February's wrapping up as a short month that's been long on computers and very short on sleep. I don't know why I even bother
having a bed; having a reclining desk chair would probably be a lot more practical.
Pretty much the same as this time last year, except that last year we were prepping for the 23rd annual
American Film Market, whereas this time around it's the 24th:
Everybody's calling it "AFM 2004" but the the confusing part is that the 25th annual American Film Market
is going to be in November of 2004, so there are *two* AFM 2004s on the way.
I'm going to worry about the first one first.
We've got eighteen completed films on our slate this year, including "Going Back" with Bruce Campbell.
If you've read Bruce Campbell's recent autobiographical work, If Chins Could Kill, you've read about
this movie--but when it was first completed, it was acquired by Vestron Video which promptly tanked...and the resulting
legal mess didn't get straightened out until now. So it's not exactly a new movie, but it's still a new release.
The soundtrack features music by the Beatles, fully licensed for worldwide distribution, and just recently the producer, Ron Teachworth,
and Bruce Campbell recorded a full-length commentary track to add to the other materials available for DVD extras.
Now we just have to strike some deals with distributors to get those DVDs made and out into the world....
The movies themselves may be completed, but it's still necessary to make all the promotional materials to show to
the international film buyers at the market--and anything I haven't been supplied with, I've got to create.
At least they all have some kind of video master completed: I have a lot of stuff out here in the treehouse,
but one thing I don't have is a telecine machine.
| ...Quake III Arena on an early IBM XT clone outfitted with CGA graphics... |
So I've been spending my days (and nights) lately in the middle of a circle of computers, running jobs on
up to five at once. One that I'm using to make the graphics, including the menus and overlays for the DVD authoring
(which is getting the most actual attention to its keyboard), and the others for capturing video, encoding video
and audio, authoring the DVD masters, and burning the DVDs. I tossed together a couple of new computers for
the event, including "Tigger," which runs multiple DVD burners simultaneously to crank out copies of the DVDs
after the masters have been created, and "Piglet" which is going to market.
Piglet's an Epox Mini-Me eX5 small form factor computer, not much larger (or heavier) than a loaf of bread. Add a 160GB
hard drive, a DVD/CDRW combo optical drive, and a non-pro ( = "no fan needed" ) ATI 9600 graphics card to replace the
embedded "Intel Extreme(ly Awful)" Graphics, and you've got something that'll play DVDs on the road as well as holding
encoded DVD images for all the movies and trailers we're presenting at the market.
For the displays at the market, I picked up a trio of Dell
20.1" LCD monitors.
Last year I'd ended up getting a couple of
ADI/ProVista L912 18.1" LCD displays. I'd grabbed those because I'd
gotten what I thought was a pretty good deal and they had S-video inputs in addition to the usual VGA and DVI connectors.
There was one
problem with using this particular model's S-video inputs: the image quality fell well beneath "utterly appalling." My guess is that when you
use the S-video inputs, the electronics inside would sample just a single field from about every other frame and then scale the results up to
its native 1280x1024 resolution. This resulted in a blocky, jagged display that moved with notable heaves and jerks during any kind of vertical
This also resulted in the S-inputs being completely unusable...unless, of course, you were really wanting to go for a visual effect much like
you'd get from playing Quake III Arena on an early IBM XT clone outfitted with CGA graphics.
Which I didn't...but I could get the video quality up to "passable" by piping the video through a Focus Quadscan scaler connected to the analog
VGA inputs. In the end, they did serve their purpose, and they cost less than it would have been to rent similar displays out there in
Santa Monica for the duration. On the whole, I think that particular model is useable for text processing and spreadsheets--at least if you're
not too picky--but even with a great deal of tweaking and effort, their color rendition ranges from "poor" in the mid-tones to "bad"
in the highlights, and finally goes down the tubes entirely as the different color gammas stagger off in all directions when faced with trying to render
the darker portions of images. They eventually found a fine home on a ProTools system where they are happily displaying filter settings
and slider bars without ever again facing the trauma of having to render a bit of fleshtone.
The Dell 2001FPs, in contrast, are absolutely amazing. I don't believe I've ever seen another LCD display as good--and even when fed
from the S-video inputs, the image quality is better than what I see in dedicated LCD TV monitors in the electronics stores.
And so, the Piglet and the Dells (and I) are off to market in another two hours. I don't usually have much luck sleeping on airplanes, but
maybe this time....