ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Three More BBS Documentary Updates —

As I promised, I would be updating the BBS Documentary site much more frequently, to make up for the production falling behind schedule. Here are the last three updates on that site, put into one location for the people keeping track of the production view syndication feeds and the usual trickery of weblogs.

January 23, 2005

The Eye of Doom has signed off on three of the episodes.

Who or what is the Eye of Doom? A friend of mine going a ways back who has an amazing talent for picking out all the slightest imperfections and oversights that crop up when you’re working on a large-scale project like this documentary. Maybe a boom mike gets into a shot, or a filter is applied poorly, or the framing could be much improved. It takes an intense, detached, involved eye to do so, and he has it, so I call him the Eye of Doom. It’s Doom because of course any major errors he finds means lots of work for me, but better now than after the DVDs are pressed and I can do nothing about them.

Every time the Eye asks me about a specific setup, like “Why is this shot like this?” or “Why do you cut from here to here?”, I can often reply with a paragraph or two, specifically about this choice. This is a sign, perhaps, that I’ve spent a whole heck of a lot of time editing.

I kind of wish I could have done some little project before this one, some easy subject with a tiny but clear cast of characters that would have been a few months of work before this insane monolith of a project, but there you go. Every task in this project is really darned huge, and very time consuming. Just subtitles have been a big deal, not to mention the commentary tracks, or really, even the selection of music for the soundtracks. Big, I tell you.

Mostly, I am fixing up sound. Sound has turned out to be the big deal with this project; with interviews conducted in hallways, computer rooms, conventions, outside, and even an in-use band rehearsal space, we have a lot of background noise on some of these tapes. I’ve been able to remove a lot of it, but it takes time. There’s also some wide variances in how various people spoke, so I’m working with that as well. This is a case where I made a specific choice and trade-off a few years ago; I chose to do the travelling alone, instead of with a crew, because I knew that I would kill a crew or lose some good friends to take the trips I took. So with just me alone, there’s only myself to look through the lens, consider the shot, set up the sound and take readings, and then conduct the interview. During the interview, I check the tape, check the lights, make sure the camera is still running, verify the framing, and, oh yeah, ask a series of questions both from my own notes and based on the anwsers the person was giving at the time. To be honest, I should be happy the whole production isn’t shot upside and backwards in black and white.

At some point I will discuss my thoughts on the copying and peer-to-peering that will happen with this project, but not today. After my stuff is out, I’ll likely write up a few thoughts about it.

The Eye of Doom is now viewing the bonus footage. I can’t wait.

January 28, 2005

Another episode is basically finished, HPAC. It goes to the Eye of Doom on Monday, along with whatever else I finish. I haven’t been working exclusively on HPAC this last 5 days; it just happens to be the final pieces clicked into shape with it first. I hope for a couple more to follow over the weekend so I can send the EoD three episodes again. Eye of Doom wants Eye Candy.

I’m very proud of HPAC. I knew I would have to have some amount of coverage of “Underground” BBSes and the whole hacker situation, but I didn’t want it to be another rotten swipe at the subculture. We have quite enough of those as it is.

Basically, I try to cover Hacking, Phreaking, Anarchy and Cracking in a general manner as applies to bulletin boards. (There’s also a big sequence about Handles). In terms of cracking, I mean removing software protection from computer games. It’s quite a piece; very interesting to watch for me, even though I’ve been basically staring at it for months.

I have no idea what to make of it in a larger context of what people will think about it, so that will be interesting as well. Well, onward.

January 29, 2005

Another episode is finished! SYSOPS AND USERS, one of the more involved of the episodes and a personal favorite finally got the treatment of the sound and video mix that I was looking for, and will be leaving for the Eye of Doom along with HPAC. I wonder if I can do three in one weekend?

SYSOPS AND USERS covers what it says: the people who ran BBSes and the people who used them. It’s basically a mass of anecdotes, memories and reactions of being on a BBS. It absolutely makes no attempt to explain what BBSes are and what their context is: that’s what the other episodes are for, especially BAUD. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to make the documentary into a multi-episode collection: this documentary episode does not easily stand on its own if you have no idea what a BBS is, or have much knowledge about them beyond that. It’s lifted up and supported by the episodes around it, and that’s just the way I like it.

It’s actually strange in several ways: it has no background music (too distracting), and no names under who’s speaking. I made these two choices because the cutting is so intense and constant that you end up with this confusing blur of names that are NOT relevant to the episode. I will be using the unique technology of the DVD format to allow people who want to know who’s who to see that; one of the subtitle tracks will be the name of whoever is speaking! So you just click over to that, and then you know. Everyone’s credited at the end, of course.

If I’m called upon to describe it in a more artistic/filmmaker sense, the idea of the SYSOPS AND USERS episode is to have the same general feel of a BBS message base; people posting one after another, commenting, threads popping up, back and forth discussions and disagreements and the rest. On a more realistic sense, it’s basically a lot of interviews cascading down with cool stories about the BBSes.

So that’s two in one day! That’s what I’m talking about.

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