Yep, that all went well! I now have virtually everything from the Artifact shoots digitized. It was shot on Video 8, so finding a capable camera to bridge to a modern DV camcorder (used to digitize the video; the digital stream goes from the camcorder to my computer via Firewire) was no easy task. On a recommendation from the Multimedia guys back at NSCAD, I ended up going to the Centre for Art Tapes to rent theirs (for a very-reasonable $7, as nobody uses this technology anymore).
Then we had to find the source tapes. Mike had a whole box of Video 8 and Hi8 cassettes, and while we found one easily, the other three were a challenge. On the other hand, we took a fantastic journey down memory lane. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff even if I told you! Mike has a museum’s-worth of footage in that box.
Of course, what you’re looking for is always in the last place you look, and we spent hours looking at Video 8 tapes from the mid-to-late 1990’s and 2000-01 before finding what we were looking for: Three Hi8 cassettes with the mastered versions of early Film and Video productions from Fall 1998. The cassettes probably came from Mr. Savage, and we had been recording on the space left on the tapes. These tapes were also being used for video yearbook purposes: “William Matheson’s ‘The Artifact’ will be continued on another tape. We now bring you some video yearbook footage of… indoor girl’s field hockey.”
The video itself is, well, OK. There are lots of little defects and idiosyncrasies here and there, and even some tracking lines. Still, it’s far better than the VHS final cut, and the original video is not cropped, and preserves the original stereo sound. It’s a lot livelier, and it’ll be fun to work with. Colour looks fantastic, too – Sony was making some really nice Hi8 units in the mid-to-late 1990s. Also, Mike made a lot of really good shots, and his work in getting this movie from script to screening in less than three weeks has been underappreciated.
I even have the effects editing by Chris Spencer. I wasn’t worried about doing the people appearing and vanishing again (that’s a now-easy crossfade, although at the time it actually amazed people that we had the capability to do it) – I’m actually going to do it from scratch anyway and use different kinds of appearances and vanishings for different situations. I was worried about the fireball sequence (documented here), but I worry no more – I have it.
Here’s a little bit of what you can expect in the new Artifact:
- Shorter running time. Entire subplots are at risk of being severely trimmed if not outrightly cut. If something makes me cringe but isn’t funny or at least bitterly ironic, it’ll be tossed. The goal here will be to preserve and showcase the best of the film, which means dodging enough of the confusing material to be watchable. (The original cut will remain available.) I don’t think I’m going to be changing much, though – after the re-release, no one will have to say “Brooke shot first.”
- All the benefits of non-linear editing, which are too numerous to list. (Editing the entire feature on computer wasn’t feasible at the time – in that era, the height of technology was Premiere on a G3 with puny disc space – if you had ten gigs to play with, it was considered a blessing.)
- A musical “score,” as was originally intended. At the time of the original production I did not possess the intended CDs, just some downloaded MP3s that I had no way to get off my computer since we were without a burner or high-speed internet at the time. (Man, those were the dark ages.)
- Fullscreen presentation with stereo sound. The original cut was mastered on VHS, essentially in mono, with added letterboxes – portions of the image were cropped to create a widescreen presentation. We had this in mind when we were shooting, and the letterboxes mercifully excised a lot of garbage that ended up in our frame. But the shots seem to come to life in fullscreen, and there’s a lot of visual information available that adds to the school atmosphere. By going with fullscreen (keep in mind it was shot in fullscreen), things will have a more casual look, and I’m okay with that. The change will introduce new problems that I'll have to work around, so when you see 24-esque split-screen scenes, it’ll be because I’m trying to crop out things that shouldn’t be in the frame!
So stay tuned for news on the new Artifact, coming to Internet and DVD sometime in early 2008.
* * *
Japan approaches, like some sort of crippled ghoul or zombie that slowly and inexorably creeps up your driveway, approaching the abandoned mansion that you’ve holed yourself up in to survive the onslaught. Don’t get me wrong; I’m excited to be going to Japan. I’m only vaguely apprehensive. By all indications, this will be a terrific situation, but that first day at the school is still going to be a doozy. I mean, getting dropped into a new country and then attending some sort of “camp” (like in CWY) is one thing. Getting dropped into a new country and reporting for work the next day is something else!
R. at SMU invited me and a future co-worker to lunch next week, where we’ll, among other things, sign our contracts. After the Nova “schools” fiasco, I’ll be happy to be putting ink to paper before some freshly-unemployed ESL teacher beats me to my own job.
And, just in case you thought these two stories didn’t have anything to do with each other, Ashlee Starratt, who plays a lead role in Artifact, was interviewed in the Daily News – she moved to Japan and worked for Nova, but they paid her only about as much as we paid her to be in The Artifact. =)