S8 to FCP – Page 4: 4 Screen Film Show

4 Screen Film Show

int. 4 screen show

This is how I showed the film throughout most of the ‘70’s. It was a time when travel films and their like were brought to the audience as a travelling show. Mine certainly fitted that description as there were 4 projectors (Bolex SM8’s), 4 screens load XHL(representing the 4 time zones of America), and a separate, unsynched soundtrack of music. I would get up at the start of each performance and give a short introduction, suggesting that the audience approach this display as if they were looking through a windshield. This seemed to work quite well. I knew I was presenting a good show when I would see smokers in the audience poised halfway in the act of raising their cigarette to their lips. I didn’t exactly make my fortune this way (or even earn a living – I’ve done quite a bit of house painting in my time), but it did provide a rationale for my travels, which in turn led to more road time and acquiring further film.

In these early days the film was known as Mark’s America (my full name is Mark Elliott Bristow – see #14 in the Comments section for the name change explanation), though the change to Road Dreams did seem to suit the mood of the film more effectively. One of its most satisfying attributes is that this personal diary does seem to trigger memories in viewers of their own road time.

NLE Editing/Final Cut Pro

I don’t think there is much I can add to this topic that readers won’t already know for themselves. Though the move from Super 8 editing to Final Cut Pro has been a quantum stretch for me in terms of acquiring software skills, the freedom that FCP brings is easily worth the mental gymnastics required. It’s such a liberating world away from the seven years it took to raise the funding for Road Dreams, where each hurdle negotiated only revealed a steeper one ahead, and all of them sudden death outcomes. When the only project you have has taken over thirty years of your life, that’s a somewhat stressful environment. So affordable NLE is a most welcome development for me.

Some backgound on kit: I’ve used a dual 1 GHz G4 for the last 5 years, only recently moving up to a Dual 2 GHz G5, though still a PowerPC model. I have too much software that may well not survive the transition to Intel to take that risk. I started out with FCP 3, and now use FCP 4.5. Everything works well for me at this level and so there seems little point in acquiring systems that have potentialities beyond my needs. I have had to spend a small fortune on software – FCP : Photoshop 7 : After Effects 6.5 : FilmFix – though I try to not lose sight of the fact that when I produced Road Dreams, as a 6×30′ series for Channel 4 in 1989, the budget was £150,000 and that was primarily for Post Production (and music clearances) as the footage was ‘in the can’ before production started. So whatever I’ve spent on software is just a fraction of such figures – and most liberating of all, I can now do in my study what just those few short years ago still needed a range of highly paid specialists with enormously expensive equipment at their premises. For the personal filmmaker, that has to be a beneficient revolution. The path from simply threading a Super 8 projector (alright – 4 of them), to digitally reducing dirt specks transferred at telecine from the original film, is little short of miraculous.

Mark’s America brochure


Two points are probably well worth re-emphasising (they get mentioned in most film making tutorials and advice sessions).

1. Sound. It’s as important as the visuals, if not more so. That might seem a tad presumptious from someone who produced a tv series utilising mute footage, but that was ‘back then’ (1989). Now I devote as much time looking for fx to add as I do to visual editing.

2. Quality telecine. This does depend on your likely method of distribution, but that isn’t the only factor to consider. Getting the best from your images is equally as important. I’ve tried a range of possibilities and the only route, as far as I’m concerned, is for broadcast quality telecine. This is mouth wateringly expensive – of course. The last time I could afford it (at The Machine Room in London), it was £200 per hour running time (with 2hrs needed for an hours worth of film). And it looks terrific. So, re-mortgage your home or go into debt. You are a filmmaker – right?

And with that disturbing realisation, this is a good point to wish you well with your film and get back to mine.

film backdrop

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