RITC Exclusive

Interview with some of the crew from This One Is On Us, producers of the fan-created NIN release Another Verion of The Truth

The TOIOU Staff: Alex G. (Torgo) - Producer | Shreena S. - Producer | ASH512 - Video Editor | Clive H. - Website Design | Aaron S. - Audio Editor

RITC: First off, I would like to congratulate your team of editors and creative minds that worked on this project. It certainly was a difficult challenge throughout the whole process of making the film itself. There has been worldwide publicity on the project (from Rolling Stone, NIN official, hundreds of music sites and local radio stations); that's got to feel awesome after the year of work that was put into the project.

How does it feel to be done?
ASH512: It's always great to know people are enjoying it and to see some mainstream medias covering it is just surreal. Also, having the band covering the release on Twitter is, needless to say, an honor. To be honest, making AVOTT was a long, hard, often frustating process but to read people's comments makes it all worthwhile.

Shreena: A difficult challenge is perhaps the right phrase to use. The whole process was a huge learning curve for all of us, and looking back a very fulfilling one. There have been times when each one of us has felt like giving up, but some kind of group momentum has kept us going, which I am as proud of as the finished film. The kind of media attention we're receiving is completely unexpected, but welcome icing on top of the positive reaction from our peers in the community. It's also great that this is reflecting well on the band.

Clive: I won't feel that we're "done" until the end of February. And even then, we might see how far we can push things. On the one hand, it would be interesting to see how far we can take this project in terms of trying to do things that haven't been done before but, on the other hand, there would be a lot of legal crap to deal with if we did. The legal gray area is one that needs attacking, but maybe not by us.

Alex: I still feel a bit numb from release - like it hasn't happened. Right now, the google group is still processing information about Vegas and Blu-Ray and the Bonus DVD... it still feels like a never ending process of running up a hill. I don't think I'll feel less stressed or more elated until the rest of this sucker is out. FEBRUARY WHERE ARE YOU?

What was the most difficult part about getting this whole thing organized? What were some of the things the group had to go through during the whole editing process?
ASH512: Without a doubt the most difficult thing was dealing with so many people scattered all across the globe and having to cope with everybody's personal lives getting in the way or technical problems and whatnot. On TDS:Live for example, the team was much smaller (three people really, one for editing and DVD production, one for sound and one for color correction) and it came out much faster even though the amount of work for each individual was much bigger. As a result though, I think The Gift is definitely coming off as a better product, more thought out and perfected.
The biggest problem we had to deal originally was shipping the HDD to all six editors from USA to Quebec, to Europe, to Australia and back to the US. This alone took a few months. Than when working on Vegas, Alex who edited the first half, had to deal with constant computer problems which slowed things down a lot. We also had many issues with Color Correction, most of which we've discussed throughly on message boards.
The actual editing process was quite tedious in itself. Every editor had to submit a first draft, which were invariably torn to pieces by Sa_nick and I, both head editors. We commented back and forth each successive drafts until they reached a point where every possibilities had been tried and it could only work in that specific way. Some people wouldn't even believe how much thought went into perfecting every single cut down to exact timecodes, making sure every song were edited according to the music's rhythm whilst making all visuals clearly visible at all times... We manipulated images quite a lot to make sure everything flowed as best as possible, including flipping shots vertically, re-creating shots with compositing and a bunch of other tricks you can't even imagine. Needless to say, The Gift is the most thought out NIN editing project ever.

Shreena: From a management persective, the toughest thing was getting people to communicate effectively. The fact that we were all working remotely didn't help that, as we only had emails to rely on (although on the positive side, this meant that every decision was well-documented, and there were several concrete reference points). Also, the files we were dealing with were huge - transfers of up to 75GB could take days to get on and off of FTP servers, and shipping HDDs across the world weren't any more efficient. Add that to exploding computers, temperamental programs, work and family commitments, and the fact that none of us had quite done something like this before - we were running on love rather than expertise - and even the most detailed project timeline (I think I have 5 or 6 different versions now?) can't be set in stone. People like Ash, Nick, and Matt were fantastic at keeping tabs on the technical criteria for all the files, which meant I could focus on moving the process forward, by continually checking up on all the teams and spying on our directors over at ETS and nin.com.

Clive: Definitely the transporting of Gb of data around the globe, and people pushing their hardware to breaking point. Many a frustrating week was spent waiting for X to get delivered to Y - whether by mail or FTP. The sheer size of the files concerned was mind boggling.

Alex: As a whole, I think the most difficult part of the process was being so far away from each other and living such different lives with intervening schedules/lifestyles. An extreme example of this was when I had to somehow give my footage to ASH, who lives in Quebec, so he could help with the Vegas edit (because my PC was - literally - shitting itself). I remember biking by my friends on the way to the tech store (who were lounging on the grass, drinking), and I got the strangest expressions from them when I told them I had to go buy a hard drive and send it to Quebec. What got even stranger looks was when I asked if they knew that there were different plugs in Quebec and if the US system for power was the same. After sending that (and finding out that Quebec DOES use the same outlets), ASH didn't get the HDD for another week and a half or so until he could finally look at the footage and make something pretty out of it. For ME - the hardest part of this whole process was working on a dying laptop to try and finish my edits. In essence, I've been dreaming of doing this for a whole year (and yes, to that same exact Geto Boys song). The first time I finished a five song edit was in May (or was it March?) and guess what happened? My laptop crapped out and never turned back on until I had someone from my sorority look at it and reboot my system. I lost that edit and began it again. From that point, I slowly started editing from that laptop, receiving the blue screen of death daily and overheating my computer - which I had to build a cooling system for out of candle sticks and blankets. And just when I thought I would finish with everything, my motherboard exploded with two songs left to edit. Figures, right? I transferred my edits to my home computer and had to finish editing/correcting those files by reversing my sleep pattern to have access to the computer when other people weren't using it during the day for work. To say the least, it was a blast (as, I'm sure, you can imagine) - but it's all definitely worth it in the end.

Nine Inch Nails: In This Twilight
In This Twilight: The last song performed on the LITS Tour, Las Vegas

Now that AVOTT is complete will there be any more projects out of the TOIOU camp?
Shreena: Nothing's being planned with this specific group of people, but I've always maintained that TOIOU is not just the people you see at the end of the AVOTT credits, it's anyone with the impetus to start a project like this. We are already supporting several projects outside of AVOTT, including After All is Said and Done by synthetikz's team, and I am certainly happy to write about and retweet any projects that come to my attention. There is a huge database of editors and designers as a result of this project, and huge potential for many more projects to come.

Clive: I've briefly discussed with Shreena and Alex about what we could do with the site. We've made a LOT of mistakes throughout the lifetime of this project, and it would be a shame for that experience to go to waste.
Personally, I'd like to write up a guide to running a project such as this, taking input from everyone who's contributed, detailing what we did right (finding the right people, promotion, project management - with HUGE thanks to Shreena on that one), and also exploring what we tried that failed (pure democracy in the original votes was a big mistake - the original artwork winner was basically a "Ghosts" cover, and the original title winner was something incredibly predictable). Much as we wanted to allow as many people to contribute as possible, none of us wanted to be associated with output that we didn't feel represented what we were trying to achieve. In the end though, we worked it out. When Brent's cover won, it was a great focusing point for us. Branding is important, and I think that we made the right decision in censoring the votes to create a feel that we felt represented our work well. And besides, it really lent itself to really cool DVD menus :)
I think it would be great to template the website setup for other bands to use - and maybe even work with record companies so that this can be done with no legal issues for the fans concerned. In my head I have ideas on how we could bridge the gap between torrenters and the rights holders, but I'm not optimistic that any of the record companies have the vision to take this to the next level. I'd love to be wrong about that one though! A record company asking fans to film a show, helping them edit it to a final product, releasing a free torrent and "limited edition" DVD/Blu Ray sets would be a real win for moving the industry forward. Heh, yeah right...

Alex: Well, around release - we're hoping to help people set up their own screenings of the DVD in their area. Right now, I'm working on helping to set up a BIG screening in Los Angeles, with the possibility of a Q & A with two of the TOIOU crew and maybe a party afterward. However - after that - I think that TOIOU will become a vessel for other enterprising NIN fans who want to create something or share something with the community. We're definitely looking forward to just sitting back and helping other people get out the word for their creations - like how we've been advertising the Wiltern Project (which I've been a bit involved with and might be editing for in the long run - but that's a different story). And as Clive has mentioned, if there are any other crazy/nerdy music fanbases out there, we can definitely offer to help as a learning tool for artists and fan groups who want to approach this kind of fan product/rapport.

Thank you to everyone who took time to be interviewed. You gave some very thought out answers to the questions and I hope to see more out of TOIOU's staff!