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China, or platinum

Nathan Strum


Depending on which list you go by, 20 years is either symbolized by gifts of china or platinum.


China, as in plates and stuff. Not necessarily things made in China. Although I'm sure you could easily enough find china made in China, thereby removing any sort of potential confusion.


Except for the whole platinum thing, which doesn't really make sense since it's actually more valuable than silver or gold, so shouldn't it be up higher? Like 75 or something?


Anyway… 20 years. That's how long I've been doing this job. Doesn't really seem possible. But then, it doesn't feel like 30 years since the video game crash either.


As in previous years, I'm in the midst of our end-of-year student shows.


First up, on April 26th was our Open Show. This is every film our students turn in for the year. This year that number was 162 films (beating our old record by one film), running just over 6 1/2 hours (and yes, we do take breaks).


The most amazing thing was that this year, we had 158 films turned in before the deadline. The four that missed, only missed it by no more than 15 minutes. That's quite staggering, since some years we've often had dozens of films miss the deadline by days. But we would generally let them into the Open Show anyway, they just weren't eligible for the Producers' Show (which is our faculty-juried "best-of" show to the industry down in North Hollywood). Over the last few years though, we've been tightening up on the rules, and this year we really made it clear that the deadline was the deadline, period. Anyone wanting to submit a late film would have to talk to our program Director first, and get his permission. Four did. After that, it was tough-luck. Having that many students pay attention to the deadline was incredibly encouraging, and a trend I hope we can perpetuate next year and beyond.


Usually the week of the Open show is about a 90-100 hour affair for me to cut all the films together (it's all digital, no actual film was harmed in the making of our show), and get everything set up for the screenings (including the marathon all-day faculty judging of the films). This year started out smoother because not only did a lot of people make the deadline, more were actually early than I can ever recall. For example, late Sunday night before the Monday deadline, we already had about 70 films turned in. A year ago at that number was 25. Two years ago - five. So we're making good progress there, and spreading out the work earlier helped me get ahead of schedule. That was a very good thing too, since I lost all of that time at the end of the week trying to get our new Mac Pro-based playback systems to work (turned out to be an outdated video driver for our Teranex - but it took forever to track that down).


Part of that 90+ hour week involves turning our Main Gallery into an impromptu movie theater. I've mentioned it in previous installments, but here's a better look at it.


First, we start with an empty Main Gallery. The green part of the floor is 25' wide x 100' long, to give some sense of the space:




Next, we add four speakers and two subwoofers (from Location Sound), a 20' wide screen (from American Hi-Definition), a Canon projector with ultra zoom lens, and over 300 chairs:




Then, we black out all of the nearby windows, and attempt to shut off all of the lights. They weren't quite all out when this photo was taken:




Add about 320 people, plus a concession stand selling popcorn, hot dogs, soda and nachos (part of our School of Theater's fundraising), and presto! "Instant" movie theater:





The show went off without a hitch, and the quality of the films just seems to get better every year. Oddly enough, this was the first year that I didn't actually watch all the films all the way through. Even though I edit the whole show together and have to balance the audio from film to film (all 162 of 'em), while I'm working on that, I rarely stop to fully watch the films since I'd never get the editing done. But after editing is complete, I do try to QC the whole show before Saturday. I just couldn't do it this year though, unless I went completely without sleep the night before the show. I've done that before, and it's a miserable experience. So I opted for sleep instead, and I'll sit down and work my way through the whole show later. The downside is, I didn't get a chance to vote on the films to help determine which ones got into our Producers' Show.


But in the end, of the films that I did watch, I felt the ones I would have given high marks for got into the show anyway. So I can't argue with the results.


Last week was spent working on getting our Producers' Show program typeset and off to the printer (using artwork from our students), and having one of our faculty - Ben - do professional 5.1 sound mixes for all 24 of the films that got selected for the show (no small feat - but it makes all the difference in the world). After that, I worked on editing the show together, and creating the DCP for it.


Yeah… that. We used a DCP for the first time last year, although we sent the files off to the software company - QuVis - to make the DCP for us. This year, we did it in-house using their software.


Now, since I have a shiny new Mac Pro on my desk, I decided to use that to make the DCP. I'd made several earlier this semester, so I felt confidant it would work. But when we played the Producers' Show DCP back in our theater at work (we now have a DCI-compliant projector so we can check this stuff in-house) the colors were all washed out. Horribly so. At the moment, we still don't know what went wrong, or where. We suspect either Final Cut Pro X Or Compressor 4.1 was the culprit, but we just didn't have time to figure it out (that was one of the problematic Open Show playback systems, and we did so much installing/reinstalling to get that to work, it's entirely possible we munged up some settings in the process). Fortunately, we had another system still running Final Cut Pro 7 and Compressor 4.0, which all worked perfectly, and made a spot-on DCP. So I sat all the way through that DCP Wednesday to check it, and much to my relief, it worked. Unfortunately, the TV Academy Theater schedule is such that we can't bring the DCP down until just four hours before showtime. We're not taking any chances… we're bringing three copies of the DCP down to the theater on three different hard drives.


So I'll probably post an update after the Producers' Show Thursday night. But if you want to mostly watch along (starting at 8 PM, PST), here are the films that are in the show:


Charley Hodgkins (and many others) - 2014 Producers' Show Opening


Jacob Streilein - There's a Man in the Woods

2014 Walter and Gracie Lantz Animation Prize winner. Jacob won last year as well - the first ever two-time winner.


Ricky Cometa - Corridors

2014 Peers' Pick winner


Amber Ren - Once Upon A...


Tammy Chang - High Tea


Megan Ruiz - La Gemela


Jason Reicher - Hotdog


Madeline Sharafian - Acorn


Kari Casady - Nocturne


Simon Leclerc - boy

(not online)


Aron Bothman - Feast in a Fallen City


Sang Lee - Johnny & Berry



JK Ramsey - Man Scouts



Anna O'Brian - Good Morning

(not online)


Xiya Lan - Cocoon



Ingo Raschka - Deep Squeeze



Charles Hodgkins - The Pitch



John Kim - Steadfast Stanley



Seth Boyden - Abduckted!



Toniko Pantoja - tiny nomad



Tony Unser - Sleep



Yon Hui Lee - Derailed



Seth Boyden - Hoof It



Gabriel Lin - The Best Toy



Matthew Yang - Nada Doctor



You can check out more of our films on our on our 2014 Vimeo channel. Currently, there are 109 posted, so that should keep you busy for awhile.


Update, May 9th


Well, the Producers' Show also went off without a hitch. The new DCP looked great, the sound was excellent, the films were a hit, and we fully packed out the 600 seat theater. It was kind of a bittersweet evening though, since the Leonard H. Goldenson theater has been our "home" for the show for most of the past 20 years, and this will be our last one there - ever.


The reason being, is the Television Academy is planning to tear down the building, and build an entirely new theater. In a way, this is a good thing, because the old theater was getting a bit run down (broken seats, worn carpet, desperately needed paint job), and the rest of the facilities within the building needed some expansion and upgrading. But sad because of the familiarity and relationship we've had with the place. Plus, we don't know if the people we've met and befriended who work there will be part of the new theater when it reopens (whenever that happens is anyone's guess). Where we'll be next year is still unknown.


So before we left for the last time, and after everyone had cleared out, I took a few photos. This one, shot with 360 Panorama, gives probably the best look at the place.




I'm guessing they'll keep the statues.


As for me - I took Friday off and spent most of the day catching up on sleep. This time of year is mentally and physically exhausting. But it only happens once a year, so I've got eleven months to plan for the next one.


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Oooh! I was going to ask if there was a playlist or similar in Vimeo so I don't have to search for each individually. Hopefully I can get my Apple TV to find & handle the Vimeo channel.

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I was able to find some of them on my Apple TV a few days ago, but it didn't seem to load the whole channel. Even then, there's no specific channel just for the Producers' Show, so you'd have to do some sifting. We'd like it if there were a way to tag those films within the channel, but we've been too busy the last few days to look into it.


We don't actually post the films - the students do - so it may work better to search by their names.

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Added an update about the Producers' Show, and two more films - the Show Opening, and Aron Bothman's Feast in a Fallen City.


I also noted the Walter and Gracie Lantz Animation Prize and Peers' Pick award winners, which I couldn't do prior to the show, since we like to keep that stuff secret until the day of the show (not that anyone from work ever reads this blog).

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So, in an attempt to suck up big-time recognition of his outstanding achievements, CalArts gave John Lasseter an honorary Doctorate of the Arts.


I think "The Dr. John Lasseter Animation Building" has a nice ring to it, don't you think?


Fork over the dough, Cars-boy.


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