Friday, December 15, 2006

Name Check

I had had my ups and downs with the studio producer back when I was working in animation. But I have to say the working relationship seriously went downhill fast the day she called me a c*nt.

Here’s the thing. Amongst the studio staffers, the producer was not the most technically minded. There was also the producer’s assistant. The best word to describe that useless twatbomb was utterly incompetent. (Which is two words, but goes to show how completely useless she was).

For instance, we were getting ready to pitch for a live action/animation combo. The live action was supposed to take place in front of typical Norman Rockwell Americana of clapboard houses with picket fences.

The PA found reasonably ideal locations. I think they were in Turkey of all places, but that was about as far as the budget would stretch. She came to my department with a printout of one of the houses asking if we could scan it in and make a jpeg image for her.

I looked at the printout. The quality was pretty crappy. I handed it to my assistant. We exchanged glances. I asked the PA where she had got the picture. I could understand if it was out of a magazine, put this was from the printer downstairs.

Worked it out already? Yep, the PA had printed up a photograph she had found on the internet. She wanted us to scan the image, turn it into a jpeg so she could attach it to an email to send to the agency. My assistant handed back the printout. We exchanged glances.

Then I asked her why she didn’t save the image from whatever web page it was and attach that. She asked if she could do that. Jesus fucking Christ! So that was the kind of people we were dealing with.

We didn’t get that job, but one of the last major commercials before I went out the door was for a sports car. The spot was for Europe. Again, live action and animation.

The director hadn’t worked with animation before and went ahead and shot all the live action without any consultation. No big deal but it meant there were a few kinks to iron out. Especially when he couldn’t decide on a final lock until over a week after we started work.

All the animators had to do was create elemental effects chasing the sports car through the desert landscapes. We had to print up every frame and register them for the animators to work over. Easy. Except...

There are a handful of major post-production facilities in London: The Mill, which was where we did all our compositing and grading, Framestore-CFC, Moving Picture Company and Smoke & Mirrors.

The live action had been graded at a facilities house that wasn’t The Mill. Work with these places after a while and you soon discover they really think they are full of themselves. The producer was constantly under their spell and rhapsodised about how brilliant they were. All I saw was bullshit and a vast waste of money.

The commercial was produced at the time everything was switching over from 4:3 ratio to 16:9. All the freelancers had already gone home happy with free boxes of old-sized paper we couldn’t use any more. Everyone got their heads around it apart from the producer and PA who muddied the waters worrying about 14:9.

When 16:9 images are shown on old 4:3 television sets there is a slight cut off either side. The resulting image is 14:9. The only time to worry about it if titles and supers are involved. Which certainly wasn’t the case here. But they kept bringing it up even after I explained everything in a two-page guide.

The facilities house sent over discs with the first scenes. On inspection, we discovered each frame was squashed to a 4:3 format. We set up a series of actions in Photoshop to convert them to the correct ratio and add registration marks.

Still worried about the 14:9, the producer invited the head of the facilities house over for an informal chat. He asked if there was anything we needed. I asked for the remaining scenes to be in 16:9 format.

The next day new discs arrived. The frames were 4:3. The producer was heading out to a meeting. Before she left she wanted to know if they were all right. I said no. Someone in their machine room had fucked up and they weren’t in the promised format.

The producer wanted exact confirmation so she could tear somebody off a strip. Though not technically minded, the producer always had to be the one that discussed any technical problems with the facility houses. Which meant I’d explain everything to her, as best I could in layman’s terms, and then stand by with a mop and bucket and clear up the mess.

The frames looked like they were still squashed. The producer phoned to complain before we realised they were 4:3 cut offs. Which meant they were worse than useless because we only had something like the middle third of the whole frame. I went down to tell her that their machine room had really fucked up. She listened, and then blamed me for giving her the wrong information before she made the call.

Embarrassed that she would have to phone them again, she told me I was a c*nt. In fact I had made everyone in the studio look like a bunch of c*nts. I stared her down until she went out. It was the last major job there I worked on.

Ah, good to get that one off my chest...


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