Thursday 2 May 2013

Eki Pulls an All-Nighter

Image by Krappweis /
Eki and I had a date. We made it about one month in advance - this guy is always booked. Hard to reach. BUSY (a dirty 4 letter word). I was going to be in Helsinki one week. And there was a weekend. So we had only one day and a lot to do. We agreed on Friday. At 10:00 (a long time ago I learned the hard way it's not good to talk to Eki before ten). I called to tell him I'd pick him up. He was groggy. Told me he got to sleep at 6:00 AM. We decided to meet for lunch and work afterwards.

I called again at noon. He sounded a bit better. I picked him up, we had lunch and went to the studio. I love SpaceWhale and am always glad to work there . We were going to edit "@TINY ton of trouble." And finish "Bayonne: sleeping beauty" - a little five minute travel doc that I had shot about two and half years ago. It began to feel good. Fun to see all the raw material start to turn into a finished product. Eki working his magic: mixing the pictures with the music, distorting the colors, computer-animating certain scenes. But he was pre-occupied. And his cell kept ringing. Frantic conversations. I finally asked him to explain in English what the hell was going on. He said they'd worked all night on a sports program that was going to be broadcast on Saturday (the next day). People were waiting at the TV station for the finished product. But the computer kept crashing. I hate that word.

His face turned all red and blotchy. He was nervous. He said the computer wasn't working. I was completely clueless about this disaster. Finally he said he had to go home and try to finish the program. He said never in his entire career (more than 20 years) had he failed to deliver. I groaned. We agreed to meet on Monday - one day before I was to leave. Well he didn't fail me. We finished everything. I left Helsinki happy ready to start shooting again. But not Eki.

Q How does a small film company like little margie productions get projects commissioned?

A The first stage is development, which consists of researching the project and then the preparing a proposal. It includes a title, premise, one paragraph blurb, synopsis, treatment, sources of financing, bios of the company and crew. Then pitch it to the TV station and hope it clicks.

1 June 2013: Dirt, Dust and Desperate

Footnote by Eki

Q: How do you edit a 50 minute documentary in four days?
A: No sleep. hindsight, that "all-nighter" was a train wreck waiting to happen from the getgo. There was way too little time to edit to begin with. Usually you can roughly estimate one hour of editing for each completed minute of the programme, for simple work, if you're well prepared. We only had four days, about 2/3 of it (estimate: 4 x 8 hours of editing = 32 minutes of programme).

Image by Fry2k /
But that was the only way it could have been made at all - welcome to the schedules of the sports news world - the content is best served fresh. We thought we could pull it if everything went fine and we worked 12+ hour days. There was no other option really, the slot for the show to air was already set.

But to say we were well prepared was unfortunately not exactly true, as the shooting wasn't even finished when we started editing - which i didn't know at the time i agreed for the gig, and neither did the production company. Without going into details, there were surprise turns in the plot that needed extra footage to be explained - always a possibility when documenting actual events.

Also, when things start to go awry, they usually do so in many different, overlapping ways... so, in addition to not having all the footage when we started editing, a lot of the footage we had was either not properly logged (content listings missing or inaccurate), or didn't work at all due to compatibility problems with the files / the editing hardware.

Summa summarum, we were soon in a big doodoo. And this is where the "no sleep" part comes in.

We managed to finish the edit at 6 am Friday morning (which took a bit more than just one all-nighter as said), but at that point, it was still just a list of edits in the computer, not an actual broadcastable master. Or, masters to be more exact - there were two commercial breaks within the show, so the master was to be delivered as three separate files.

I set the masters rendering and went home to catch some shuteye before Maggie's edit. I wasn't too worried... i'd be a little tired, but apart from that, we could concentrate on "Tiny Ton" for the whole day.

Oh, how wrong i was.

When i returned to the studio, admittedly still a little cross-eyed and grumpy, i found that all three renders had crashed. And i had no masters.

We can now jump cut to ten PM, which is when i finally had the deliverables on a hard drive, after many increasingly terriying failures to render the show out, with slightly varying settings, on multiple different machines. Finally, i had to resort to making files that were not the way that was specced by the broadcaster - it seemed my editing software of choice simply wasn't able to render out files that were without crashing (likely a file size related issue with QT). We ingested the ad-hoc files to the broadcasting company's systems and... black. No sound.

Well, that made us miss a beat or two, but it turned out it wasn't a biggie - the system there was just configured so that it automaticly converted non-standard files to something usable - without giving any indication that it was processing the files for an half an hour or so each.

Our program aired on time the next morning, once again we dodged the bullet, albeit barely. I didn't watch it, i slept. In fact, we were also so busy in the edit that we never had the time to watch the whole program through from start to end. So, i've never actually seen our all-nighter.

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