Oy To The World!

This Christmas we were presented with one of the most fun challenges ever: to work with Mel Brooks on a project called “Oy To The World”, an entire day’s worth of promos to air alongside a marathon of Mel’s films on Sundance Channel.

 

We at Good Engine grew up on Mel Brooks.  Alex’s first western was “Blazing Saddles.”  Andy memorized the Spanish Inquisition showtune, from “History Of The World, Part 1” before he knew what the words meant. So this project was a dream come true.

We spent an afternoon interviewing Mel in his Culver City offices. Undiminished at 87, he recalled decades of stories from his life and films. He redacted no embarrassing moments, and spared no one from friendly humiliation.

Afterwards, we rushed back to begin the edit. The deliverables list called for a whopping 70 videos, each ranging from 15 seconds to 2 minutes, which had to be prepped, edited, revised, and delivered within the week. In terms of post-production scale, this was one of the biggest projects, and shortest timetables, that we had ever worked with. So the edit team had two challenges facing us: one technical, and one creative.

The technical challenge was multi-layered. First, the media was shot on two cameras in 4K resolution, which would allow us to simulate four separate camera angles but which would also introduce issues during the conform process. On top of that, owing to the tight schedule, we would have to complete the online edits, color corrected and sound mixed, within a day of having the content approved by the client. For these reasons, we decided to create a custom workflow.

4K is still a new-enough technology that Avid can’t properly handle it at full raster size, so we decided to down-convert to 1080p in order to get me editing right away. Meanwhile, we sent the camera files to our Resolve colorist to create finalized grades for the two different setups. This is similar to applying a LUT to dailies, except that it required our colorist to take time perfecting each setup, so that after picture lock we could rapidly apply his master grades and send straight to air. Call it a “weekly”, as opposed to a “daily”.

Having largely solved this technical challenge, it was time to move to the creative challenge: how to script a massive and diverse list of promos, and then craft funny, entertaining, and concise pieces from a largely off-the-cuff interview. What’s more, because “Oy To The World” would be promoting and referencing Mel’s movies, we also had to watch and script them as B-roll and sound-up elements in our own pieces. There were no tricks or shortcuts here, just a lot of elbow grease and quick-footed creativity to mix and match Mel’s bites with film bites for maximum comedic effect.

And it worked! 7 days, 48 cups of coffee, and several trillion CPU cycles later, we had finalized all 70 videos and delivered for air. Even better, it was a hit with the client, and we got to work with Mel Brooks! If that was a challenge, then keep ‘em coming.