Suddenly, out of the blue, another email came through telling me they wanted a special effects company in L.A. to do all the gun muzzle flash effects. Apparently, my attempt looked too cartoonish. The effects company requested that I send over uncompressed QuickTime files so they could start working on them. What I couldn't believe was that they were wanting to composite the new effects onto the video I sent over, and not just send the files as an alpha channel.
Sending video footage over the internet and importing it in and out of different editing software always comes back slightly different by the time it makes its way back to the original source.
Having a rendered alpha channel of the effects made more sense, I could simply lay the effect over the original footage, solving any transfer problem. And, unbelievably, this seemed something impossible to do for a L.A based effects company.
I made sure I made my feeling clear on this matter over email, and was assured it would be fine. Low and behold, the footage came back looking slightly different, the whites in the background detail were completely different and blown out. I couldn't believe it.
With no time to get the effects corrected, I had to edit them in. The only thing that didn't make it a disaster was the fact that the muzzle flashes only lasted for two frames at a time, so the complete change in color correction was disguised by the brightness of the gun flash.
What made this whole effects process even more laughable was the fact that the L.A effects company had used the exact same muzzle flashes I had originally used. I kid you not, the only difference was a very slight glow to light up the actor's face.
I had gotten away with it this time, but I couldn't help but feel worried about what they were going to do with the 5.1 mix.
It was while fighting it out with the grade and new gun muzzle flashes that I received an alarming email. Our sales agents had decided to send the audio mix to a small company in the Philippines to do the 5.1 mix. I found this absolutely baffling. I know it was probably cheaper to do this, but surely being situated in the film capital of the world, they could find someone to do it better in L.A.
So, the audio mix went off to the Philippines, and soon the mix was back in L.A. getting ready for the quality control report. The QC report is the film industry's way of keeping a high standard in visual and audio before it hits the shop shelves. I was informed that it was a very tough test and only a perfect audio mix would make it through. Without this QC pass, a distributor would not buy your film, regardless of how amazing it looked.
The results came back, and it was what looked like a terrible fail. The report highlighted things like an extra in the background placing down a drink with no sound effect, or a slightly distorted line spoken by an actor. This meant that I needed to go back into the edit and fix the problems straight away. So, I informed the audio company in the Philippines that I was going to have to make some further changes and give them the updated audio stems again once I had corrected the problems.
A few days into fixing the problems, I received an email from our sales agent informing us that they had received the master 5.1 mix and they were going to send it out again for another QC report. At this point, I didn't have a clue what was going on. I was sitting in front of my editing suite, still correcting the fixes from the first report, and I couldn't believe it was possible for them to have another 5.1 mix ready for another test.
I emailed my sales agent to inform them that I was still working on the fixes and hadn't sent the Philippine's company anything yet. This seemed to be news to my sales agent, who couldn't quite understand it. If the audio hadn't been fixed, what were they sending off for review?
After a few emails back and forth, I decided to cut out the middle man and contact the Philippines Company myself. It turned out they had just decided to master it regardless of whether it passed, so they could bill for their money. After a couple of very heated emails back and forth, the sound mixers slowly realized they were going to have to do the mix from scratch, which you can imagine didn't go down very well.
A couple of weeks later, a new 5.1 mix was sent out for review. This time, the list of faults was three times longer than the original one. As I sat there trying to make sense of it all, I was kindly reminded that the deadline for the American Film Market was fast approaching. As I sat at my Avid editing suite, matching up the time codes with the faults marked down, it suddenly dawned on me that none of the faults were actually to do with my mix. They were all problems with the actual 5.1.
The report stated that the mix supplied was all over the place, with certain sounds coming out of some speaker channels while other parts of the film were completely missing on the others. There was nothing wrong with my mix; I had fixed the other problems. The blame lay with what the guys in the Philippines had done with the 5.1 creation; it was a disaster.
I informed our sales agent that it was in fact the 5.1 creation that was failing and that it had nothing to do with my originally fixed audio mix. Our sales agent's solution to this was to hand over the 5.1 mix to someone who did sound mixing favors for $200. As soon as I heard this, I knew I was going to have problems with the sound all the way up until the film's premiere.
The film premiered at the American Film Market and sold to a respected U.K distributor. I was happy with the news but even happier that Germany and the U.S had expressed interest. For anyone who doesn't know how this works, it all apparently starts at the big film festival, where interested distributors from countries around the world buy up the rights to exclusively distribute the film in their own country, or what the film world refers to as territory.
One funny thing worth mentioning is that the poster for "Herbals" won an award for the most silly film title. The movie also got a mention in the Hollywood Reporter and the famous magazine Variety. The international coverage came as a welcome shock, and we were all excited about the film's future.
"Attack of the Herbals" had its first official territory sold, and it just happened to be the UK. This meant that within the next couple of months, I would see the film available on VOD and direct to DVD nationally. It was a strange feeling finding out that the film was going to be hitting UK shops and that I'd be able to walk into HMV and buy it over the counter. All we had to do now was count down the days to the release and hope that the film sold at the next big festival, which was in Berlin.