"Skirt SEP … tower JETT"

Let me bring you up to speed on what I've been doing the last four weeks: Nothing.

Correction: Fucking nothing.

Staring at a wall of 1's and 0's.

Trapped in my own private matrix, where instead of wearing cool sunglasses, downloading Krav Maga directly into my noggin, and banging a sweet lookin’ chick in latex, I get to circle jerk support forums and bash my brain pan against the screen feeling like a colossal failure as my doctor refers me to a cardiologist. And that's a good thing, because when he asked why I was depressed and I started jabbering nonstop about a movie I made, he honestly was about to 5150 my ass.

Where do I even begin to describe the non-stop flustercuckery of the last five weeks? I suppose I should start with when I modestly tried to enter “Clocking The T” into the IMDb database. Here’s a teensy-weensy itsty-bitsy spider sized example of the nonsense you have to deal with just to get your poster up:

IMDB Poster Gallery Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 2.31.14 PM 800px

See where it says ‘No photo submitted yet?’ Of course you do. Okay, see where it says ‘Upload Image?’ Of course you don’t. Because you can’t. Clicking ‘Select’ only reloads the page and makes you start again. It turns out that until they’ve verified your credit card (aka Got Your Money) that doesn’t actually unlock the ability to upload your poster. And getting that access will take a day, maybe two. Maybe three. No, really. And at no point do they have a popup after you’ve entered your payment that says, ‘Hey, we’ll email you the link when it’s good to go,’ like many online vendors do. Nope. They just tell you to click on and ‘start the process’ that sends you into a digital loop where you spend a half hour wondering, ’What the hell am I doing wrong?,' and another half hour Googling help forums trying to find the solution. The whole time thinking ’I might be losing my mind’ all because, and I want to choose my words very carefully here:

IMDb is a Grand Guignol debacle of pigfuckery™.

And this is only one example of many, many others I could bore you with. The whole freaking submission process is frustrating and obtuse, clearly designed by Raymond Babbitt. The ‘Add Title’ ingest process has all the welcome and approachability of a medical lab form, with confusing help links that send you to pages for clarification that send you to more pages for clarification of the clarification.

Do you know what wayfaring is? It’s a term used in museums to describe the process of directing crowds in the way they want people to go. When it’s done right you’re not even aware you’re being carried along from exhibit to exhibit and directed every step of the way. Good GUI does this. Apple in its prime did this very well. IMDb is like leaving the theater under that EXIT sign under the screen. As the one way fire door *clicks* behind you, locking you out, you realize you’re trapped in an endless, soulless hallway with flickering incandescents, pipes, and conduits. Then it’s a long walk to a stairway that deposits you on the backass, faceless wall part of the mall, and, oh, jeez, you just stepped in bum piss, and now you have to walk back around the fucking mall to get back inside, all the while complaining to the missus, "How big is this mall? It feels like a mile already. Did you keep your soda cup? Cause I’m dehydrating.'" Submitting to IMDb is like that. But with more bum urine. Whoever is in charge of GUI over there really needs to be fired. I got $20 says it’s the same dude who got chased out of Culver City with flaming pitchforks after greenlighting “Gigli.” It took 20 days to enter and post the information for “Clocking The T.” 20 days. The only part that worked correctly and without any abstraction, was the part where they take your credit card number. Believe me, they got that fucking part working.

So while I was dealing with that, like it was a fly dive bombing my picnic that just wouldn’t shoo away, it was around this time I started getting the dreaded “Core Consistency Error” in Avid Media Composer. Basically, you’re fucked when that popup appears out of left field with a *bonk* sound. Nobody has a solution. It’s been the inbred child hidden in the basement of Avid since, like, the dinosaur age of non-linear editing, and doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. I ended up having to re-transcode some dailies to get rid of the issue. During this crap one of the actors wanted a scene for his reel. I was happy to oblige and went about finishing a scene so that, you know, the first thing anyone saw of the movie didn’t look completely like refried shit. It was only when I couldn't rubberband the scene back into the Davinci software for color correction that I made a horrific discovery: None of the media I’d generate and imported into Avid Media Composer for the last four months was valid. I could play it, I could edit with it, but I couldn't get it back out of Media Composer. Here’s a screen shot of the same media clip inside a Media Composer 8.4 bin and the Davinci Resolve 12 media pool. You see those two numbers?


They’re supposed to match. They don’t. The one above in Resolve, 21:16:29:00, is correct. The one below, in Media Composer 8.2.4, 18:32:58:00, is wrooooooooooong. Why is that important? Because timecode is the bible by which all digital media is collated and assembled. Put another way, imagine you’re in Bisbee, AZ and you need to get to Fort Collins, CO but somebody secretly switches your map of the Southwest with a map to Florida. By the time you realize you’ve gone the wrong way you’re in San Cristóbal de las casas, Mexico (Nice place, great food, you’re probably better off… Maybe that wasn’t the best example). Without accurate timecode it is IMPOSSIBLE for us to actually FINISH the movie—any movie—without eyeballing each and every shot. Which kinda negates the whole point of editing on a computer.

There seems to be a bug where Media Composer changes the timecode of a clip when importing a clip using their DNxHR HQX codec into a project via Avid’s AMA method. Try it at home. And worse, all the DNxHR SQ clips that I have transcoded from the AMA Linked HQX clips have the bad timecode baked in and have to be re-rendered and, theoretically, overcut to existing sequences. I say ‘theoretically’ because every time you bring in a new, correct media clip into Media Composer it immediately changes it to the wrong timecode that Media Composer thinks it already has in its databases. This seems baked deep in the way Avid manages media, which essentially puts you back behind the eight ball. Deleting bins, projects, settings, AMA databases, modifying timecode, etc., etc. doesn’t seem to make a difference. Once that bad timecode has infected a bin, it’s there to stay.

It’s a mess.

After a week of psychological trauma trying to suss this out I finally surrendered and begged for my one free technical support call a month from Avid. I’ve never had to do that. But the show was literally at a standstill and wasn’t going anywhere, possibly ever again, and that fear was paralyzing. So I called and was told to “stand by” the phone and wait for them to call back. Four days later I wondered if they’d ever call, so I emailed them back all, “WTH?” They finally called and took control of my computer by remote for an an epic 3 hours 35 minutes. The Avid tech struggled with multiple workarounds to try and force correct the issue and ultimately could not get the system to stick to the correct timecode. He asked for bins and other info so they could investigate it on their end. It’s 50/50 whether they can figure out how to modify/change/replace the plugin so that Media Composer to recognize Resolve MXF and not change the timecode automatically. I haven’t heard from them since.

During all this I’m pounding the various Avid support forums trying to get some help and coming up snake eyes instead. Which is weird because there’s a shit ton of people online who’ve had the same problem before, just like… um… the ‘core consistency’ thing.


Out of the blue some PowerUser, who saw my pleas on a support forum, calls me and starts throwing out so many methodical acrobatics to work around the issue that my head started spinning like Ken Mattingly locked in a flight simulator and trying not to go over 3 amps. After the third or fourth step he suggested I was so dizzy I didn’t know whether I was supposed to ‘stir the tanks’ or not. All I could focus on was a single, overwhelming question:

How did this guy get my phone number?

The next day my four month old iMac died. And I mean D-E-A-D dead. I came into my office and it had taken a dirt nap. I couldn’t boot up, I couldn’t get into recovery mode, I couldn’t even log onto the internet and re-install the OS. It was bricked. So I dragged its carcass—a 27” iMac 5K is like a barbell—down to the the Genius Bar at Apple and sat next to a Gina Gershon look-alike while the fucking thing booted right up for the guy. He started it up off his utility drive and sussed that my hard drive was fuckered and we’d need to wipe it. Then I figured, hey, I’ll buy a drive and get my stuff off it. But when he hit restart it starting shitting the bed on cue. That’s when he started getting That Tone in his voice. But inside a little piece of me shined, delighted that I wasn’t crazy.

I have never been more happy to be fucked.


About the only thing you can do in these situations is buy this and this, and hunker down until the genius bar calls back that your computer has a new logic board installed. Never in a million years did I think I'd have problems in post. That’s My Thing, man. I’m a digital cowboy and it’s a steel horse I ride… or some such shit. I drive a 2003 Honda Accord, you figure it out. But I’ve been a professional editor for thirty-two years. In all that time I have never had so many unrelenting and unforgiving technical difficulties as I have on “Clocking The T.” Never. And I’m including the time my assistant and I accidentally deleted half the movie in Lightworks and had to stay up for 32 hours straight re-digitizing the dailies so the producer wouldn’t find out (Fucking DOS!). And that time I farted like an 18-wheeler air horn in a bay full of producers (Aeron chairs, man. You can’t muffle anything in a mesh seat!). I feel like an idiot because I look like one.

This computer age, man. It’s just a barrel of coronary disease wrapped in brushed aluminum. So much needless fucking stress. How many years have I lost worrying about this crap? Can’t the goddamn things just work in 2015, like a fucking toaster? It’s unreal. I feel like a slave to the damned box. All I want to do is just Get Work Done. But, nopers. How did I let my life be dictated by a machine that does nothing but separate me from my family and make me feel alone? And the reward for my worship? I fucking get to die early. Talk about a false idol.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” ~ James Baldwin

So here I am. It’s not exactly ‘back to Go, do not collect $200.' More like my brother got pissed he was losing and flipped the board over and all the pieces went everywhere. I’m not starting over so much as putting all my shit back in place.

I got a lot of shit to put back in place.

The only way I can see that backs me away from this Great Wall Of Tossed Salad is to re-transcode the whole fucking show. Then I bring in the new media, overcut the hour and a half of the movie I’ve already cut, and throw the old shit away. While repetitive and laborious, it will remove the project from the clutches of Avid’s fucking AMA horseshit. And in the tests I’ve run, the timelines do match back to the camera original media in Davinci Resolve. The downside is that by the time I overcut all 3/4 of the movie already assembled, it would actually be easier to finish out in Media Composer rather than bail to another NLE.


“Skirt SEP… Tower JETT,” is what the astronauts radioed to Houston Ground Control when they jettisoned the Launch Escape Tower, the emergency rocket at the top of the capsule designed to whisk them to safety upon a cataclysmic launch failure. Once that white trussed rocket was discarded, about three minutes after ignition, they were In For The Ride. To the moon or bust.

And that's where we're at.

To the moon or bust.

Whichever comes first.

And it’s not easy. Because every setback reminds us that we're not the Apollo Program. We're Lawnchair Larry.

© Michael Thibault 2015, All Rights Reserved. May Not Be Printed, Published, Posted, Transferred, Or Duplicated Without Permission.