If you haven’t seen Singing In The Rain, I’m not sure what to think. There are plenty of famous films, classics even, that I haven’t made it through, and never will. Gone With The Wind being the most famous. It’s probably OK.
But Singing In The Rain is such a joyful film, and no cities get burned to the ground. Depending on how you feel about the Broadway dance/Cyd Charisse section, you might consider it the best Hollywood musical, or at least from the heyday of such (we may be in another heyday). I can recommend it.
It takes place during the transition period from silent film to sound, and whether it’s exaggerating (obviously) or not, we get the idea. How to record sound in an early technological era was a challenge, given that prominent microphones would tend to ruin the effect, and there’s a cute scene in the film of hiding mics in flower arrangements, etc.
It’s easier now, although always a challenge, depending on the situation. Having made a feature film now myself, I have a better idea, and being fascinated by sound and its effect for…forever…I paid close attention. Most of our sound was recorded with boom mics, although it’s certainly possible for each actor to wear their own sound equipment. It just adds a layer or three of complication.
And that’s not considering the Foley stuff, the footsteps and rustling clothes and other natural noises that are part of real life, often not picked up adequately by a boom mic several feet above the action and often further. There’s a lot of studio work, the most basic being the syncing of the actors’ voices with the actors’ mouths (it gets disturbing otherwise), along with rerecording dialogue that was muffled by wind or other environmental monkey wrenches.
I love this. It’s a cinematic jigsaw puzzle, much as editing is (and why we have sound editors).
A few weeks ago, I gave a book reading sort of thing, reading actually very little and mostly telling the story I wrote, along with spiraling down various rabbit holes of my own strange brain, and I wanted it on video. It was first of perhaps more of these, and I wanted to watch myself shake off the rust of public performance. And maybe pick some clips to use for publicity.
Using two cameras, one static long shot and one manned by a 16-year-old, closer and to the side of where I was speaking, I spent a few hours editing the shots back and forth, not for dramatic effect but just to maintain visual interest.
But those cameras were at a distance, and recording my voice mostly through the speakers (I was wearing a cordless headset. Like Garth Brooks and Madonna. We are colleagues).
I wanted better sound, and I found it. A simple and inexpensive lavalier mic that worked with my iPhone and a recording app, it produced a soundtrack that I was immensely pleased with. Then, I simply deleted the audio track from the video and replaced it with my superior sound track, lined it up (hours doing this) so I didn’t quite look like a ventriloquist, and finally got a very nice effect. You can hear me, you can see me, it looks synced and natural. It was a nice project to work on, one I enjoyed, although this was all high-definition video and so took some time rendering (i.e., processing) once the editing was finished. I think the final version, approximately 75 minutes, took 12 hours to render. I went to bed during this.
So now I have fairly solid video quality and excellent sound, and an mp4 video that carries a bit weight of nearly 4.5 gigabytes, uncompressed, easily the size of a DVD movie, or maybe two.
And I had some requests, even with my persisting posting of clips. People who missed the reading but wondered if there’d been a recording, and indeed there was. An easy solution, then: I’d just burn the file onto a DVD and toss them on a table somewhere; blank DVDs are cheap. Put a dollar or two in a basket for a good cause and we’ll call it even. Five or maybe 10 disks should do the trick.
While I’m at it, I might as well print out labels, nice DVD labels to cover the disk and maybe the jewel case. If you’re going to do something…
Anyway. There was a problem, I discovered. The simple DVD-burning software that Windows nicely provided in my laptop will not recognize the H.264 codec (sorry). It needed less quality, bringing the DVD down to sub-DVD quality. We’re not talking professional here in any way, shape, or waveform.
None of this feels particularly important, but it seemed a project that needed to be completed, so I researched software and, in fact, found a trial version of inexpensive DVD-burning software that did the trick. It had a prominent watermark displayed, since it was a trial version, but I saw enough to know that’s what I wanted.
A comment about removable media: It feels weird to me. Long ago I moved to streaming everything, and wandering through a video store (with exception of some Blu-ray bins that occasionally draw my attention in electronics and other stores) feels like a century ago. I watch people line up at those red box machines and it reminds me of Cold War-era Soviet queues, people waiting for a chance to choose, a vending machine for an art form. I wonder about these people, if they just can’t make the move from tangible carriers of digital code to the convenient world of translation on the fly (i.e., streaming).
So removable media, CDs, DVDs, even Blu-rays (which I rarely watch, but own because. Because I need to) feel archaic, or at best hobbies, like ham radios. They feel fragile and easily damaged, when there are so many other ways to access those 1s and 0s.
I had a solution, then. Just purchase the registered version of this inexpensive software, eliminate the watermark, burn me some DVDs and set them on a table, waiting for pick-up. Easy, not a problem.
Except for one nagging one.
(TO BE CONTINUED)