when people click or select this part of the image, it goes and plays this asset and then heads back to this menu”.  At some point in DVD-making history, it was a lot more complicated, but everything’s been simplified/dumbed down over the years, so it’s actually rather easy. It even handles the layer breaks in a sane fashion, but the less we say about the layer breaks the better.

The big deal is making sure all the assets are as good quality as you can make them, be they audio or video, or still image or whatever. And then comes the combining of everything into a cohesive whole.  The biggest deal is that I shot in hi-def and I’m rendering to a widescreen standard def, and this confuses Sony Vegas if you don’t make sure a few things are in place (setting the project to be the same as the hi-def footage, even though setting the whole project to widescreen dv will render faster, it’ll add annoying bars on the sides). But once it’s rendered, it looks pretty good.

…well, until it all gets checked, and checked again.  So that’s what’s going on, rendering out every possible asset when not working on the Infocom episode, which is nearly done. I’ll probably have over a few hundred assets in play with this DVD, not counting the DVD-ROM section (but that thing’s set, and doesn’t need any massaging or anything).

Besides the video assets, you actually can attach as many soundtracks as you want to the video, either the soundtrack we’d all expect, or commentary tracks, or tracks with just the music, or whatever you want – another item in my “why don’t more independent productions do this” list, which is long and cranky, and also includes “lack of subtitles/captions” and “using an amray case”.

When I did bonus features on the previous documentary, I just chose clips I decided not to use in the movie and rendered them. This was about as simple as it got. With GET LAMP, some of the bonus features are, in fact, 5-10 minute short films, with music, editing and lots of places to double-check quality.  This is part of what adds time and another layer of checking them out for flaws.

After all this, I assemble the DVDs. One of the complicating aspects (and I hope this was expected) is that starting certain episodes different ways results in them being slightly different. This means more rendered material, but more importantly, more assembling of lists of assets where it’s easy to get something wrong.

It is boring as anything. There’s very little room left for creativity – it’s just getting it right.

That’s why I’m happy the Infocom episode is coming along at the same time.

5 Comments on “How the Final Rounds Go”

  1. 1 Name (required)Rich r said at 9:57 pm on June 20th, 2010:

    So are you saying that the system for DVDs isn’t able to cut the modern day mustard in regard to the # of assets? Are the design limitations of DVDs too limiting?

  2. 2 Jason Scott said at 10:10 pm on June 20th, 2010:

    No, quite the opposite. Sorry if I gave that impression. It’s just a matter of keeping all the assets in order and making sure nothing gets left behind, a problem endemic in any asset management.

  3. 3 Eric said at 6:29 am on June 21st, 2010:

    You know, these ongoing details and nuts-and-bolts status posts have been a real joy to read.

    It’s fascinating to get a glimpse of the thought process and the actual details of implementation. I really feel like you’ve carried us along for the ride, a bit. Hopefully sharing the process made it feel a bit less lonely for you as well.

  4. 4 John said at 10:54 pm on June 21st, 2010:

    Yeah, these small details are enlightening to learn about.

    Maybe when the film is done you can do a long and cranky post on “Why don’t independent productions do…”

  5. 5 Eric said at 6:53 am on June 22nd, 2010:

    Let me second John on that one– I’d love to read such a list.

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