ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

BBS Documentary News (December 12, 2004) —

It’s nice to think of stuff in theory, speak as if you’re an expert, and then, in practice, have it shown to you why you were dead wrong.

Such as it has been in this, the most top-heavy portion of the documentary, the last 10 percent or so of work. I had thought I was going to update all the time, since that drove me nuts with other documentary sites. Yet, I have not! The reasons for this are not unlike the reasons I’ve given in the last number of updates, which are, all told, “steady as she goes”, with work progressing but no particular amazing events or breakthroughs that really warrant a new news entry.

But honestly, things are coming to a head so I should really talk about stuff in a more concrete manner, for people who are waiting for this to become “real”.

First of all, about 300 people have pre-ordered copies. This means two things: they have stories that will go on the DVD-ROM section of one of the three DVDs in the set, and there are 300 people who believe in my project enough to have dropped money for something not out for a few months. I am still floored and delighted at this, and all those people know, I hope, how appreciative I am about that. Various parties and people in my life were a little concerned that I’d just invested in the most bright and biggest of white elephants with this project, and they are now understanding that there are going to be real, actual people who will want to watch this.

The box art, that is, the slipcover and the 3-DVD box that will house my work, is coming in from the DVD duplication place tomorrow. We already had a round of revisions to it, to make sure the colors and a few other details were right. Here’s a small preview of the art. The top is the slipcover (exploded) and the bottom is the 8-panel DVD case (also exploded). Obviously, the art is not to final scale.

The “Beta Premiere” went well; I was rather nervous about the whole thing, but on the whole people liked the episodes. It was especially worrisome because as it turned out, nearly 20 people who I’d interviewed were there, and got to see themselves. Nobody punched me, which was an excellent sign. And in fact most seemed to be really happy about how the whole thing came out.

A common comment from the daughters, spouses and girlfriends of people who were in it was “finally, I understand what they’ve been talking about”. So I guess it’s a tool to help explain people’s pasts, as well as everything else. It’s also a meditation on being online, an album of concepts long forgotten, and a jumping-off point for months of deeper research. It’s got a lot of uses.

One thing that IS obvious is that I was right to focus this project on DVD; it is a lot of information and only a complete maniac would handle it all in one sitting. It is a massive collection of information and history, and is not a singular epic. Perhaps the project is epic, but it should not be all watched in one setting. Maybe I should make a warning label.

The episodes were originally planned to be seven 1-hour episodes. It looks like, after editing, it will be 8 episodes of sizes ranging from 40-50 minutes, as well as a bunch of bonus footage that is really neat but doesn’t fit into any of the episodes by themselves. (Mostly because the stories take a number of minutes to tell.) So it’s still a metric ton of footage in action, just spread a different way than I expected. I’m really happy with the whole thing.

A team of translators are adding a spanish translation to the subtitles, and pretty much everything in the episodes are being subtitled. So that’s apparently unusual, but I wanted this done right. ‘Doing it Right’ has been the theme, and the reason I’m now rather older than when the project started.

Now, as it is turning out, this will not be ready for Christmas. I mailed everyone who pre-ordered this documentary, and only had one refund, so that’s not so bad. It is 100% a question of quality. I am going over all these episodes and bonus features, shot by shot, making sure everything works, everything’s accurate, everything flows. It’s quite a task.

The goal is to give the finalized DVDs to the plant by Christmas, and then get everything going out in January. I’m going to stick with that and will let everyone know in a timely fashion if this is not the case. But I expect it will be; everything is pretty much together.

What a project! I’m looking forward to never doing anything like this again!

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