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About redundancy

2017 January 9
by Kurt

This weekend I’ve screened ‘The Lodger’ at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam. The first true Hitchcock film. The contemporary score by Joby Talbot is performed live by Hermes Ensemble. During general rehearsal, the playout system crashed.

More precise: the sound cues that the conductor uses continued, but the image blocked. These sound cues are incredibly complicated for the conductor and for the musicians it was also really important go through the piece in one go. So the rehearsal continued, but without the film. After the rehearsal, we (me together with the Muziekhuis technicians) pinpointed the problem and installed (and had a test run with) a different playout system. For obvious reasons I installed a backup system that ran simultaneously with the first. In case of any problem, we could immediately switch to the backup, with the film continuing, but at least as important, with the sound cues continuing. Any pauze would have been a disaster.

During the gig, the main system performed flawlessly, without any need to go to the backup.

The point being?

Times and times again in film, there are moments where redundancy saves your butt. Perhaps is wasn’t needed this time, but with very complex or technologically risky setups, like the vintage camera’s used to capture Soulwax shows this summer, it does happen that equipment fails at crucial moments and you do have to go to the backup to save the day. Failure is not an option.

So also during filming, I’m a big fan of recording on a double system.

And during editing, you also want a plan B. Cut away shots, camera angles. You plan everything before the shoot and things may work out during the edit, but they also may not. There and then, you need the escape route. And how many fellow editors haven’t had their hard drives crashing? Not even mentioning archiving our work.

This leads me to the final thought: technology to make films gets cheaper, yes, but the live span of our creations gets shorter, budgets are tighter than ever and a lot of people are struggling to survive. Redundancy is no longer an option at the end of the race to the bottom.

After a weekend like this, I’m again happy to either have the resources or the creativity to have a plan B. I hope it can continue for quite some time.

pictures: cctv view of the show and mixer panel

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