The new Cobb

July 15th, 2008

We just returned from a wonderful trip to Billings. We were invited to show the documentary on the scoreboard of the new stadium, Dehler Park, during the open house for the facility. It seemed so fitting to see the characters and the images of the old park on the scoreboard as people explored the field that took its place.

It feels great to have the film completed, but there’s still alot to do, a lot of decisions to make. We’ll have to decide how to distribute the show across the country, and when that should happen. We’ll also be looking at several film festivals and determing our plan for that sort of thing.

There’s also the possibility of special screenings at various places. I’ll be sure to write about those in the blog so that you know what’s happening.

If you don’t have a copy of the film yet, get your order in! Cobb Field: a day at the ballpark is definitely a celebration of what is right and good about baseball.

We’re finally done!

June 23rd, 2008

Once again, my apologies to those of you who are so faithful in keeping track of the project through this blog. I guess I’ve been so focused on finishing that I’ve neglected to keep you up to date.

We traveled to St. Louis and Technisonics Studios for color correction and final preparation on June 2nd. That was the last of the post production steps needed to finish the project.

DVD authoring took place the same day, led by Joe Fatheree, and we approved everything later that week.

Patrick Sheehan, our art director, finished his incredible poster and dvd design work during that week, and we moved into the replication phase.

The DVD replication is being handled by our long time partners at Venigraphics. The finished dvd’s should make their way to Billings for a premiere next weekend.

It’s been a long, complicated process, but it feels great to be done and Joe and I are both thrilled with the finished product. I can’t wait to share it with the good people of Billings next weekend.

finally something new!!!

April 25th, 2008

I finally have something new to report. Since the last post, it’s just been slogging through minute little fixes, preparing things for the dvd, waiting for licenses, waiting for archival material, making sure all the proper releases are in place-stuff like that. Not too exciting.

Tomorrow we leave for Nashville, where we’ll record parts of the musical score. We’ll be recording at Studio 515, a terrific place with wonderful staff members. Our musicians are all ready to go (more about them later) and we’re set with all the details. It promises to be quite a session.

Joe and I are taking three students from our multimedia class, and I know they’ll learn a lot while they’re in the studio. They’ll also be shooting footage that we can put together for a behind the scenes look at the music.

We’re still on track for a late June rollout in Billings, Montana. Lots to do yet, but it’s going to be a fantastic documentary.

finally something new!!!

April 25th, 2008

I finally have something new to report. Since the last post, it’s just been slogging through minute little fixes, preparing things for the dvd, waiting for licenses, waiting for archival material, making sure all the proper releases are in place-stuff like that. Not too exciting.

Tomorrow we leave for Nashville, where we’ll record parts of the musical score. We’ll be recording at Studio 515, a terrific place with wonderful staff members. Our musicians are all ready to go (more about them later) and we’re set with all the details. It promises to be quite a session.

Joe and I are taking three students from our multimedia class, and I know they’ll learn a lot while they’re in the studio. They’ll also be shooting footage that we can put together for a behind the scenes look at the music.

We’re still on track for a late June rollout in Billings, Montana. Lots to do yet, but it’s going to be a fantastic documentary.

Another big step

February 23rd, 2008

Just finished writing the music for Cobb Field. That’s a huge step. It’s the hardest part for me-I’m not sure why. I did things a bit differently this time. I usually put in temporary stuff while I’m editing, stuff from other shows we’ve done. Once all the editing is done, I start from scratch on the music.

This time I wrote sketches as we went along. Probably 80% of the music was at least thought out by the time the editing was complete, so that made the composing process a lot easier. Tell you what, though, by the time I wrote the last cue on Monday, I felt just about dried up. The last one was only about a minute long, but it was a chore.

I met with Gregg Lohman, a former student and tremendous musician, and he and his band mates are all ready to record the score in Nashville. They all play for the country singer Kellie Pickler, so we’ll have to work around their touring schedule.

The process by which we’ll cut the tracks is amazing to me. When I first started working in recording studios, everything was done on tape, the reverb was a spring unit in a tiled bathroom, and we constantly had to make decisions about combining things so that we didn’t exceed the number of tracks we had available.

Now, I’ll do what’s called “bouncing”, exporting tracks from my computer to a program called ProTools. I’ll take those files to Nashville on a cd, we’ll import them into their computer, and the guys will play along. We’ll bring the tracks back here to do the mixing. It’s just amazing to me that we’re no longer limited to a certain number of tracks, that reverb is a software plug in that’s available on any sort of computer, and the whole software package can be had for less than $500. Twenty years ago the stuff you get for that would have cost well over $100,000.

We’re also working on making sure we have all the proper paperwork for the documentary. We have to have signed releases for everyone who speaks in the show, releases for every photograph and bit of archival footage, licenses from MLB, MiLB, the NBA, and who knows else. Thank heavens we have a wonderful attorney, Matt Earley. I don’t even understand what we’re asking for in those areas, so we’re very, very grateful to have someone like Matt to look out for us.

Rough Cut

January 27th, 2008

As of about 11:00 PM last evening, we officially have a rough cut! We’re less than 15 seconds off of our 56:46 PBS standard length, so a few little adjustments along the way and we’ll be good.

Monday of this past week saw the recording of the narration, and Jeff Lynch carried the day with just the right tone and attitude. His excellent suggestions, along with those from his delightful wife Stacia, have made this a very tight script. One of my favorite parts of this whole process, by the way, is both the finding of exactly the right voice, and then writing specifically for that voice.

In our last documentary, An Uphill Climb, a great friend of mine, Kevin Cranston, was the narrator. His voice was the glue that held the entire story together. We looked very seriously into having him repeat that role for this film, but in the end, his voice is just too young. Maybe next time.

As I watched the rough cut last night, I’m struck by how beautiful this film is visually. Hope that doesn’t sound too full of myself. I had three other camera people who shot for this documentary, and their work is a key part of the whole thing. I have not tired a bit of looking at the images that we shot in Montana. They’re just stunning. I’m very excited about sharing that look with the rest of the country.

Next up is the addition of the 14 or so seconds to make the show the right length. By the end of the week I’ll be hip deep in writing the music. That will be another large undertaking. My goal is to have that process complete by sometime early March so that musicians and studio time in Nashville can be scheduled.

This music score will be quite a bit different from what I’ve done so far. Different musicians, music that will demand better performance skills than I have myself, and a studio I’ve never worked in before. Exciting.

Lots of progress

January 8th, 2008

It’s been nearly a month since I last wrote, but lots has happened. Except for a very important chapter on the history of the Mustangs, we have a rough cut! We’re very happy with the way most of the documentary flows, and very happy with the test viewings we’ve had.

We’ve employed a split screen of sorts during a healthy portion of the film, and that helps both with pacing and our desire to use as much of the great footage as we can. It’s a lot more work editing, though-when you’re using three or four shots at a time it really adds to the time it takes to make sure everything is in the right place.

I had a meeting with Gregg Lohman recently, a good friend and Nashville musician. It looks like we’ll be recording most all the music in Nashville, with musicians who are cohorts of Gregg. I’m really looking forward to both the experience and the resulting music. Should be fantastic.

Matt Passalacqua, a rising country singer, has also agreed to allow his music to participate, and I couldn’t be more excited about that. He’s a great guy, a fantastic musician, and a wonderful writer.

It’s been suggested to me that this is the perfect time for a documentary like this one. With so many clouds hanging over baseball, it should be a real breath of fresh air to see something that celebrates the essence of baseball. When you think about it, baseball is about family, it’s about sights and sounds, it’s about dreams, and it’s about a game that invites deep thought. I agree-this is a time that we should all be reminded why we love baseball, and I can’t think of a better illustration of that than Cobb Field and the good people of Billings, Montana.

This film will be unashamedly positive, and will be unapologetic in its warmth and enjoyment of the minor league baseball experience. We’re not denying the problems elsewhere in baseball, we’re just focusing on what is right and good about the great American past time.

Half way to a rough cut

December 10th, 2007

We’re a bit over half way to having a rough cut. Our goal is to have the whole show roughly laid out by the end of the year. The last two remaining sections are the stadium’s history and the actual game.

The game is the most complex part of the documentary. When we were filming in Billings, I really thought the game was sort of an afterthought to everything that went on during the day. As we edit, it has become clear that the game is more the apex of the day’s activities. The game, after all, is the point.

I’m going to be doing some test editing in the next few days, looking for a visual style for the game’s part of the show. There is a lot of stuff to cover, and we’re thinking about using a split screen style to get more things involved. Our worry is that it might be too much information at one time. We’ll see.

There is a section of the opening narration that goes something like this:

“If this old ball park could talk, it would say this day brings with it the promise of something good, something wonderful. This day brings with it the possibilities of everything that is right and good about baseball.”

It occurs to me, as I spend hour after hour with the footage we shot in Billings, that baseball represents a great deal of what is right and good about life. Baseball, at it’s best, is about family, and time, and friendly debates, and togetherness. It’s about sights and smells that never fade, no matter how long ago they were experienced. That’s a lot of what’s right and good about life, you know?

If we can capture that spirit we’ll do just fine.

New direction

November 18th, 2007

After rough editing about half of the film, we’ve decided on a new direction. I just wasn’t sure that the pieces we were working on would fit together correctly, and some of the feedback we received confirmed that. We’ve decided to let the narration be the voice of the stadium itself. So much more of the story makes sense now. It means mostly trashing all the editing we’ve done up to this point, but it will be worth it.

When you think about it, who better to tell the story? The stadium is the hub for all the spokes of the story, and the stadium is the one piece of the whole puzzle that touches all the others.

I’ve also been working on some music sketches, and have three or four that I feel confident will end up in the finished show.

This phase of post production is the most difficult, by the way. It doesn’t feel like the busiest, because it’s the only part of the whole project that takes place in one location. Later on, when trips to the recording studio and post house mount up-that will feel the busiest. This is the toughest, though, because all of the decisions that will determine the content of the show are taking place. After more than a year of working on the show, it’s easy to feel too close to the whole thing.

I did some composing yesterday, and found in my sketchbook a theme that I wrote a year ago to the day. That theme will make the show for sure. It’s nice to see something from that far back that still fits. A documentary like this is such an organic endeavor-one that changes constantly as new ideas pop up-so it’s unusual for things to survive that long.

A bit at a time

October 21st, 2007

Now that the official editing has begun, things will move along rather quickly for just a while. I have all or parts of 8 of the 17 “chapters” roughed out, so we’re beginning to see the show take shape. There will definitely be two distinct types of these chapters. Some, which will feataure poetry, will have a beautiful and elegant style, both in word and in image. The other chapters capture more of the moment to moment action in the stadium, and they’ll have a more conversational style, which will complement the images.

I chatted with Gregg Lohman, a former student of mine, the other day. He is a professional musician in Nashville, and we talked about a couple of music cues I have in mind. Gregg’s a great guy, and he and his buddies are ready to contribute to the score, along with the regular cast of great musicians who always breathe life into the notes that we give them.