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Blog: Know When to Apply The Brakes

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walter biscardi
Blog: Know When to Apply The Brakes
on Jul 3, 2012 at 8:28:34 pm

Cutting a few corners. We all do this from time to time because, well it's human nature. If we can get by without anybody noticing..... what's the harm?

When it comes to the creative process, we have all cut corners in one way or another and it's usually to meet a deadline. There's times we just have plain HAVE to cut a few things out, do something a different way because the budget and the time is running out. But when it comes to the quality of the final output, if the time is available, make the time to give your client the best possible output. Today we had to make such a call.

When a project is finished we generally review it in our Screening Room which has a 7 foot projection screen. Primarily because typos just jump right out on a screen that big, but also because if something is not quite right with the video, it's plainly apparent.

Today it was plainly apparent something was wrong with one of the stories on a show. It appeared to be overly compressed for some reason and I knew that it was an HD originated story, not up-converted from SD. We immediately stopped playback and the editor and I went back to review the sequence.

The footage in question was originally prepared by another production company and sent to us along with an FCP 7 project file. It was all XDCAM 1080i that had been transcoded via Log and Transfer to quicktime files. Problem was that some of the footage appeared to be missing when my editor opened the timeline. It was originally a 30 minute show that we were cutting down to a 9 minute segment for our show.

Also included was a self contained quicktime file of the entire story, so my editor and Producer made the decision to simply cut the story from that quicktime file, since all the media was obviously there. In Premiere Pro it appeared as an XDCAM 422 file and while working on the edit, the compression issue just didn't jump out to my editor. They assumed it also had something to do with the un-rendered state of the footage in the timeline. We've also had some XDCAM footage come to our shop in the past that looked overly compressed for one reason or another.

Turns out the quicktime file was the culprit. It was overly compressed by the production company for reasons unknown. The end file size was about half what I would expect for a self contained 27 minute show file. When we put the same shot up on the 7 foot screen from the QT file vs. the original media, the difference was plain as day.

Now this was a fully completed and mastered show, ready to go out the door. We could have cut a corner at that point knowing that the majority of the home audience would never notice the compression issue and just shipped it. The Producer had already approved the Master, we were just making one final quality control check. But our client is paying us to put out the best possible show, not just send it off because they looked at it and said it was ok.

So we put the brakes on and notified the client right away of the issue. We made the decision to replace as much of the QT file with the original footage as we could. This will also involve me going back into Resolve to re-apply the color grade to the entire story. It'll add two un-billed days to the edit schedule due to this all happening just before the July 4th holiday, but it's the right thing to do. Our client is very happy we caught this and are taking the time to correct it.

It would have been so easy to just ship the show and if there was a complaint later, reminded the client that they approved the Master. But that's not the right thing to do, we have to do right by our clients. Spend that extra hour, day, week, whatever, if you have the time available, put the brakes on and put out the absolute best quality product you can create.

Ultimately the home viewer will have a much better experience and that, of course, is why we're in this business in the first place.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Blog: Know When to Apply The Brakes
on Jul 4, 2012 at 11:57:04 pm

Forget the home viewer for a minute: it's the relationship with the client that your actions not only preserve, but improve. It tells the client that you are worth his trust and you put the highest value on the quality. I'm old fashioned, but to me, that's worth something when it comes time to make important decisions like contract renewals.

I recently spent a bundle to fix my car's AC. I took it someplace else this year, after having it worked on at the dealership, last year. That dealer skimped last year, and didn't really solve the underlying problem, instead he put a temporary band-aid on the problem that would last just until winter came and made it impossible to tell if the AC was right or not. Probably afraid to tell me now expensive replacing 3 out of 4 major components was going to cost.

And it WAS expensive.

But now he's lost all my future business from today, forward. I'm not sending my kids' cars to him, either. Or my friends or co-workers. I'm instead recommending my new guy.

So, I hope they think their decision was right.

Because it cost them thousands of dollars and who knows how many other customers.

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Steve Martin
Re: Blog: Know When to Apply The Brakes
on Jul 9, 2012 at 6:23:52 pm

Nicely done Walter!

Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!

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