Disaster

High noon brought the last of the obligatory press events before the awards ceremony. This one is pretty clever – a mock court proceeding where the seven films are submitted to the judge as evidence that Art is not dead. I was early, so I drifted around the downtown Albuquerque for a while looking for a breakfast burrito. Not on a Saturday, pal. Sure, you can finally find a parking space, but forget starting the day with green chile.

I held off phoning fuego until 11:30 — I assumed he would try to catch a few winks between the editing deadline and the ceremony, but I thought is would be a good idea to make sure he woke up in time to stagger over for the event. There was no answer on his phone when I finally did call, but at least it rang this time. No worries — if fuego slept through the ceremony I was there to represent us. I gave up searching for breakfast and walked to the courthousse through the rapidly-heating morning.

I got there in plenty of time, and Rudolph was already there.I sat with him and exchanged idle pleasantries, all of which had to do with some movie-releated business or other. He said we were lucky Pablo was on our crew; when Rudy had left the editing bay at 1:30 the previous night Pablo had moved from working on the opwning titles to helping with the movie, and he was flying.

Other people drifted past, connected either with the festival or with one of the other movies. “How’d it come out?” was the most common question. “I have no idea,” was my reply.

One of them (I don’t remember who) asked, “So did you recover from your problem last night?”

“Problem?”

“Didn’t you hear about it?” asked Rudolph. “The documentary crew was in your editing bay. It was crowded in there, and Delilah stepped on the power cord. The computer shut down and Charles the First lost an hour’s work.” I groaned inwardly and wondered how anyone can work for an hour without saving. Still, that’s just the kind of thing that can happen that eats into precious time. I had been right to worry about getting the editing done in time, but things could have been much worse.

fuego arrived, looking tired. He sat next to me and people around us asked how the thing had come out. “We had some problems,” he said. “It would have been fine, but we were using a Mac.”

A little background here. We had been provided computers to do the editing. These were fairly high-end Macintoshes with gigantic hard drives. The first step of editing is to capture the video off the tapes from the camera and store it on the drives. This is a very time-consuming process and the resulting files are huge. Our raw footage was approaching a terabyte in size. During the editing process the files are modified as the editor tweaks the color balance and the audio, but the sheer size of those files makes them impractical to back up. (Note: Impractical but not impossible. Maybe it’s just me, but I would have kept unadulterated copies of the original footage in a separate place. I’m just paranoid that way. It probably comes from using a word processor that is constantly in development and is by definition untested.)

Unlike Windows, when you copy a folder to a new location that already has a folder by that name, the entire previous folder is replaced, not files within that folder that have matching names. Each time a new version of the Mac OS comes out I check to see if Apple had finally pulled its collective head out and given me the option to make folders merge rather than replacing the whole damn thing.

By now you have guessed what happened. In the early hours of the morning the editing crew had moved the files for the title sequence from one computer to the main editing computer. fuego had started to make a new folder for the files, but Charles the First had already started the transfer. The folder with the title stuff had the same name as the folder with all the video for the movie. When the warning came up asking if he really wanted to replace the folder, Charles I, and experienced mac user, tired and distracted, said “yes”.

Blammo. No more video files. It would take hours to recapture all the video segments that had been deleted, and even then the work balancing the colors and working with the audio would have to start all over again.

The powers that be had granted us some extra time to recover from the disaster, but the judges were going to need their tape soon. fuego sat next to me at the ceremony, slightly dazed, while Chuck one worked feverishly back in the editing room, trying to make a presentable cut of the movie. The footage had all been recaptured, but there was still a lot of work to do. Disqualification from the contest was a real possibility. After the judge’s cut was complete we would be allowed to keep working to make a more presentable version for the gala premiere.

We went through the motions of the ceremony as each team approached the bench and presented the judge with their tapes. fuego went up in his turn with a placeholder tape, and the judge announced he was accepting it as exhibit 7. He then announced that the decision on whether art was still alive in New Mexico at eight o’clock that night. Pablo had been recruited to close the ceremony, humming Taps into the microphone from the witness stand. He was gratifyingly awful and a good sport to boot, and everyone left the room feeling jolly.

Almost everyone, anyway. fuego paused to talk to the documentary crew before drifting back to the editing bay, and I went to find food and a place to write. I was worried, bit while we had lost several hours, we had been given a few hours extra to make up for it. We would at least still be in the running.

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2 thoughts on “Disaster

  1. I have, in the past, heard Mac afficionados brag about how, while PC systems clutter up the hard drive with redundant backup copies of everything that ever gets changed or replaced, Macs keep everything nice and clean and efficient. Admittedly, backing up a terabyte of data is not exactly easy — it would take 2000 of my current favorite portable media storage devices, USB flash drives, to store that much data. But certainly there should have been a “recycle bin” or similar repository to hold data in case a sleep-deprived film editor accidentally clicks the mouse on the “yes” button instead of the “no.”

  2. Windows does not protect replaced files in the recycle bin either. The error would have been much more difficult to do on Windows, but just as catastrophic.

    File clutter is more about how on the PC even simple programs can install thousands of files scattered hither and yon across the hard drive. Mac used to have a much more efficient way of managing resources, but with the switch to UNIX some of that advantage was lost. Still, I like uninstalling applications by just throwing them in the trash.

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