Distribution: Authoring DVDs

    It’s been a little while since my last post. There’s a good reason for that. I’ve been very, very busy.

    I like writing these entries for a few reasons: 

1. I like writing; 

2. It’s a really good way for me to take notes;

3. It’s a good way for me to remember how and why I did all the things I did;

4. It allows me to share what I learn with everyone who chooses to read them.

    The delay in posts has nothing to do with procrastination or a dislike of them. I really had no time to write it. But, I’ve wanted to.

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    About a month ago I asked my friends Earl and Wallace to come to BXI so we could work out the details of Intelligent Design (it was called Beta at the time).

    I have a friend who has a connection at Netflix that will allow me to speak with a decision maker. This is a really big deal and not something that happens to a lot of people. I knew if I was going to pitch Intelligent Design to them that I had better come to them with everything they may possible want and ask. The story has to be so good and original that they can’t say no.

    I had hit a roadblock.

    Intelligent Design isn’t a movie. It’s more the size of a novel series. In other words, it’s huge, epic, one might say. 

    It was so big that I was having trouble wrapping my mind around it. That’s not exactly true. I could wrap my mind around it. I knew the beginning, the middle, and the end. I just couldn’t figure out the details. There were simply too many details. 

    That’s why I asked for help from my friends Earl and Wallace. They’re both professional writers. I’ve read their work and they’re both good. As if that wasn’t enough, they both also helped me make ALGORITHM better.

    We set a date and then I waited.

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    Well… “waited” may imply that I waited around, sitting and doing nothing. If that were the case there’d be more Making Movies entries.

    And there aren’t.

    The people interested in distributing ALGORITHM were taking too long. I set a deadline of August 1, 2015. That deadline came and I told them I wasn’t interested in working with them anymore.

    That meant the burden of distribution was back on my shoulder.

    I redesigned and rebuilt my website so it would be safe and pretty so when people came to buy stuff, they’d be secure and it would be clear where things were. That took a week.

    Then, I finished ALGORITHM’s final color correction, which took two more weeks. It looks beautiful. When Wallace came over for the Intelligent Design development meeting, I showed him the knew version. He was blown away. I told him the change is the difference between ALGORITHM looking like an indie movie and it looking like something the big studios would put out. Wallace agreed, shocked at how much of a different color correction could make.

    I can’t talk about the new color correction without giving credit to Satsuki Murashige. I was happy with the previous version. Satsuki wasn’t. He asked if he could take a crack at it. I went up to San Francisco with my 20TB Drobo that had all the RAW files. He got to work. The screen grabs he sent me blew me away.

    He and I both did another color pass. They’re not the same, but their both so good that it’s really a matter of taste. I went with my version. But, like I wrote, my version wouldn’t exist without Satsuki’s. Here’s a sample:

    With the color pass finished, I exported ALGORITHM in DVD format and began authoring the DVD, in a program called Encore. Encore is pretty much the only remotely affordable DVD authoring program on the market. It works on Macs and PCs. The only real problem with it is that for some reason Adobe stopped developing it. Before they stopped, they gave Encore the ability to author DVDs in both NTSC and PAL (NTSC is USA, PAL is Asia and some of Europe). Encore can also author Blu-Rays, which means it’s exactly what I need.

    If you’d like to know the specifics of the distribution I’ve got planned, I wrote an entry specifically for it.

    Authoring DVDs is a lot like making a movie and building a website all in one. The movie part is the various sound tracks, making sure everything is in the right format and in the right place. The website part is because everything is linked from a series of menus. Lucky for me, I know how to do both so it was just a matter of learning Encore. 

    Whenever I have to learn software, I go to www.lynda.com. I could watch lame videos on Youtube and never know if I’m missing some great little feature. With Lynda.com, I know. I know that sounds like a bad advertisement. I don’t like it that much either, but it’s also true. And every video professional I know also goes to Lynda.com to learn software.

    So, I set up BXI, I did a final color pass, I learned Encore.

    As of the writing of this entry, ALGORITHM has subtitles in 9 languages with more on the way. While learning Encore, I found out that Widescreen DVDs in NTSC format allow for a maximum of 16 subtitle tracks. I’m approaching the limit, but that’s not a problem yet. When it becomes one, I’ll select the most popular languages and include them.

    To coordinate the subtitles I created an Excel sheet. The first column was the time stamps. The second column was English, and column three had the translation. From there, I exported the .xls file as a .csv. My hacker friend Kaiser wrote a program that formatted them to .srt (which was required to upload to Youtube). I created an English Subtitle Master File, which had the correct time cues. Kaiser’s program pulled the time cues from my Master File, and dropped in the alternative languages. 

    Before I got Kaiser’s program, the process took about 3 days for each translation. Using Kaiser’s program, it look less than 1 second.

    The only problem was that Encore won’t read .srt files. Instead, there’s a specific Adobe format it likes, that’s actually a .txt document, but with specific formatting. A program called Jubler can read .srt files and export the required Adobe .txt files.

    The post-Jubler .txt files were functional in Encore, but they weren’t prefect. When I imported the .txt files into Encore, they showed up in a timeline. Each line of dialogue looked like a video clip, which was then movable. Multiply that by 9 and you’ll see my screen. Here’s an actual screenshot:

    I spent the last week getting all those languages aligned properly.

    People have let me know that the timing on the Youtube subtitles isn’t correct, so I’m going to try exporting the correctly timed Adobe .txt files, run them back through Jubler and get a .srt file, and upload it to Youtube. If I’m lucky, it will work.

    If I’m really lucky, the new .txt files will also work with the PAL-formatted DVD, and also with the Blu-Ray. I don’t want to have to do all that work three times.

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    I wanted to get into a little bit of the details of the development meeting, but this entry has gone on long enough.