I suppose staying up late, even very late, wasn't all that big a deal when I was in college either. I remember musing about some trivial subject matter, telling jokes, or playing penny-ante poker until early in the morning. And sure, there was the occasional very late night spent writing a paper and the obligatory parties, beer, and something called Wapatui, too, as well as some nights that might well have ended better sooner. But heck, what's college for if not being extreme and passionate about just about everything, doing things that haven't been done before, and being practical only when it helps those other things?
Still, "extreme" has limits doesn't it? You can't, for example, rush inspiration or the creative genius, can you? It's not possible to conceive of and make a movie in just two days, 48 hours from start to finish, script to screening. The production headaches, computer editing hang-ups, and publishing hardships alone would take longer, even if the flesh was willing, wouldn't they?
Today's digital studio technology certainly is good and fast, but it can't provide that idyllic and automatic Crocesque link between the creative inspiration and the finished product. But maybe it's starting to come close.
Project 2880 started as a typical shameless, self-interested promotion ploy for Pioneer's next generation DVR-AO5 DVD-R/RW burner, burning twice as fast (4X DVD-R, 2X DVD-RW, 16X CD-R, and 8X CD-RW) as the previous version, and now supporting editing on disc (think of editing out commercials). How does a marketer show "fast"? Do something faster than humanly possible. Or better yet, have someone else do it for you.
Perhaps it was some aging post-collegiate envy, or maybe some dark and devilish marketing glee, that schemed to play college enthusiasm for all it was worth in the name of promoting the A05. But somewhere Pioneer came up with the outlandish idea of extreme filmmaking and getting a few bright-eyed students to stay awake longer than they should for the sake of art and the possibility of a $10,000 grant ($5,000 for 2nd and 3rd place).
But in 2880 minutes (48 hours), nine groups of college film students took Pioneer's challenge and turned Pioneer's show into proof positive that fresh ideas and powerful technology, along with the energy of youth, know little about limits and a lot about rising to a creative challenge. And in the end, all nine seemed to turn the marketers at Pioneer into independent film buffs.
Each school was given a different single-paragraph scenario, created by Hollywood writer/director, Pete Jones of HBO's Project Greenlight. The goal was simple enough: read the scenario and create from it a script for an up to 10-minute short, shoot the footage, edit it into a finished short movie, then burn it to DVD disc, all in less than 2880 minutes.
OK, so the concept was simple, but what of the execution? What of practical things like sleeping, eating, and studying for finals? And, how does art emerge when there's not enough time for logistics, let alone creativity? Oh, to be young again…
The winners, Sloane Korach and Tony West of Florida State, opened their scenario envelope at 12:30 a.m. with the plan of writing their script, identifying shooting locations, and planning production through the night and starting shooting in the morning. In other words, potentially wasting seven hours of shooting time.
In hindsight, Korach credits this very logical pre-planning and fresh morning start for the rest of the eight-person crew of actors and technicians as what made their winning movie, Ripples, come together so well in such a short time. That's where being practical augments the extreme and the passion.
A single Sony DCR-TRV30 MiniDV camcorder was all that was needed for production the next morning, and editing on an Avid Xpress DV system started almost right away after that as the first few screens rolled in from the field. From there, shooting, editing, and compositing in After Effects were intertwined with common goal and common vision for the next 40 hours or so, with, I'm told, actors, camera operators, and editors independently fitting in time for other work, eating, and even some sleeping.
So where does the Pioneer DVR-AO5 fit into this whole Extreme Filmmaking picture?
"Pioneer's drive worked great and I'd like to have spent more time working on the authoring part," said Sloane Korach at the end of a phone interview in a dutifully polite, last-minute plug for Pioneer.
But no need, Sloane. By allowing you to burn your finished movie to disc in the last ten of your waning 2880 minutes, when you were hungry and tired and extremed out, Pioneer promoted itself just fine. It was Pioneer that set the authoring world on an extreme path of its own two years ago with the first sub-$1000 burner, effectively starting the shift from authoring as an esoteric and very expensive discipline to the very approachable and affordable process it is today.
With the robust fifth-generation DVR-AO5 working faster and available for less than $300 on the street, the final publishing piece of the creative process, following a decade of digital editing advancements, and seven years of digital camcorders, has brought the digital video revolution full circle. It's no longer about pricey production, the exclusivity of editing studios, and the labyrinth of mastering and distributing. For thousands of creative people with ideas and talent, affordable and professional tools have made the digital studio an artist's paint palette and that's how it should be.
Of course, it doesn't hurt to be young, or at least to have youthful ideas, enthusiasm, and energy.