The Cleftal Horizon

The internet is an amazing resource for filmmakers. Got a problem? Just ask. More often than not somebody Out There will help you out. Somebody you don’t know will chime in with a recommendation or answer that will Stop The Bleeding from the technology induced lacerations that end users and indie filmmakers invariably suffer. But sometimes the global village just bites you in the ass and you walk around with teeth marks that look like a tramp stamp.

Remember back in October of last year the show hit the brick wall of a bizarre bug in Avid where the AMA plugin would spontaneously change the timecode of our footage? I know, it’s all brain exploding, technical gobbledygook, so let’s just say that problem was a lot like going to war with Elmer Fudd’s rifle; you’re just gonna shoot yourself in the face.

It’s bad news all around. After doing backflips all of August trying to Fix The Problem I finally went online begging for help in the matter. From the get-go the responses were all kind of squirrelly, unlike any other help request I’ve ever made online. Usually I get an answer or idea submitted and I’m good to go. But this time there was
this dude—Let’s just call him Blowjammer—who seemed hellbent on making sure everyone online knew that There Was No Way That Media Composer Could’ve Caused This Problem. And he pretty much went apeshit when I posted that the Avid Tech had told me that the software didn’t support Davinci Resolve MXF wrappers.

I know, I know, I promise I’m gonna keep the tech talk to a minimum. Bear with me here…

Meanwhile, this other guy, let’s just call him Power User, posts on the forum thread that, yes,
he has replicated the same bug on his system. Now here’s the strange thing: I saw his post on my phone while getting groceries, but by the time I’d gotten home his post had been deleted. WTH? Luckily, the page was still up on my notebook so I took a screenshot. I wasn’t crazy, it existed. The next day Power User calls me out of the blue (I keep forgetting to ask him how he got me number) and explains to me that he was under a lot of pressure to delete his post confirming the bug. According to him, the reason Blowjammer was lambasting me online was because he is actually one of the inventors of the Avid software. He won a fucking Oscar for it in 1994!


My show seems like it’s dying in my hands and I can’t get help from Avid or even online. Instead I’m caught in some weird pissing match with a developer who’s
personalizing my problem, like I’m telling him his baby is ugly. Power User was afraid he’d be ostracized in tech circles and kowtowed to Blowjammer’s backdoor efforts pressuring him to remove his post (Phrasing, boom!) verifying the matter.


I am Joe’s face palm.

The bug fascinates Power User and he wants to suss it out on his own. I can’t give him media, but at his request I provide some Avid bins and screenshots to him and, “Vaya, con Dios,” he’s gone. A couple weeks later he calls me out of the blue, again, to give me the skinny on everything he’s been able to glean about my horrific Avid AMA disasterfuck. Short version: I’m not crazy. Turns out that he was able to replicate the problem quite easily and in various codecs and aspect ratios across the board. I remember he said he found the bug appeared inconsistently, but that it had appeared on ProRes and RED media, as well as some Avid files at 60 fps. It was a fair list of camera media.

He also spent every waking hour for the last two weeks coming up with a solution, even if that meant jumping backwards through a flaming hoop onto a poodle wearing a saddle. He knew it was probably too late to help me—It was, since I’d already zeroed out the project and re-transcoded the entire show over again by then—but he figured I might like to know
that I wasn’t crazy. And, actually, that meant a lot. Being stuck in the middle of a tech problem like that is about as lonely as it gets. Like, desert island lonely. And you feel it every time you try and vocalize your predicament with friends and they recoil like your just started talking excitedly about the Macho Dancing retreat you went to in Pagsanjan. When somebody from cyberspace throws you a life-ring like that you are forever grateful. It’s like the sun rising over the horizon through a 400mm lens. It truly feels like a Big Deal.

Okay, I’m validated,

There’s proof,

I’m not crazy….
Yeah, leeeeeet’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

I knew that sooner or later I was going to have to call the Avid management office and that I should scribble down the list of media and frame rates Power User was telling me. But I couldn’t find a thing to write with (You try finding stationary in a house of eleven year olds). So a few weeks later I emailed him and asked for that list. He never responded. I emailed him again and this time Power User did reply that I should see his response regarding the matter on the original forum thread. When I checked he’d posted a long, belabored wheel spinning that skewed what he’d told me on the phone back around to try and lay the blame on the MXF wrappers coming out of a Davinci Resolve transcode. Basically it’s the same thing the Avid Tech told me that got Blowjammer to go all flamethrower mode on me back in October. All well in good… if that was what he told me on the phone last month. And, of course, it wasn’t.

So down the Memory Hole that evidence went. I can’t even begin to tell you what the hell is going on Behind The Scenes at that support forum. It’s beyond me. I don’t even care anymore. Clearly, that
isn’t the place to get help. All I did was come looking for help and the very question I asked was pummeled with quicksand and quackery by Blowjammer, who seems in denial, like if the software he helped develop isn’t perfect it’ll all fall down like Humpty Dumpty. Ironically, it isn't even 'his baby' because he's not affiliated with Avid anymore! And the only serious help I do get, Blowjammer pressures people behind the curtain to influence and change their opinion, effectively freezing me out and making me look like a tool who doesn’t know how to use the software.

Pigfuckery surrounds me.

The world we live is a miracle of innovation. Look at me, I’m 54 and I bought a camera off the shelf
and made a movie. It’s an incredible achievement that’s completely within the grasp of anyone (see previous statement). Something that was impossible when I started twenty years ago. But the price you pay is that the only support system you have is you and whoever is kind and willing enough to help in the various support forums worldwide (Seriously, I once got help from somebody in Sweden!). That’s ah-maaaazing. The downside is the utter horseshit by dysfunctional gribbleqwibs (Not really a word so it’s not really slander) like these lads. Their combination head-in-the-sand/terrified-of-being-ostracized-from-the-group is just a double barreled blast of dumbshit.

Here’s the deal: I don’t really care, nor am I interested in, getting the middle of this background noise political bullshit with Blowjammer and Power User. I only relate this story as a USDA prime choice filet mignon example of the kind of
nonsense you deal with at every turn making an out-of-pocket indie movie. Everything you’ve heard or seen in the entertainment press about making movies? That’s not gonna help you. That’s Studio Business. Agents and executives and full crews and financing stuff. You’re not in that business. You’re in the If-we-go-on-Sunday-when-they’re-closed-we-can-shoot-in the-front-without-asking-permission business. See the difference? I didn’t write this to convince anyone chuckling at my predicament. They don’t get it because they’ll never going to get it. I wrote this for you, yeah, YOU, the person making an indie movie. The person scouring the Internet right now for How To's and How Not To's and equipment or casting or editorial advice. I wrote this so that you know that whatever your problem is, It's Really Happening. You’re not alone. You’re not crazy.

You are not a desert island.

Oh, shit! My movie just burst into flames
again! I gotta get a bucket of water. Catch me in traffic.

UPDATE, 2/16/16: Holy shit, this whole debacle went full apeshit. I'd always meant to respond to the Crazy Thread, and call the cowards out, and I finally logged on yesterday to post a reply (I know, I know… have we learned nothing from this blog but how slowly shit happens around these parts?). That's when I discovered that ALL of Power Users' posts had been removed. The entire thread had been bleached of any information that might suggest that, yeah, it was a real issue. All that was left were Blowjammer's posts obfuscating the issue. I know, this is conspiracy shit, right? Sorry to disappoint, but it's just plain ol' asshattery.

© Michael Thibault 2016, All Rights Reserved. May Not Be Printed, Published, Posted, Transferred, Or Duplicated Without Permission.