A Busy Weekend

My cousin is in town from Norway and we are going to see some sites today and then tonight I’m off to a minor league hockey game for a friend’s birthday. Tomorrow will probably be some more touristy things with my cousin. I’ll try to post pictures when I can.

We’re On A Road To Nowhere

This is one the scariest things I’ve read recently. I never liked our president but I didn’t realize we had such a blind zealot in the office who pushes his own personal beliefs upon this country whether they have a basis in reality or not.

In the Oval Office in December 2002, the president met with a few ranking senators and members of the House, both Republicans and Democrats. In those days, there were high hopes that the United States-sponsored “road map” for the Israelis and Palestinians would be a pathway to peace, and the discussion that wintry day was, in part, about countries providing peacekeeping forces in the region. The problem, everyone agreed, was that a number of European countries, like France and Germany, had armies that were not trusted by either the Israelis or Palestinians. One congressman — the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in Congress — mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.

“I don’t know why you’re talking about Sweden,” Bush said. “They’re the neutral one. They don’t have an army.”

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: “Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They’re the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.” Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. “No, no, it’s Sweden that has no army.”

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.

A few weeks later, members of Congress and their spouses gathered with administration officials and other dignitaries for the White House Christmas party. The president saw Lantos and grabbed him by the shoulder. “You were right,” he said, with bonhomie. “Sweden does have an army.”

You might need this if you’re not registered with the NY Times website.

Possible Pro Tools OMF Bug?

Today I received several OMF 2.0 files from the picture department with embedded audio. Under certain circumstances, the timecode of the Pro Tools session generated from the OMF was incorrect so all the material was out of sync.

I’m not sure what version of software is being used on the Avid, but the movie was shot with 3-perf film. Since this throws off all the footage counters, we are cutting in timecode. OMF 2.0 files were generated for me but with all the media, they were going to be larger than 2 GB. To remedy this, the assistant split each reel in half, usually around the 10 minute mark, and sent me OMFs for each reel.

I opened each OMF in Pro Tools 6.4.1 with the built-in DigiTranslator. After conversion, I immediately changed the timecode from 24 frame to 29.97 pulldown. This is what I always to with OMFs. However, I found that the second OMF, the one that would start somewhere around 10 minutes into the reel, would always be out of sync. Sometimes only 1 frame early but in a few instances, up to 6 frames early. The first OMF for each reel, the one that started evenly on the hour, was always in sync.

After much trial and error, I found that if I left both OMFs in 24 frame timecode. Combined them, and then changed to the combined session to 29.97 pulldown, everything stayed in sync. For some reason, if an OMF doesn’t start at an evenly on the hour of timecode like 01:00:00:00 or 02:00:00:00 and you attempt to change the timecode in Pro Tools without first resetting the start time of the session to an even hour and maintaining timecode, then the session will fall out of sync. It’s possible that the version of Avid software and the fact that it was a 3-perf film might also have something to do with this. I haven’t had a chance to experiment more.

Fall Is Here

This weekend was the first time it really felt like Autumn in Los Angeles. We had our first big rain starting late on Saturday and continuing off and on throughout Sunday. In fact we are supposed to have rain through Wednesday. I’m glad it’s raining. We certainly can use it. It continually amazes me though how quickly an arid landscape like LA can flood with just a few tenths of an inch of rain. Today I drove over the Los Angeles River and it was a raging torrent. Of course not nearly as bad as when we had an El Niño several years ago, but still with what many areas of the country would consider a light rain, Los Angeles floods like crazy.

The temperature has dropped too. It is these low to mid-60s days are the Octobers I remember from my youth. Actually it’s even a bit warmer than I remember. Of course those were Mid-West and New England Octobers. The kind of Octobers where you’d wake up and the orange and brown leaves that had fallen would be frozen to the ground with the first signs of frost. The kinds of Octobers where you could see your breath when you chatted with your friends while waiting at the bus stop for a ride to school. The kinds of October where if you didn’t wear gloves when you picked up your pumpkin from the local patch, your hands would be ice cold in minutes and you’d spend the entire drive home blowing on them, trying to warm them up.

So it’s not quite the same October that I remember as a child. But it’s still Autumn.

Print To Postscript File And Convert To PDF

Here’s a neat little trick that you might find useful for your Classic only applications, like Tape, and printing. If you have the LaserWriter driver selected as your printer in Chooser, when you tell a document to print, you can select “File” as the destination to save a Postscript file to your hard drive.

You can double-click the file to open it with Preview. This will convert it to a PDF file that can be saved by selected “Save As” from the File menu. Not quite as simple as the “Save As PDF” button in the 10.3.x print window, but still pretty easy.

Damn, Dirty Astronauts

I came home tonight and took a look at my “Now Playing On Tivo” to see if there was anything I felt like watching. I discovered that my intrepid little box decided to record an episode of “Simon & Simon” for me. Remember that one? From about twenty years ago, two private investigator brothers trade barbs and solve crimes? I never really watched it as a kid. Shows like “The Greatest American Hero”, “CHiPs” and “The Dukes Of Hazzard” were much more my style.

Only in the 80’s would this seem like a good plot:

Simon & Simon

“The Wrong Stuff” (1984) Jameson Parker, Gerald McRaney, Tim Reid.
A teacher (Dianne Kay) asks the Simons to find the source of pornographic movies taken of her, a trail which leads to an ex-astronaut.

Of course I immediately thought of the “dirty astronauts” from various skits from the “Upright Citizens Brigade”. “We don’t need to moon-cheese baby!” And of course I did have to sit down and watch it. Unfortunately when the astronaut connection was finally revealed, it didn’t quite live up to kind of story I dreamt up in my mind after reading the synopsis. Though the “Vampire Cheerleaders” might make an interesting adult film.

Now the only question is why would Tivo suggest this to me?

Don’t Gimme No Back Talk, Sucka!

Yesterday we received news that yet another TV show is heading to the big screen. This time it’s Stephen J. Cannell’s 80’s action-comedy “The A-Team”. I pity the fool who didn’t watch this show. I was 9 years old when this was first on the air and it was one of my favorites. Even to this day the theme song is the ringtone on my cellphone, I have a Mr. T t-shirt that I often wear, and I even have this little keychain that when you press a button, it gives you choices bits of Mr. T dialog like “Quit yo’ jibba-jabba!”

Honestly I don’t know how I feel about them making this into a movie. I have many fond memories of the show from my childhood. I am also perfectly aware that it’s pretty ridiculous. Recently (within the last few years) I saw an episode where the Army finally discovered the A-Team’s secret hideout. Their big plan for capturing them was that they had to take out B.A. since he’s the really tough one. So they replaced the milkman who delivered B.A.’s milk every morning with one of their agents and put some drugs in his milk to knock him out. I’m dead serious. Actual storyline from the show.

Stephen is quoted as saying:

Not to denigrate the TV show, but nobody ever died. We drove cars off cliffs and people got out and walked away. We’re not going to do that (in the movie).

In this the tone is more dangerous … you can really die. It’s very tense and exciting.

How do you reconcile “dangerous” and “tense and exciting” with poisoned milk because the tough guy wants strong bones and teeth? The thing that made the show fun was that Mr. T was over-the-top. He was the strong one but he had all those gold chains and the mohawk. He could growl at someone and they’d run away afraid, but he drank his milk every day and was deathly afraid of flying.

Dwight Schultz before he was a neurotic engineer on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was “the crazy one”, Murdock, on “The A-Team”. His character was the Scooby Doo of the group. He was always dressing up and pretending to be other people usually in an effort to fool the bad guys. In my mind, these kind of characters don’t lend themselves to “dangerous” movies.

I think that Stephen J. Cannell should take a long look at which TV-shows-turned-movies have been successful in the last few years. The ones that have their figurative tongue firmly planted in their figurative mouth, are much more successful than the ones that take themselves seriously. Movie versions of “Charlie’s Angels”, “Starsky & Hutch”, and “The Brady Bunch” and much more enjoyable and have much larger box offices than ones like “The Mod Squad” and “Lost In Space”.

Farewell To A Place Now Gone

Yesterday morning I met my father for breakfast in Pasadena. He was in town most of last week teaching a seminar at the Hilton, just outside of Old Town. We were saying our “goodbyes” before his flight back home to Florida. After a buffet of scrambled eggs, hash browns and some assorted melons, I left at about 9:45am to drive back to my apartment in Burbank.

As I was heading north on the 5 freeway, I noticed that the two Holiday Inn towers that dominate the surrounding buildings were obscured by some kind of haze. We have had some thick fog the last several mornings but most of it had burned off by that time. All that was left was some low-hanging clouds around the Verdugo mountains. It seemed unlikely that there would still be fog around a couple of buildings and no where else. Then I noticed what appeared to be diagonal white lines coming from the haze.

Within a minute I was close enough to realize what I was looking at: A low building south of the Holiday Inn was on fire. The haze was the smoke and the white lines were the water spraying from hoses at the top of extended ladders on fire trucks. In another minute I was coming up on the exit for Olive and passing the burning building. I had a sudden shock when I thought I knew what building it was but I had to get closer to be sure.

I got off at the Olive exit and immediately started to encounter police road blocks. Three blocks around First Street and Santa Anita were cordoned off. By driving around the perimeter I saw that my initial thought was correct. International Recording was burning. I was filled with a strange sadness. Not the sharp pain of a personal loss but still a melancholy.

International has among other things a few dub stages. Four years ago I spent a lot of time there when they mixed several films I worked on: “Play It To The Bone”, “My Dog Skip”, “Urbania”, and “The Contender”. Bill Schlegel, the owner, was always a nice enough guy to me and it was sad to see all his hard work disappear. In fact International was an even larger accomplishment for Bill than one might expect. He and a few engineers hand-built most of the components and wiring used by the two main stages. It took an enormous amount of time and energy to put together his post-production facility but it was something he could truly call his own.

International Recording is probably best known to the rest of the world as the stage where “Dances With Wolves” was mixed. In 1991, Jeffrey Perkins and Gregory Watkins mixed the sound for Kevin Costner’s film and the Academy acknowledged their excellence by awarding them the Oscar for Best Sound.

I had my camera with me so I took a few pictures. Being three blocks away, I couldn’t see much more than the fireman at the tops of their ladders directing streams of water into billowing clouds of black and white smoke, the news vans scattered around the scene, the policemen directing traffic and the few gawkers like myself. It seemed that there should be something more to mark this solemn moment. Something more than curious bystanders and a police officer telling me, “I don’t know what it is—some kind of post-production place.” Something that said, “Bill put his life into this place and now it’s gone.” My writing certainly doesn’t do it justice but I wanted you to know.

Fireman on the ladder

Two firemen fight the fire from above

Head Above Water

Well it has been a long, crazy several days for me culminating in a 26-hour marathon day in the office. But now it is done. The movie has been screened for the studio. Every one is happy. And I was finally able to get some sleep.

Little did I know when I walked into my building at 7am on Wednesday, that I would not be leaving it until 9:30am the next day. Thankfully those kind of days tend to be few and far between, but they do occasionally happen. In fact somewhere around 2am when the picture assistant showed up with a big bag of chili cheeseburgers and fries for the six of us who were trying to get the mix done, someone (I don’t remember who) said, “Ah! The glamour of Hollywood!” And it’s so true. If you watch E! you see the beautiful stars attending their hip parties, but in reality a lot of the work that it takes to get their faces on the screen is not pretty. It’s the kind of work that knocks on your door at midnight with new videotapes, a stack of change notes, and coffee and Pop-Tarts from the local 7-Eleven.

I don’t get invited to parties to rub elbows with Jim Carrey, Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts and Naomi Watts. If I’m lucky, the studio will buy me a pizza when they tell me I need to work until the wee hours of the morning to get things done. Now, I’m not saying that I hate my job. The overtime when you put in those kind of hours is certainly nice. I just want everyone to realize that in some ways my job is not all the different from yours. And in many ways it’s probably a lot more frustrating. And when I’m driving home after a 26-hour day, I definitely don’t like the heart-wrenching surprise when I realize that I fell asleep for a split-second while stopped at the traffic light.

The positive side to an experience like that comes when you get that phone call from the post-production supervisor saying that the studio loved the film, that people were really impressed with the sound and felt that it helped reinforce the temporary visual effects shots, that everyone is happy and that you did a great job. That’s what makes it worth it. That’s what brings the smile to my face. That’s when I say to myself, “I am good at what I do. I would like to see someone else accomplish what we did under the same conditions. Yay, me!” And then I pat myself on the back. Ok, maybe not. But you get the idea. The difficult task that is completed successfully is more rewarding than the easy one. Hopefully though it’s not all difficult tasks.

One of my favorite quotes from that day:

Oh good! Coffee! I haven’t been jacked up on caffeine in a couple hours.

After sleeping through the majority of Thursday, I got up refreshed and went back to the crew I was working with a few weeks ago. I still felt a little detached from the world that day, almost as if there was a piece of gause separating my brain from the rest of my body and another one keeping me just out of reach of reality. But that feeling soon passed and things are pretty much back to normal. Cross your fingers for me, this next show should keep me on a regular 9 to 7 up until Christmas.

Too Many Hours In The Office

Subsisting off fast food, candy bars and coffee:

Late Night Food

Thankfully, opening a Pro Tools session with 64 voices, 40 busses, 8 sub-master auxes, 10 reverbs, 4 EQs and so much automation that your screen looks like crawling ants in Volume Graph mode on Mix Plus hardware in OS X takes a little while, so there’s time for some music:

Cam On Guitar