Archive for the ‘Distribution & Screenings’ Category

HD-DVD Burning with an “SD” Mac

Friday, December 14th, 2007

This may be old news to some of you, but it was news to me: You can burn HD-DVDs (not Blu-Ray) on a Mac using a standard DVD burner, Final Cut Pro, Compressor, and DVD Studio Pro. I tried it last night. It works.

The limitations?

– Standard single-layer DVD media storage limits mean that you’re limited to burning shorter projects (under 60 min).
– The article states you can’t play these on an HD-DVD player. I don’t have an HD-DVD player, so I haven’t verified this. You can, however, play them on a Mac.

Hooking up my MacBook Pro to a television and screening the DVD played flawlessly. And it looked a lot better than a standard definition DVD.

The trade-off? As anyone who’s done it before can tell you, encoding a project to H.264 takes a long, long time.

Billy The Kid

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

I caught some flack this summer when I was complaining about all the sequels and remakes in theaters. The folks that were most frustrated with me almost seemed to be asking, “Okay, fine, smarty pants. What would YOU rather see?”

One easy answer to that question would be Billy The Kid, Jennifer Vendetti’s superb new documentary, which opens for a limited engagement tomorrow at the IFC Center in New York (more theatrical screenings are soon to follow nationwide). Don’t miss this one. It’s easily one of my favorite films — fiction or non-fiction — of the year, and probably the best film about growing up that I’ve seen since Spellbound.

The film is a portrait of a Maine teenager, an awkward, troubled, and wise kid named Billy. What happens? Just life. Billy meets a girl. He deals with kids that don’t like him. His mother loves him and talks straight with him.

As far as plot is concerned, that’s “it.” But to explain the appeal of this movie, I would have to relay specific scenes from it. And the last thing I want to do is spoil the moments of discovery that Vendetti captures. All I can say is that the film does an uncommonly good job of capturing the raw awkwardness, pain, anger and tenderness of life at 15. The moments of Billy’s I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-myself reactions to first love, and his mother’s sensitivity to his plight, are especially priceless.

Since Billy’s thoughts and feelings are so close to the surface, throughout I kept fearing that Vendetti’s might teeter into the realm of exploitation. For me, it didn’t. Billy’s an outsider, and while there are undoubtedly some very funny moments in the film, whenever I was laughing at Billy it was because there was a shock of recollection of some similar moment (like his scene of electric guitar heroics) from my own childhood. And even in these moments, I was cheering for him, admiring his combination of guts and innocence.

Billy The Kid opens today at the IFC Center. Theatrical screenings in Chicago, Seattle, and elsewhere are upcoming. Check the Billy The Kid website for details. It’s worth seeking out.

Not Playing At a Theatre Near You

Monday, November 19th, 2007

IndieWire has a great summary of the Gotham nominees for “Best Film Not Playing at a Theatre Near You.” It’s a sad commentary that five of the more intriguing films I’ve read about (or, in the case of one of these, seen) are films that have received no distribution beyond film festivals.

The films are:

Ronald Bronstein’s Frownland
Lanre Olabisi’s August the First
John Fiege’s Mississippi Chicken
Jeremy and Randy Stalberg’s Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa
Chris Fuller’s Loren Cass

Unfortunately, the article, which was meant to promote the exhibition of these films at the MoMA, only went out in indieWire’s email service today, after most of the films have already screened. The only remaining screenings are Frownland and Loren Cass. If you live in New York and you don’t want to miss these screenings you get the screening details here.

Review: Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Note: Though it’s clumsy phrasing throughout this review I refer to the Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher by its full name because Primera makes a similarly named unit, the Bravo SE AutoPrinter. The AutoPrinter model prints, but does not burn, DVDs. It’s a critical distinction, and one that you want to make sure you’re aware of if you decide to purchase either unit!


Though the days of online distribution are upon us, DVDs still remain a (if not the) most effective way of sharing work seriously with an audience.

Obviously, one way of producing DVDs of one’s work is to burn discs individually on your computer. After burning, you can label them by hand or, if you have a printer that accepts DVDs, use a printer. This method works fine if you’ve just got a handful to burn. Sometimes these printers can be fussy, though. Don’t get me started on my experiences with my Epson R200 printer.

Another way of producing DVDs is to have them produced by a professional duplication house (e.g., DiscMakers). This is the way to go if you need hundreds for festival submissions, online or in-person sales.

But what about if you need somewhere between a dozen and a thousand? What if you find yourself needing to burn and print a moderate number discs, particularly projects that need to be updated intermittently (like, say, a demo reel)?

The Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher aims for this market. A combination laser jet printer, DVD burner, and robotic arm, it automates the burning and printing up to 20 DVDs at a time. I have been testing one for the past couple of months, and here are my findings:


Once set up, it does the job without hassle. Setting up the Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher with a Windows-based computer was fairly hassle free. And once it was set up the unit performed like a charm. Readers of this site may be doing a double-take — Did Paul just say Windows machine? Yup. I first tried setting up the Bravo SE Disc Publisher using an older “sunflower” iMac. That unit simply didn’t have enough RAM and processor speed to do the job. Worse, though, was the fact that, regardless of the Mac computer I used, the included software was buggy and the features were limited. On a Windows-based machine the Bravo SE Disc Publisher has worked flawlessly and the included burning and label design software is easy to use.

Automation is a beautiful thing. The Bravo SE Disc Publisher will do runs of 20 discs. In my tests, the unit only stopped mid-run because of an error once, and that error was an operator error. (The “finished disc” tray should be extended when printing one disc, but pushed in when printing two or morel I left it out once when I should have pushed it in.) After a number of runs I grew confident that the unit didn’t need “nursing.” I felt confident leaving it alone and concentrating on other work.

It’s pretty speedy. The time it takes to burn and print a run of 20 is dependent on a lot of factors — the length of the program, the design of the label, your computer’s processor speed and RAM. With my set-up the Bravo SE Disc Publisher was able to burn 20 DVDs of a short program (30 minutes or so) with a basic text label in about an hour. I was satisfied with those results.

Results have been reliable. The DVDs I’ve burned work, and they look consistently good. ‘Nuff said.


Not so hot on Macintosh. Though, admittedly, I tried using an iMac that didn’t have enough oomph to get the job done, the design/burning software included for Mac was not as feature rich.

Ultimately, whether this unit is for you depends on your DVD burning needs. The results are more immediate than sending the DVDs off for replication, and the thing is far speedier than burning and printing with your computer and a printer that requires you loading discs one-by-one. However, for the cost of a Bravo SE Disc Publisher (about $1500 online) you could do two 300 disc runs (including cases and full-color sleeves) at DiscMakers. And remember, you’ll need to purchase blank DVDs, blank cases, print inserts, etc. if using a Primera.

You’ll have to do your own cost-benefit analysis to determine what’s most cost effective for the work you do, but for what it sets out to do, the Bravo SE Disc Publisher is a success.

IFP Rough Cut Lab

Monday, October 1st, 2007

Tom Quinn, who I got to know during my stint as a visiting professor at Temple, has an interesting write-up of his experiences at the IFP Rough Cut lab over at Workbook Project.

The clips I’ve seen of Tom’s work-in-progress The New Year Parade have all been very promising. Like a lot of truly independent works, it’s had a long birthing process, which has just amped up my anticipation of it. Happily, it sounds like the Lab may be that last little push Tom needed to complete the film and get it out to audiences.

In the meantime, read Tom’s take on the Lab here.