Sunday, October 30, 2005

Master Your Master

When dealing with your master tape for delivery to a distributor there's one rule to follow:

It has to be perfect.
That means no flash frames, color shifts, timecode drops, audio drops, contrast shifts, tape hiss, pops or anything else that says, "Bad Filmmaking". You guys know what I mean. There's nothing worse than being pulled out of the moment by some technical glitch that seemed minor when you saw it on the tape, but is magnified a thousand-fold by the DVD video compression process. Bad sound and picture says, "cheap."
The best way to ensure a great master is keep reviewing everything during post production, and make sure it's correct. In other words:
Extreme Attention To Detail.
Have your lab doing a comprehensive QC review of the master, which should cost you around $500. You do this so that you have written backup as to everything going on with your master. If someone gets a bad dupe, you can trace it back.
Audio should be configured as follows: Channel 1 - stereo composite left, Channel 2 - stereo composite right, Channel 3 - stereo left fully-filled Music and Effects, Channel 4 - stereo right fully-filled Music and Effects. This is the same audio configuration you'll use for your trailer.
Because you're working Direct to DVD you don't have to worry about making a workprint or anything else. This saves you money. If you shot on video you still have to transfer it to Digibetacam or Hi-Def tapestock- whatever your distributor prefers. The point is again, it has to be perfect because they are going to use the master to create the DVD.
This covers points 1 & 3 of Delivery.


Rock said...

Well, I'm not as experienced in the actual producing of DVD myself, however as a writer I've seen my work "messed" on a big screen.

It happened in the NYC premiere of a film I wrote. The theater was packed and it was pretty damned exciting. The film was hitting all the beats, laughter when expected, sorrow, etc. Then about 20 mins. in the picture drops and there are a handful of "color tests" on the screen for 4 minutes while the audio continues on.

Long story short, no matter how great the film was to be, that 4 minutes KILLED it.

Bill Cunningham said...

Now imagine what would have happened had they replicated the movie onto DVDs with that stuff on it (yes, it happens)...

Thanks, Rock. Anyone else with a master "horror story?"

writebrother said...

I've checked out a few low budget flicks that had mastering problems. Mind you, from the looks of the box covers you knew it might happen, but still it completely ruins the movie experience. I witnessed a similar experience to what rock mentioned at the LA Short Film Festival a few months ago when the soudn was dropping in and out and the color bars starting appearing.

Good info.