AKA: The Stupidest Request to Make in Post Production and How to Avoid It.
First let me clarify a thing or two. I do not like to make people look foolish, I understand that no one can know everything and that is why we have experts. Television has always been an inherently complex subject and with the recent addition of numerous HD formats and Internet video things have become even more confusing. One of the joys of working in a technical role at a TV post house is helping people out with their technical issues – there’s a great deal of satisfaction to be had from helping somebody work though a problem and come to a successful solution.
The thing is if you want advise you have to ask. Don’t try and bluff your way through it. It won’t work. Equally don’t get angry with me because I’m asking you questions you don’t know the answer to – that’s not really my fault is it now?
So here is a typical example of a conversation I’ve had on too many occasions and why a little bit of knowledge goes a long way.
Me: Hello, how can I help?
Client: We’ve been editing a programme with you and we need to create a QuickTime of it.
Me: Certainly, what specification of QuickTime do you require?
Client: [Pauses] Oh, the usual type.
Me: Well, there are many, many variations of what a QuickTime file can contain, I really do need more details.
Client: Well just do what you usually do…
Me: Yes, unfortunately there is no “usual” I’m afraid.
Client: Look, are you going to make me a QuickTime or what?
I think what we need here is an analogy. I’ve recreated the above scene in a more common and friendly environment: A restaurant.
Me: Hello, how can I help?
Client: I’d like some food please.
Me: Certainly, what would you like?
Client: Oh err, the usual type?
Me: Right, well, we do have a wide ranging menu here perhaps you’d like to pick something specific?
Client: Well, just give me what you usual serve.
Me: Hmmm, well, so you actually want me to guess what you want?
Me: ..and presumably when I guess wrong you’re going to be happy to pay again if you don’t like what I’ve picked for you?
Client: Certainly not, you’re supposed to guess correctly on my behalf.
You see, now we’ve left techno-babble television and it’s starting to make more sense isn’t it.
You wouldn’t demand a “book” from a bookshop or a “CD” from a music shop, you need to be more specific – unless you’re looking for a recommendation that is.
QuickTime is a container – remember that word and you’ll impress the hell out of anyone who has to deal with all this nonsense on a day to day basis. Let’s just define that:
Container: A receptacle for holding other objects.
A biscuit tin is a good example. Asking for a biscuit tin when you want a hob knob would be a bad idea I think. Equally you may end up with a biscuit tin full of Jammy Dodgers – I cannot imagine anything worse.
Our container has two things in it usually – audio and video. A brief peruse of the Internet indicates that the following number of audio and video biscuit flavours are available:
Common Audio Codecs: 22
Common Video Codecs: 44
Additionally our biscuits are available in various sizes:
Common TV image sizes: 10
TOTAL POSSIBLE NUMBER OF VARIATIONS: 22x44x10 = 9680
Remember then, next time you ask for a “QuickTime” you’re expecting me to guess from one of those 9680 possibilities. Not very good odds, I’m sure you’d agree.