When things can go wrong .......

A few weeks ago, we had a bootcamp for a day out in the archipelago. As usual, there were a number of team exercises and one of them was to make a short film about a given subject. We had roughly one hour to create a manuscript, shoot the story, edit and post it as a internal mail.

The assumption was to use smartphones to make the film, but I had a shoulder bag with video equipment and a computer with editing software with me. (I was leaving for another trip in the evening and didn't have time to go home and grab the stuff). When I offered the team to make the shooting and editing, nobody disagreed. 

We started with the subject and created a manuscript based on an interview situation. I wrote some keyframes as part of a storyboard and the we were setup for the shooting. There were some discussions about casting and end the end we had the two actors ready for the interview. 

Meanwhile the actors were preparing their lines and some did some rehearsal, I did an initial light and soundcheck. The place we where shooting at was in an former cargo room, rebuild as a small theater. The ship was heading back to Stockholm and there was some movement onboard. Just artificial light below deck and with running engines that was heard in the lavalliere microphones.

Lesson 1: Scout your shooting location in advance and be prepared to change to another place if any major problems with sound and/or light.

Action. The actors did a good job delivering their lines and we only had to do a few retakes. We filmed the interview, a summary of the story and some B-rolls including the crew. 

Then it was time to import the footage into the computer. I had set up my Macbook Pro with a separate Tunderbolt drive and used Final Cut/X the events to the external drive. When we had done the initial editing, I found out that total time was more than four minutes, instead of the suggested one minute length. After some negotiations, we were allowed to have a 90 seconds film instead of one minute.

Lesson 2: Plan your storyboard to fill the anticipated time for your film, not much more, neither much less if your have time or budget constraints.  

Time to re-edit, and only use the summary of the interview instead of the whole part. I made some cuts to remove some vocal issues and facial expressions that were out of context. Now it was time to add titles and credits to the film and we were ready to render a film for distribution. Just a few minutes before deadline.

Then Murphy joined the crew. The laptop froze for the first time in nine months. Nothing happened and I have to shut down the computer the hard way. Physical disks are good for large amount of storage, but it take ages to start up a computer with them compared to a computer with SSD. Even more annoying to wait then you are running up against a deadline.

After some time I logged in into the computer and started Final Cut/X with all events and projects on the external drive. Of course, the structure  of events and projects had to be rebuilt during startup, thus creating another delay. After roughly five minutes of waiting on the editing software to be ready, we had passed our deadline. Then, we got some extra minutes to finalize our film when the other teams presented their films.

Lesson 3: Plan to have some extra spare minutes available if you get computer problems. Even a Macbook can occasionally fail. 

Waiting for sharing to be ready in Final Cut/X always make you to wish that you had a faster computer. Eventually, the film was ready and I could view it locally in iTunes. Time to view on the main projector with a sound-cable attached to the computer. I had both VGA to Thunderbolt and HDMI to Thunderbolt adapters, so this should be a piece of cake. The projector could use both inputs so we tried the VGA-option as everybody else. What I didn't prepared for was the single Thunderbolt-port on the computer. 

Running on overtime, I was connected to the external disk via Thunderbolt but, couldn't connect to the projector due to lack of ports without removing the disk. OK iTunes is on the local disk so I can remove the external disk and connect the VGA adapter. Said and done. The computer made a protest when disconnecting this brute way but i didn't care. I should have been more gentle. Final Cut added the movie to iTunes, but stored the actual file in the project library, that resided on the project disk. The disk now disconnected and with an unhappy filesystem.

The audience couldn't wait anymore so I had to throw in the towel.

Lesson 4: Beware of the limitations imposed by available ports, cables and adapters. Eject disks the proper way. An extra USB3 cable would for example have saved the day.

After re-connecting the drive and re-starting Final Cut I tried to mail the video. Here we found out the next issue with video-editing. HD quality equals to large files. To e-mail large video files in corporate systems and using wi-fi / 3G network connections is not something I recommend. The mail with the video didn't leave my inbox so we have to resort to a classic USB-memory. It just took 

Lesson 5: Assure that you could transfer the files to the client from where you are, and have a backup plan ready if connection doesn't work as you have assumed.

So how was the film? 

Well, I don't care so much . We had fun doing it, and I learned a lot during the process so the journey was the reward in itself.