17th Sep, 2009

Photo book efforts

I’m well aware that I haven’t posted any fresh news for over six months. Some part of that has been taken up with the work (and learning curve) needed to prepare a 90 image booklet of frame grab samples to use as an aid in the presentation of ‘the Road Dreams archive’ to publishers and museums – a wider audience than the film diary in film form alone. As soon as I can prepare some decent pack shots, I’ll hope to provide examples of how this looks.

Fla.-Wrapped-house

This development has grown out of a correspondence I’ve had with Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A in London. Martin has pointed out that there is a degree of convergence – the blurring of the lines between filmmaking and photography – in my work and I’ve since spent time following through on the observation. I’m quite intrigued by the result – there do seem to be a range of still images available in the film diary – and a take up of this approach in book or exhibition form might usefully lead to a widening of the public profile for the archive. (Including the European footage there’s 101 hours of it, much of which has never seen the light of public day.) As always with a self-funded project, if it opens up the possibility of income then it goes to the top of the priority list. So I’m afraid that the completion date for Codachrome – a time of road dreams is as elusive as ever. One almost advantage of having devoted 41 years of my life (so far) to the project is that delays of this nature seem more like business as usual, rather than an actual set back.
Ore.-Mobile-Library

cafe-interior

Fla.-Storm-palms

So for the moment, the main effort will have to go into the book proposal. I’ve included the text of Martin’s letter of appraisal in this post as it does serve as a reminder that there is a special quality to the Road Dreams archive. For those of you who have continued to express a supportive interest over the expanding tally of years, it might help reinforce that you aren’t so wide of the mark. (For any readers new to this blog, I would recommend a perusal of the Comments Section. There’s some good writing on display.)
Locke.-street-scene

Woodlands.-Mask-dance

And that’s it for the present, though I have to acknowledge, at 68, it sometimes feels as if this same present might well continue to stretch endlessly away across the Great Plains, past direction signs that only ever advise ‘Keep On Keeping On’.
None, as yet, point to the Delectable Mountains, though a degree of optimism still rides along. It seems quite obvious that the Road Dreams diary is a special record of times gone by.
ND.-Golden-road

VW-see-butte-in-mirror

VW-desert-road

Elliott Bristow’s Road Dreams: a personal recommendation

Driving across America from 1968 until 1982, Elliott Bristow captured on film some of the most poignant and uplifting imagery I have seen. His travels gave him the opportunity to live the kind of life on the road that I could only ever dream about. Much of the America that Elliott recorded has long since vanished. Luckily, his archive of Super 8 film survives, not only as a fascinating historical document but perhaps more importantly, in his original edit of highlights and recent ‘frame grabs’, as a creative and artistic statement of rare beauty and heartfelt vision.
I encountered Elliott’s Road Dreams when it was first screened as a 6×30′ series on UK Channel 4 Television in 1989. The montage of imagery was set appropriately to the music of Leo Kottke, Pat Metheny and others, and interspersed with quotes from Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. Glistening highways, trucks, railroads, red barns in expansive landscapes, gas stations, freak weather and much more all flashed by on the screen in one man’s mesmerising visual diary. As well as life on the road, there were tender moments showing the individuals he got to know on the way; intimate expressions on the faces of people I had never met, but felt somehow that I knew. This montage of Americana was balanced by Elliott’s own personal insights, spoken in his lilting West Country accent, in which he shows his gift of keeping good humour, distilling the essence of profound experience, and retaining enough mystery to keep us guessing.
Statue-in-car

I later realised that Elliott’s interpretation of American life for me prefigured the photographs of Robert Frank, Stephen Shore and William Eggleston; no doubt like many British teenagers of my generation I have been more influenced by Elliott’s Road Dreams, and they have sunk further into my consciousness, than anything that I have subsequently come to appreciate by the recognised masters of photography in the same genre.

Roadside-chapel

NYC.-Westside-Hiway-&-WTC

LI.-Path-to-beach

Despite the originating medium of Super 8 film, Elliott’s images linger in the memory with the persistence and significance of stills: I suppose this is because his approach hovers between the aesthetics of the moving image and still photography, as a kind of ‘moving still’. His work contains not exactly a sense of nostalgia, more a feeling of reverie, as if he looked through the viewfinder at the time always conscious of the poignancy these vanished days would evoke in the future. As Elliott has noted, he learned to ‘look at the present as if it were a memory’.

NJ-T'Pike-flash

LI.-Victorian-doll

LI.-fashion-shoot-interior

So it is with delight that I recently discovered Elliott’s work via his web site. It is largely through personal enthusiasm that this note of recommendation has been written, but I could not resist making the links between my professinal position and my private interest when inviting Elliott to come to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London to give a talk about his work and to show screenings of it at Flash Friday Late, an evening programme of events dedicated to photography on May 29th 2009.
Meeting him then has encouraged me to endorse his efforts to make his important archive accessible in book form as a series of evocative and well chosen ‘frame grabs’. The quality of still images enlarged from Super 8 film will of course never rival that made from large format or more conventional still film. However, the correct treatment of design and layout could highlight and enhance the ephemeral nature of this epistolary set of film strips, embracing the graininess and nostalgic colour of Kodachrome. And there are other possibilities to promote his work, both as live screenings, printed and exhibited frame grabs, and perhaps a book/DVD package.
I envisage that there is a significant market for such a publishing venture of Elliott’s work, as it bridges an audience for film, photography and social history. It would appeal also to anyone who is open to benefit from his enriching and life-affirming sensibility.

Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
August 4th 2009

From-the-train

Rte-17,-Colorado

25th Jan, 2009

t shirt

t shirt design

Here’s the design for the t shirt, and I have no doubt that it would be one that would stand out most positively when worn, on either a black or white t shirt. However, I’m afraid actually producing them has soaked up more time than it is almost worth. Initially the difficulty was in finding a reliable printer, and from there selecting a production method has been a frustrating trial and error process, with the emphasis on error. At this point it’s apparent that the Direct to Garment method is too variable to rely on for a consistent standard. The current test is to try and establish whether a Digital transfer works, and whether they can be produced cost effectively.

My apologies to those of you who have expressed an interest in owning a Road Dreams t shirt – I will keep this page updated to let you know the results of the current tests.

Ice diamond w/s

Some of you may well already know that Jack Kerouac typed the initial version of On The Road on a 127 ft scroll, finishing the task in just two weeks of intense effort. This scroll is quite a famous artefact and, thanks in large part to the efforts of Dick Ellis of Birmingham University, is currently on display at the Barber Institute there (until January 28th). I went up to give a talk on how my own travels were first prompted through contact with On The Road. I first read the book in 1958 and became fired up on the possibilities of the road life in America. As this website will attest, I’m one of those lucky people whose fantasy lived up to expectations.

On The Road scroll

If you are in even any sort of visiting distance of Birmingham I do recommend a visit. My main reaction when viewing the physical size of the scroll was how it was able to impart something of the creative flood involved. Kerouac (whom it seems was a red hot typist) would have had the words of this story flowing almost nonstop from his fingers – an observation reinforced by the fact that there are very few typos and corrections.

kerouac’s grave

Catch-22 is another well known book, though for most of us Yossarian’s dilemma is the point of reference. My own current catch-22 is to report the rather dispiriting detail that sales of the RetroRoadTrips DVD haven’t yet reached the necessary level to fund the next stage, which is to finish Codachrome – a time of road dreams. One project funds the other in a step by step progression is/was the plan. This is not to say that sales have been negligible – it’s just that, even at the ‘one man in a room’ level at which I operate, costs are considerable. To give you some indication – the clearances for (limited) use of six quotes from On The Road cost $1,000 a quote; or, producing 27 tracks of original music has required around £11,000 (including studio time); and so on. I now need £8,750 to complete Codachrome and somehow this doesn’t seem like a particularly opportune moment to be looking for money. So, are we disheartened? Yes. Will this stop the project? No (though it will probably slow it down even further). Here’s the newly minted, readjustment to reality plan.

cemetery fire

Car by porch

I’m going to add a Download option in the RetroRoadTrips website shop, allowing visitors to download individual films or music tracks (this assumes there will be a cost effective way to collect small payments). Perhaps an ancillary income stream will be the result? I also have a proposal circulating for a book of still images (frame grabs) taken from the film.

4 screen show

Beyond that, I’ll start in on the edit of an online version of the earlier 4 screen travelling film show that I used to take around America in the 1970’s. All the material is existing and so this shouldn’t be too costly (other than my time). I’ve only recently discovered that it’s possible to place more than one image for viewing in the Final Cut Pro Timeline, which counts as a breakthrough of sorts. This version will be only 3 screens, otherwise the aspect ratio for 4 would be 16×3 – too stretched for a computer screen. The viewing advice I gave to audiences back then was to treat these screens as the windshield of a car (the content on the 4 screens was divided up by the 4 Time Zones of America). The film was comprised of music and images – no narration, other than the introduction – to give the feeling of being in the car and going down the road. This notion was always well received in those early days and I’ve no reason to think that reaction will have changed. More on this later – a short clip will be posted on the site as soon as I can get it organised.

Elliott working on XHL

I’m also still in the throes of organising production of the Road Dreams t shirts. There’s been quite a learning curve involved. Early trials showed that the image faded far too quickly after washing, so I’ve experimented with Direct to Garment printing. This is a fairly new process in the t shirt world, though the extra effort (and cost) do seem to be worth it. I’m waiting on what I hope will be the final trial (even the brand of t shirt makes quite a lot of difference to the reproduction quality), and hope to offer a white or black t shirt choice after Christmas. Apologies to anyone who had wanted to give one for a Christmas present.

And that’s it for the moment. Things rarely work out as planned. The ingredient that doesn’t change is the requirement to ‘keep on keeping on’.

Elliott

Ice diamond w/s

By: richard on
November 23rd, 2008

Hi Elliott, congratulations on the DVD, it is wonderful to revisit the images of Road Dreams again, it looks fantastic, and brilliantly presented. What a great thing you have done. Also reading the comments about “Written in the West”, are you also familiar with Stephen Shore’s “Uncommon Places” and “American Surfaces”? Some of the images could almost be stills from Road Dreams, he was probably travelling at the same time as you. One thing he said: “I remember thinking it’s important to put cars in photographs because they are like time seeds…”
Looking forward to seeing Codachrome…
Best wishes
Richard

By: Nigel Mason on
November 24th, 2008

My discs arrived a week or so ago and I am pleased to see that they are as good as I had hoped. The resolution is better than expected, very much better than my old VHS tapes, and the music is as good as ever.

I also find that the passage of time has given much of the footage the wistful, slightly melancholy, elegiac quality of a world gone forever.

Beautiful stuff. Could become a cult classic.

Red flower at East Quogue

Plato - chicken from VW

Plato - Susan combs hair


Whether November 5th does mark the ‘end of the beginning’ remains to be seen – but finally getting the 1st stage completed does represent a useful point, at least. And thank you to all of you who’ve not given up on the effort – at least we’re all growing older together.

Water melon in pool




The initial response is encouraging*. What would be ideal would be a burst of orders (to start redressing my dire financial position – this has been/is one of those re-mortgage the house operations; quite a step up from the standard filmmakers’ ‘maxing out the credit card’), followed by a steady stream of orders that I could process with around 2 or 3 hours work a day. That’s not just a wish for the easy life – the pressure is to finish Codachrome – a time of road dreams, and that will require a Big Push. Part of the pressure is that the Francis Ford Coppola production of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road (directed by Walter Salles, who made The Motor Cycle Diaries) is due to begin shooting in the Spring of 2009. I would dearly like to have Codachrome ready when On The Road is released. There are quite a few points of common reference, though the most obvious connection is the one that many of you have experienced for yourself – the lure of ‘the road’.

old Greyhound bus

Travellers Cafe sign

Culver, Ks - car & store



So do please go out and stir up some interest – button hole people at bus stops, or by the water cooler, or wherever you care to adopt a suitably wild eyed fervour (while not forgetting to wear your Road Dreams buttons at all times – plus I hope to have the t shirts available within a couple of weeks). When Codachrome is ready there will be a launch party (in Bristol) to which you will all be invited, assuming that you aren’t serving a lengthy jail sentence for public order offences.

Thanks again

Elliott



* I’m aiming to have the turnaround between order placed and going to the Post Office at next day timetable result. However, processing and packaging each item is quite a time consuming operation and there is a rush of orders, so if your delivery is a little longer please be aware that I haven’t decamped to the South of France with the loot. I am working flat out.



rear mirror view





By: Jonathan on October 1st, 2008
at 1:34 am
Wonderful! Looking forward to tie-dyeing my road dreams t-shirts.





By: Big Al on November 1st, 2008
at 8:04 pm
Wonderful stuff – for years I thought I would never see the utterly fascinating genius of “Road Dreams”. My late father once descibed RD’s as Alastair Cooke meets “The Waltons” on “The Old Grey Whistle Test” … In a world of increasing monoculture and mediocrity; I for one, look forward to wholeheartedly supporting this seemingly Don Quixot of an enterprize!! Thank you for, yet again, sharing your dreams with ‘us’ Elliott





By: Annelise on November 2nd, 2008
at 2:09 pm
I watched Road Dreams when it was on C4, but it was so long ago, and I don’t know anyone else who saw it, that I sometimes think I must have imagined it.

I’m really excited to discover that you are working on this, and very much looking forward to it.

Thanks!





By: John on November 4th, 2008
at 3:20 am
Elliot,we wish all the very best of everything to you,your family and friends.Good luck, enjoy tomorrow and beyond and heartfelt thanks from us all





By: Tim Evans on November 6th, 2008
at 10:05 am
Hi Elliott. I’ve just placed my order for your DVD as a Christmas present for my wife. She has been banging on about how wonderful your series of short travelogues was on Channel 4 back in distant memory…and before the years of Big Brother. Maybe this will keep her quiet until I get her the accompanying T-shirt. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have a look myself – it does look worth a watch





By: David Kelly on November 6th, 2008
Hi Elliot. Just placed my order for the DVD and soundtrack combo and I can’t wait for them to arrive!
Can it really be 19 years since Road Dreams was on Ch4? Seems incredible how time flies past, but the memory of how good the series was lingers on. Just listening to some of the sound clips from the CD gave me goose bumps and a huge smile – Dinosaur Gas for example!
I had video recorded them back in ‘89 but the tapes just didn’t survive so I can’t wait to be reacquainted with those amazing images and music. Pure gold.





By email
Elliott! I got the email, and, as promised all those moons ago, bought straightaways – dvd and cd with the discount.
So. thank you very much for all of the hardwork..I expect to be telling my mother-in-law that I have a t-shirt earmarked for Christmas, too!
Cheers, my friend.
Kev.





By email
Hello Elliott,
My spirits were lifted this morning by your email announcing the availability of Retro Road Trips, and an order for the DVD has been duly placed. The clips on the web site are tantalizing and I can’t wait to immerse myself in the real thing. I should explain that I am, if you haven’t already guessed, a fan of Road Dreams. That series lodged itself in my brain by stealth and it seems likely to remain there evermore. All the elements fused so wonderfully; the film, the music, Mark Murphy’s brilliant interpretation of On the Road, and of course your own beguiling narration. I did a fair bit of travelling around the US myself in the eighties and, although I’m sure much had changed, the experience instilled in me a strong affinity for that country and its people.

I’m looking forward to Codachrome (nice title), but to be honest the holy grail for me would be the six Road Dreams episodes from the C4 series on DVD with the original music and speech. Is that ever likely to be available? Actually, I do have some of the episodes on VHS, but needless to say the quality has deteriorated considerably.

I was interested in the reference by one of your commenters to Wim Wenders and his book, Written in the West. I have the book and it is fascinating. Wenders is one of my favourite film makers – right up there with Bristow! 😉

Please excuse me for rambling on. I just wanted to offer my thanks and congratulations on your achievement. Long may the journey continue.

Best wishes,

Steve Lomas





By email
Elliott – It was so great to see those images again and so clearly. I’ve ordered the DVD and CD as the videos lifted from the original broadcasts are showing their age – but still good nontheless. The cassette you so kindly sent me all those years ago of the soundtrack was unfortunatly chewed up by a car player many moons ago – no doubt jealous it was (probably) confined to the A38 and not the Pacific Coast Highway! I look forwad to seeing the DVDs of what was in my humble opinion one of the best things ever to appear on TV.
Yours – Best Wishes – Mike.





By email
Hi Elliot, Have received my DVD this morning (two free badges too, eh?), will be watching it at first opportunity. Thanks for a prompt delivery of such a looked-forward to item! I guess I’ll have to be patient and wait for the ‘Codachrome – a time of road dreams’ production but will console myself with a T-Shirt when available. I don’t know to what extent your stock is flying off the shelves but I sincerely hope you sell a million copies of all your DVDs because what you have is something really special.

Regards,

Chris Cooper

Market Diner w’cabbie

Street demo Saddam Hussein

Sandy in Central Park

Central Park laughing crowd

NYC Leslee by shop window

The Nov 5th date refers to the planned opening date for the Retro Road Trips web site shop. Later – much later – than all the original estimates. I veer between thinking that it’s ridiculous to have taken so long – and reflecting that the original Road Dreams had a budget of £150,000, while this version has a budget of ………….. well, it simply doesn’t have one. Which is not to say that the work will look financially constrained. The huge distance between 1989 and 2008 – then and now – in terms of accessibility to editing tools like Final Cut Pro has meant obsessives like myself can plough their own furrow without having to beg for money (though scrabble and scrimp are part of everyday operations).

Even at this stage there is a proviso. To open an online shop requires credit card processing facilities, and a crucial element to that procedure is a Merchant Account ID No (which is separate to the credit card processing). At this stage I’ve applied, and now must wait until confirmation comes through. If it shouldn’t be granted that will involve a major rethink. Not everyone has a PayPal or Amazon account.

But the stock is building nicely. I verify every disc and test random samples on either an 8 year old Toshiba or a £29 CyberHome DVD player. If they’ll play on those machines I have good reason to believe they will play on almost any other device. And the redesign of the DVD cover is an improvement.

DVD stock

DVD testing #3

Study DVD testing

DVD case

Though I’ve mentioned this before, I probably need to clarify that this RetroRoadTrips DVD is not a full replacement for the original Road Dreams. It’s the same footage*, of course – and is cut to music in a way that past viewers of Road Dreams will recognise. It’s a step on the way to Codachrome – a time of road dreams, which is planned as a feature film length DVD, incorporating my narration and other background elements. These 13 short films are intended for stand alone viewing, a visual version of an audio CD. People I show them too (and some of the films are also on the website for thumbnail viewing) seem to enjoy the experience – and most people I know have also seen Road Dreams. But I wouldn’t want to set up false expectations. *The DVD also contains Plan #73, which incorporates a range of footage not seen before, from the time I was driving a 3 ton van around Europe in the ’80s. There’s a further 25 hours of this, on top of the 22 hrs of Road Dreams footage – but utilising that is going to have to wait until Codachrome is finished and there’s sufficient funds to pay for the film to digital telecine transfer.

Thank you, by the way, to Chris Miles (Recent Comments or Comments – June and beyond posting), but I think I’m going to be able to recover financially after the shop goes live. There’s a steady stream of pre-orders building up. And thanks also to Chris for the recommendation for Wim Wenders book of photographs Written in the West. My recommendation, for those of you who are interested in how America looks, is David Graham’s site – www.davidgrahamphotography.com/books.html Also, to Pete (August 18th Comments Getting Closer). I think the initial run of t shirts will have to be any colour you want as long as it’s white. I don’t have the funds to build up a varied stock of different colours. Perhaps there can be a special order option.

For the meantime, I’m watching the post for my Merchant Account confirmation – and gathering the graphics material to use in the web site shop construction. That session is planned for October 14th-16th, when Aidan O’Rourke will come and type up HTML commands faster than most people can do QWERTY typing. We now live in a world where such technical skills are crucial – as if you didn’t already know that.

Running fence #2

LI orb sunset

Kansas Dorothy’s house

Elvis Presley park

Vt back of old bus

1st Aug, 2008

Getting closer

Ark brown Chevy at bar

Arkansas dirt road

Bristow, Nebr street scene

I was initially thinking that I would title this entry ‘Greek farce’ as Greek tragedy, however I might be feeling, seems a tad melodramatic. But then Greek farce sounds more Carry On than stressful, and this has been a stressful month. The usual suspects – computer and technical problems. I won’t bore you (overmuch) with the details – the basic complications have been that all the printed material designs that I had produced were incompatible with the printer’s equipment, necessitating a complete redesign using Adobe’s InDesign. This is software I don’t have, can’t afford and am too inexperienced to use, meaning that I had to use outside help (always costly). The ensuing Technical Tip is that though Apple’s iWorks Pages does wonderful tricks for a £55 software, the end result can really only be printed on a home printer.

The second difficulty has been the continuing problems with my computer. This requires finding ways to deal with ongoing, incomprehensible malfunctions rather than installing a software upgrade (which would be Final Cut Studio in my case, but never change programmes in mid-project is the generally accepted guideline). As the problems involve all sorts of nasties – the computer locking up quite suddenly and then refusing to restart or even boot from the back up Hard Drive, etc, etc – I’ve had to react quite radically. This has meant using Disk Warrior on an almost daily basis. At least I’ve lost some weight this way, though it’s not a diet plan I would recommend.

Big hearted Jim

Hopper bldg

Green garage door

But perhaps Big Hearted Jim put in a word for me as I’m pleased to report that all the above hasn’t actually stopped the project in its tracks – just made it take longer. Within a few hours I will be going to the printer to collect the printed material. And the DVD only needs a minor adjustment to be ready for copying. There is still the need to set up a web site shop and this, from my preliminary research, will still require another steep learning curve. But the tally of jobs to completion really is shrinking. I’ll hope to update this post later today and maybe even indicate a likely completion date. A collective gasp all round, I’m sure – and, as always, thank you all for your patience.

Oil derrick cowboy

Wallowing whale at Burger

XHL desert road

I’ve collected from the printer and am pleased to report that a good job has been done (so thanks to Andrew and his team at KallKwik). I’m especially pleased with the booklet. The aim is to provide you with an entertaining read, in addition to a pleasant viewing experience.

So a completion date? There’s the web site shop, and the t shirt and print series to organise, but the end of September (or early October) does now sound like it’s a distinct possibility. In the meantime, a week of walking in the Derbyshire Dales seems a fair recompense for the roller coaster ride (a Russian Mountain in colloquial French) of this last month, and my wife and I are looking forward to that. More soon, I hope.

27th Jun, 2008

June – and beyond

Sleeping in truck

LI ferry black car

White rifle parade group

Miami board prop plane

As the childhood lament goes: ‘Are we having fun yet?’, and just as predictably the short answer is No. This has been compounded by my granddaughter catching Chicken Pox (good), though in a world where everyone works that very rapidly also becomes ‘All hands to the pumps!’ But before I report the bare bones of the latest technical conundrums, here is a small sign of progress – a pack shot (several, in fact, though one here will do – and many thanks to Ian Blantern). The value of such an image is to reassure myself that I’m not completely delusional – the DVD, Soundtrack CD, Booklet and iPhone CD all do exist. As you will see from the range of items, there is quite a lot of packaging printing to be undertaken.

Pack shot - all

The latest round of fun has to do with getting this packaging material printed. In the last post I mentioned preparing the material – the need to be exact and clear for the printer. What I hadn’t foreseen is that a pdf is not a universal standard, a mistaken notion on my part it would seem. So the current Ho Ho is that graphics produced on a Mac and translated to pdf do not work to full spec on a Windows machine at the printers. Anyway, I’ve now found a printer who has a Mac connected to their laser printer (quite a rarity, and this is a world of graphics?) and will know by early next week if the work will be of acceptable quality. If so it will be full speed ahead and don’t even think about what it costs.

New Jersey sign

However, all is not lost to the stasis of that perpetual ‘meantime’. I’ve been experimenting with creating a series of prints from the Road Dreams archive as an additional way to represent some of these diary moments. It has occurred to me before that I do rather use the film camera like a still camera. Not in the sense of being static – I rather pride myself on moving the camera itself, as well as shooting from a moving car – but through collecting single scenes in the manner of a still photographer. These are Super 8 frame grabs so the technical quality has a distinct set of limitations attached compared to a still camera, but the images, especially when printed on Art Photo Paper, do seem to have a special quality. I’ll offer a series of signed prints in the website shop when it’s open, so visitors can decide for themselves. Here’s a couple of examples, though it should be noted that these online versions lack the texture of the finished print and they are also screen grabs of frame grabs.

Crest cafe pdf copy

Sandy swimming

Aeromotor pdf copy

And here’s what one looks like in an A4 size frame on the mantelpiece.

Crest cafe frame

The other positive, though slightly more long term news (next Autumn) is I’m pleased to report that Susan Gross has agreed (in principle, at least) to provide a new Homepage image for the website in the form of a map of America. I won’t try to describe the likely outcome, though I’ve admired Susan’s work for many years. She has a particular style which is full of colour (hardly surprising someone weaned on Kodachrome would respond to that) and fluid shapes. You can have a look for yourselves – www.susangross.com (Go to the Classic site section – left hand column – and view the Hay House, Woman on a Nickel and Peaches illustrations.) This supposes that they get can just get through the fire season in Northern California. In England we do tend to overlook the fact that they have some very extreme weather in the States. On which note I shall take the day off tomorrow and go – gratefully – for a walk with my wife in the rainy Gloucestershire countryside. And if there is enough time (the life span variety) I hope to eventually construct a website devoted to visiting country churches. Last week we came across the grave of Colonel Chard, the hero (one of several) of Rourke’s Drift – more commonly identified in contemporary times as Stanley Baker in the film Zulu.

17th May, 2008

mid-May meltdown

old radio

Easel against sun wall

I’m afraid the reference to a meltdown doesn’t refer to relaxed time in the sun; rather to the computer sort. No point in going on about it, though it’s next to impossible to feel sanguine as it happens. The minor good news is the discovery of how effective Disk Warrior is as a repair software – I can’t recommend it enough – but the problems go beyond that level of recovery alone and so I must devote time to sorting those out. So more of the one step forward, two steps back timeline.

Hopper car & windows

Hess tail lights

But it’s not all doom and gloom. I’m able to report that both the DVD and iPhone CD are ready – and masters exist off the computer! I’ve also invested in a DVD burner and can now start preparing batches of both discs – the soundtrack CD has been ready for quite some time. Though I say it myself, these images do look good – either on the iPhone/iPod touch screen, or on a television. This might be a useful point to underscore how much of a positive improvement uprezzing DVD players add to the quality of an image. Super 8 is hardly going to be able to compete in the High Definition world, but at £70 for an uprezzing DVD player (I have the Sony DVP-NS76H model) and a television set with an HDMI connector, the improvement over standard DVD images is marked. Why spring for a BluRay player when your DVD collection can be given a new lease of life this way?

Father & son

Kril mail box

This still leaves preparing all the design and graphics for the printer – DVD covers and inserts and so on. It’s quite a job, requiring me to finish up with pdfs with no glitches or misalignments that I can simply hand to the printer. Here is where the meltdown moment gets in the way. On to the next set of software incomprehension. After that it will be necessary to set up a shop on the web site – this is not a simple task – but then, with that complete, it will FINALLY be time to offer the RetroRoadTrips short films for sale. When that day comes it will be the occasion for – a quick beer – and starting work on the full length version of Codachrome – a time of road dreams. I did read a quote from Ovid recently that seems to have some bearing on this project (all 40 years of it), ‘When death comes, let him find me at my work.’ The older I get, the more I hope that will be the case (though not anytime soon, if you don’t mind)).

The Gates to the Badlands

White Sands drive

27th Apr, 2008

late April news

Las Vegas Golden Nugget neon

World Trade Center from Ellis Island

The Capitol framed by flags

The good news is that I’ve established that Plan #73* will fit on the final DVD. This means the 13 tracks of RetroRoadTrips and Plan #73 combine to provide 77 mins of programming, and that’s with the audio in full AIFF (rather than compressed AAC) format.

* Plan #73 is 26′ long, and continues the road film diary approach used in Road Dreams, though based on driving a 3 ton van around Europe in the ’80s. I’ve been able to add a range of new fx to the soundtrack – though this has been, as always, a time consuming task.

Mid-air dive into pool

NYC-PR Parade, woman on float

Conversation by flag

The process has not been without the usual range of technical trials and tribulations. I had exported the tracks from Final Cut Pro in QuickTime Movie format, only to discover that 41″ of the audio was missing from the soundtrack. The usual Ho Ho. The workaround (for any of you with similar problems) was to change Current Settings to the DV PAL 48KHz setting, though this is not anything that one can discover in a manual. After this glitch was fixed I discovered that the audio goes out of synch over a 10′ encode in DVD Studio Pro 4. I’m debating whether I should change my name to Sisyphus Bristow. But I now have all the material on a DVD – it works – and, though I say it myself, looks pretty good. Perhaps all this somewhat obsessive attention to detail has been worth it. However, this is not the project completed. I need to set the Play All button on the DVD and this seemingly minor task is not one I can solve. So I must try and locate some professional help to sort it out.

Kindle’s Donut stand

Shack and mine

late sun with hiline poles

While I was waiting for all these lengthy encodes to run their course this provided the opportunity to start on a major cull of the 22 hours of Road Dreams footage, with the aim of establishing a collection of stills. Some of these are incorporated in this weblog. At the rate established so far, there should be well over a thousand stills by the time I’ve culled the full 22 hours.

Depending on how soon I can get some help for the DVD details, I hope to post more news within a couple of weeks.

Thanks, as ever, for your continuing interest.

Echo Park - Volvo by gate

LA ’shark’ car

Freeway Interchange

1st Apr, 2008

April news

Iowa - red towel & fridge

Iowa - sofa at Plato

I’m well aware that today is April Fools’ Day, though have made no apple pie beds myself. All the same, how about this for a catch phrase or sub-text to describe Road Dreams – ‘Far superior to Prozac’. It came as a third hand quote in an email. Perhaps the t shirt would be the location to place it? Nothing like claiming to have a more positive effect than one of the most widely ingested drugs known to mankind.

Acme Hotel

Husky diner

This last month has seen a bit of a production detour, though not an aimless one. I’ve now completed a box set of RetroRoadTrips iPod files. The impulse for this arose from having acquired my own iPod touch (after having previously borrowed my neighbour’s). The screen size has been something of a revelation where the quality of the image is concerned. There is no intention to move away from the PAL DVD production – DVD is for shared viewing and the iPod for the solo sort (and the DVD set will contain both types anyway, on separate discs) – but the iPod touch experience did set me to thinking about how I might set about trying to publicise the RetroRoadTrips project when the website shop is open. For a site that has had no deliberate publicity efforts made on its behalf it really does quite nicely, but an extra effort will have to be made to coincide with the shop opening. Putting together an NTSC DVD is just too time consuming and costly (at least until Codachrome is finished). So the partial epiphany was that an iPod disc would be a way to mail out demos, especially to America (where Road Dreams has never been seen). Here’s a couple of images of what the box looks like. (I’m well aware that I’m unlikely to develop a career as a pack shot photographer.)

iPod box cover

iPod inside box

The technical details of what encoding formula works best – the trade off between file size and quality – are, as usual, hardly worth recounting (other than mentioning the, by now, standard mental seizures it all engenders – plus the time taken to sort it all out!). My solution has been to provide three different file types on the one Data DVD, to address those two objectives separately. Let the viewers decide for themselves is the aim.

And thank you to those of you who leave comments from time to time – it helps to establish that these entries do get read. I also occasionally come across other strands regarding Road Dreams, and here’s one that I read recently. An appreciative nod to Nige of the Old Hangar.

On the Hadlyme Ferry

I hope to post a much shorter list of ‘jobs to completion’ within a few weeks.

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