Sunday, July 20, 2008


We made it --- the video tape master is in the hands of PBS, having reached them on the appointed day at the appointed hour. The last two weeks actually got pretty hairy. We were actually ahead of schedule, with our sound mixer and the composer humming along, doing their tweaks, and with only a day's worth of color correction needed before the thing was done. I was about to head out of town for two weeks on an extended camping trip (I know; smacks of hubris) when the hard drive gods decided I had had it too easy for too long. I flipped on my computer, coffee in hand, to check my email, when I saw the following message:

You may be surprised to know that I didn't panic. Truth is, when you have ten (TEN!) external hard drives like I do, occasionally one of them will get momentarily confused. All that is needed is a simple restart and the problem goes away. However, this time, the error message popped up again. That's when I started to get a little worried. I tried again, and, yep, the message appeared for the third time. I looked at the faithful drives that DID appear, and by process of elimination I saw that 137 Films VOL 3 was missing in action. I started trying to remember what was on VOL 3. That's when I really started to sweat.

First of all, and most important, all the edit files were on there. It's the equivalent of, say, if I were writing a novel, the manuscript was on that drive. Yes, that's right. The film itself. Of course, I would be a fool if I hadn't made several dozen backup copies in several dozen different places, so I wasn't too worried about that.

What was more troubling was that all the color-corrected video files were on VOL 3. These were many, many gigabytes, and without having twenty external hard drives, it's just not possible to back up the video files. All the work that Tyler, our color-corrector, had done. Without getting too technical, not only would this have meant the loss of all his work, but it would have incurred dozens of hours of work on my part, tediously re-linking non-color corrected video files and then re-color correcting everything.

I tried all my usual tricks and repair software, but nothing worked. I sent out email and phone calls, asking help, and searched the internet for suggestions. I even called one of those hard drive recovery places, but their quotes were nearly more than the entire budget of our film. Finally, Andy Swindler, one of our board members, emailed to recommend Data Rescue II, some software I had never heard of. Plus, it was only $100! To make a long story short, Data Rescue II cooked along for 12 hours, and made a nearly 100% recovery of all the files. Phew. I didn't even tell Monica, my co-director, so if she ever reads this blog, it will be the first she's heard of it.

Anyway, many gray hairs and several stomach aches later, the sound files came in, and the file went out to the lab where they transfered our film to digi-beta according to all the detailed technical specs PBS provided. After a stop-start hiccup from PBS involving credit approval (they have to approve all the credits down to the period: they have many rules about funders not appearing in the "thank you" section, that a person and the person's company cannot both be thanked, that only funders at a certain level can appear in the credits, there can be no duplications in the front and end credits, no company logos may appear (including our own), etc.) we got the go ahead and the tape was made and sent off to San Francisco. Even got a little thank you email from our contact for being on time.

Then I went on my camping trip.

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