So, here I am, done with my job. Meaning that I can - sort of - talk about it. There are things that I can't say - disclosure agreements and all that, so the actual entity I worked for has to remain obscure - but I can talk about the industry, which is fun.
These past five years I've been managing a database and working as a liaison between film companies and pay-per-view. This means that I've previewed, for free, hundreds upon hundreds of movies, including a helluva lot of porn, since this also gets sold to clients. I've written about a million synopses, talked to studios, talked to the encoding houses that make it harder to rip the movies from DVDs or - in our case - from our system. I've had access to some swag from film companies (the posters are junk, all of them, film companies don't part with the good stuff), which has enabled me to expand my library somewhat. I've marketed and manipulated and run a lot of sales numbers and watched the whole distribution process - the same one a lot of you see from looking at the storefront - from the beginning to the end.
Whew. Am I sick of it.
I love movies. Not just recent movies, but all movies, right back into the silent era. I really hate it when a twenty-something's "all time" list extends back to when they were 14, with a few movies they remember their big brother or sister liking. To me, the IMDb list of the top 250 is total shit, based on a voting public that learned to punch a keyboard last decade. Of course there are films like Inception and Interstellar. And of course virtually every old movie on the list is replete with male toxic wannabeism. Because that is what most movies since the early 70s came to be about, once the Hays Code was - correctly - burned down.
Not that a lot of people rating movies have any idea what the Hays Code was.
However, I digress.
I wanted to explain about the industry I'm leaving. From the outside, it looks very lucrative. People have been talking about the 'changes' brought on by the explosion of streaming video, how it is revivified the industry and people's interest in movies. Daily we're hearing exciting news like Amazon hiring Woody Allen to write a television series and Sony or Lion's Gate talking about getting into the movie streaming business themselves. But let me reassure you - it is all public relations. In reality, the movie studios are running scared. In reality, the business itself has a very, very narrow profit margin.
Not because the public doesn't want to see movies. Not because the movies are bad. But because the industry is bankrupting themselves making it hard for you to steal the movies for free. A strategy they are failing at 100%.
Before a movie can be put on a streaming system for you to buy, that movie has to be encoded with what's called macrovision, sometime called DRM. This is a 'vertical blanking signal' or a 'colorstripe' that must be incorporated into the video so that someone who does not know what they're doing cannot simply copy the video. (Someone who does know what they're doing can bypass this easily). This is a process that has to be applied to every asset in the system. It is a very expensive process.
For an HD video - and mostly anything is HD nowadays - it is upwards of $15 or more per minute of film. This is money that must be spent ahead of time, before the film has an opportunity to make money . . . so the reader can guess that if the film doesn't make more than a certain amount, the company loses money. Does the studio cover that cost? No. They don't pay for the encoding at all. That's the responsibility of the streamer.
That's why, if you've wondered, you don't see hundreds or thousands of old movies on your preferred streaming system - there aren't enough people who will pay to see the film to make it worthwhile encoding. Particularly when you consider that everything has to be re-encoded every two or three years because the previous encoding has been hacked.
It's fine for a huge film like Frozen - but Frozen has to pay for every other film in the system, including a lot of films that never pay for themselves. And believe me, for every film that does really well like Frozen, there are three or four hundred films that utterly tank.
Why is it this way? Because the studios insist upon it. They would rather see their own product rot in a warehouse than risk letting it emerge without being coded.
Which brings us to the practical joke in all this. Being an encoding house - that is, being the company that adds the macrovision - sucks. It sucks hard. A lot of the time the re-coding just doesn't work. It results in stuttering, strange sounds, blocking, pixellation, reduction of sound, weird disruptions in synchronization, etcetera, etcetera. The list is a long one and all of it has to be compensated for. Sometimes the master received from the studio is old or poor in quality, or simply the wrong specifications for the encoding company (which is usually limited in what they can handle) - and there are problems that arise from low budget independent films that are 'special.' This means that occasionally the work has to be done over and over, all within a certain time frame as the studio has conniption fits if the video doesn't stream public on a specific day. Yes, the studios all get their cut from everything that shows - which undermines the profit margin still further.
How much help can you expect from the studios when these problems arrive? Oh, pretty much zip. Studio distribution must be a nightmare all its own, because people don't last in it more than a few years. Nothing ever happens fast; phone calls are not returned; 'corrected' masters turn out to be the same master that produced the original issue, contacts get petulant, contacts disappear for weeks at a time . . . let me assure the reader, it is all a lot of fun.
Should I be telling you this? Oh, probably not. There's a chance that someone might find this, but I doubt it. I don't think anyone at work knows how to use a search engine.
How do I know this? Well, it has a lot to do with piracy.
See, piracy does not exist. Well, okay, it exists, but it has nothing to do with us. Well, maybe it has something to do with us, but most people would rather pay for things. Well, maybe not most people, but a lot of people. At any rate, there's nothing we can do about it, so it's best not to acknowledge that it is exists. That is why it doesn't.
I have one story that I will tell. Could get me into trouble, but hey, life is a risk.
We received a copy of Gravity from the encoding house and the various testers and techies noticed there was something terribly, terribly wrong with the sound at the beginning of the movie. Now, if you actually know the film, you know that the sound at the beginning is purposefully raised from silence to comfort level very slowly. Naturally, by a large number of people who themselves watch perhaps one movie a week - and never in the theatre, as these are business people who work 14-16 hours a day - the sound at the beginning was presumed to be a GLITCH.
For three days, rather smugly I must admit, I watched a wave of emails crashing on the shore between the studio, the encoding house and the streaming company about what could be done and where a copy could be obtained that wasn't already doctored in order to decide what the dialogue at the beginning should sound like. Time was getting short as the film had to premiere on the system in a matter of days. Yet no one could remember from having watched the film. Except, apparently, me.
Eventually, I took it upon myself to solve the problem. I found the url where you could see Gravity, for free, without needing to download it or add any special program to your computer. I used Google to find the url. Took me about 90 seconds. Then I sent the url in a reply all email.
I'm quite sure no one looked at it. Because piracy does not exist.
Anyway, looking to get out of television and into another industry. Perhaps there is some way I could make it as a writer.