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About the Video. . .

What was supposed to be a pretty simple edit job became a month long ordeal, and what you see on the screen isn't exactly how it happened. Here's why . . .

The Story Behind The Video

SWWNEWS: So you say that the video is different than originally planned. What happened?

MB: Essentially it was a two camera shoot that was supposed to be pretty straight forward. What I hadn't planned on was the tremendous amount of degradation that can happen to a video image through all of the digital processing required to get it online. 

SWWNEWS: Could you explain?

MB: I did video in the day when what you saw is what you got. Unless you went several generations down, and even then it depended on what tape format you were using and and so forth, the image quality stayed pretty high. All of that is different now with online video because of compression rates and an assortment of other factors. So you can have a video that looks fine but then once it's up loaded to a computer and then sent through Flash, it can look like it's being viewed through a windshield in a rain storm or that it has gone down 20 generations.

SWWNEWS: Is that what happened to you?

MB: Yes. Long story short is I had to reedit the video repeatedly and each time see if it held up after it was sent to Revver who then converts it to Flash but requires a 100 mb size limit. It would look fine on the computer but the Flash would screw it up and then we started having problems on the computer end. Each time I was reediting, I was taking out shots that we were having problems with in Flash with other shots that would hold up. I then started inserting footage and effects that went along with the discussion but to an extent that I hadn't orginally intended. The result is a more conceptualized piece, almost experimental, than originally planned. We also had problems at times with shots when the camera panned, something I call "ribbing" because the images within the moving frame appear to be ribbed. Fortunately that was able to be fixed.

SWWNEWS: So, the special effects and black hole shots were an after thought then?

MB: In some cases yes. The black hole shots, the car driving scene, the strobing clock, the dilation of my voice during the definition of the speed of light, those were all solutions to unsolvable problems. The space ship, and airline shots were planned but not to the extent that they were used - that was also a fix. The black hole shots and animations were all from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope site and in public domain. The airline shots were from a TWA fly-by reel that I have. The car scene was actually footage from a reality movie I did in 1991 before MT-V's Real World even existed.

SWWNEWS: Where did you get the space ship shots from?

MB: That was all done by me back in the early 90s as a test of a special effect idea I had had for a long time. That is an actual model that I built and then "flew" using a digital effects unit or a "DVE". The idea was to do a more efficient execution of special effect model flying than what LucasFilm was doing. They had been using computer controlled camera movements and my idea was to set the model up and run the camera signal through the DVE and manipulate it in real time to execute the flying move that you wanted.

SWWNEWS: So what we see there wasn't computer animation?

MB: Not at all. It would have taken a lot longer to do that with a computer back then. You see, I don't believe that computers are the answer to everything. They are very good at somethings but I hate them at others. It's not that I'm intimidated by them at all,because I'm not. It's just that I'm more concerned with the most efficient way of executing a particular idea and a computer is just a tool, just like a DVE is or a switcher, or what have you. If I can get it done better, faster, with something besides a computer, that's what I'll do, and a lot of times that may be the case because the person trying to create an application for the computer isn't thinking about the execution of ideas, he's thinking about the execution of ideas depending upon a computer and that's not the same thing.

The best example of that is the original look of the USS Enterprise when Star Trek: The Next Generation began. I hated it because it looked so fake and electronic. After the realistic looking ships of Battle Star Galactica on TV and of course the original Enterprise, not even to mention the excellent work of LucasFilm with the Star Wars films, the Next Generation Enterprise, and the entire spacescape that they flew it in, was a jolt to the senses and wrecked the realism of the program. There was no reason to do that except somewhere someone decided to use a computer to animate everything regardless of how it looked. I would have just had the modeling department make a couple of scale models and used camera angles fed through a DVE, with X/Y/Z axis capability, to fly the model. That technology was available in the 1980s, I know because I developed the idea after studying the operator's manuals for the Quantel Mirage and went on in 1985 to use the NEC 10 to create laser beam effects ala Star Wars without rotoscoping.

SWWNEWS: Wow. How did they look?

MB: Just like in the movie. I was able to even make them different colors, but they were the flying bolts of light type, and it would have taken a lot longer and cost thousands of dollars back then to do it with a computer. I even had a version of a light saber that I was able to make with the help of my technical engineer, Paul Rousseau, so that we wouldn't have to rotoscope that effect with a computer, and it worked even better because the effect was a real light, so we simultaneously got all of the real physical ambient effects that an energized plasma weapon would cause - without having to add them in.

SWWNEWS: You say it was a real light?

MB: Right. I found a glow-in-the-dark toy sword and Paul took the handle off and placed a neon tube inside the hollow blade and then fashioned a new handle with an on off switch. It required AC power though, so there was a power cable coming out of the handle, but we blocked the shots so that you couldn't see it. The key was that it matched my stipulations for being visible in daylight. So we have excellent footage of it being used outside during the day.

SWWNEWS: So how much did that cost?

MB: To do the computer rotoscoping at the time would have been $2,000 per second of finished effect. The toy sword cost maybe $5, Paul got the light for free at his job from a unit that was being scrapped, as well as the parts. So let's just say $20 total in 1983 dollars.

SWWNEWS: That's quite a savings.

MB: Now you see why I'm nonplussed with computers. It's like everyone thought CDs sounded better but now all of these audiophiles are returning to vinyl. It's like I said, a computer is just a tool. You don't use vise grips to remove a bolt when you've got a wrench that fits. You could, but you could wear off the edges of the bolt while your're at it.

SWWNEWS: So what have you learned from this experience?

MB: I know how to upload videos, make DVDs and most importantly, how to anticipate the amount of acceptable image loss derived from a Flash conversion prior to making the conversion.   


Marshall Barnes Photo credit: Rhoda Cronebach