The Future of Film Curation by Lucas McNelly

All photos by Sean Hackett

Way back in May of 2009 when we embarked on a quest to shoot and edit a feature film in 2 weeks, one of my crazy goals was to screen it in Los Angeles. It was a stupid and unnecessary goal, but a goal nonetheless. Things like that keep me motivated.

No one ever really thought it would happen.

So when David and Karen at Film Courage called me to propose a screening of BLANC DE BLANC as kind of a hybrid event to test out a VOD release, I was all for it. And it didn’t hurt that I was heading to Los Angeles anyway.

The original thought was that we might be able to get 5 or 6 people in a room to watch the movie, and we’d live stream that across the internet to interested parties around the world. We never really thought of it as a “Hey, LA. Come see a movie.” That’s why we were kind of thrown when people none of us knew started asking if they could come.

Around that point, I started to get nervous. It’s one thing to show a film to friends, but people you don’t know? That’s a different story. We had something like 35 people there, which was way beyond our expectations, especially since we didn’t really try and get anyone there other than the panelists.

We did an introduction, which is archived.

And then a Q&A for BLANC (spoiler alert!), and 2 panels that pretty much were an all-star collection of indie film talent.

The audience seemed to respond well to the film, which is fantastic. From downstairs I heard some laughter at (I hope) the right places. The consensus was mostly positive. We even had someone figure it out, which makes 8 people total. It wasn’t the woman pictured. She had a different theory entirely.

But how did the VOD work? Is it ready for prime time?

Sort of.

I’ve heard of zero issues from the Dynamo player, which is where most of our rentals have come from over the life of the VOD availability.

But a couple of people who rented via Distrify had some major issues. Twitter peep (and lender of couch) @LordBronco couldn’t get it to play. And, he took super helpful notes, which I’ll quote below:

I’m on a Lan-Wired, stable DSL connection that up/downloads at 1.5 megs a second-stably tested via repetaed gaming hours. I am on Windows Ultimate 7 using Firefox 5.0 with the newest Adobe Flash plugin installed. Flash does crash the main film courage site-but for most of this timeline I did not have even tweetdeck running in background.

To be quick, there is no pause function in a paid environment, with issues about even a single screening.

*update* I was allowed to compare the download of the same high res material on Vimeo. So to be clear, I will point out that that download took approxinately 3 or 4 hours all told, running in the back ground while I was able to do other stuff.

That’s the short version. Basically, he could get it to play in bursts, but without the ability to pause the video and let it fully buffer, there wasn’t a whole lot he could do. But, when it worked, it looked fantastic.

Then, I got an email from Peter over at Distrify (who I keep meaning to try and record a Skype call with):

the original video was uploaded at too high a bitrate - this was when we were still allowing user-specified settings for streaming. We recently changed our setup to support full dynamic bitrate switching so streaming is automatically optimised for the user’s connection, something not offered by any of our competitors.Â

However, the Blanc de Blanc video needed to be re-encoded into our 5 quality versions to take advantage of this feature.

I’m not super tech-savvy on bit rates and all that, so I’ll just say that the film was compressed in Compressor using the basic YouTube settings, and the same version is in three different places. It’s now been re-encoded, and I haven’t heard of any more problems, so until I hear differently, I’ll assume everything is all good.

If you had problems with the original encoding, it’s my understanding that you can just re-start the video in the player below and you should be ok. But, of course, let me know if it isn’t.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.