Hacking Back

Inside The Edit - by Andrew Ellard

25 June, 2004

The process of assembling Red Dwarf DVD material for the edit is a lengthy one - and we thought it was time to show you how it all works.

Hacking Back

Back in the dim and distant past - which is to say, the Autumn of 2003 - the Grant Naylor team, headed by Doug, put together a wish list of items for the next two releases. During this time we were also in the middle of a conversation with the BBC, who were hoping we could accelerate the release schedule - maybe to get Series V out by June? We looked at the wish list, laughed, and stuck to the original plan.

Then we set about making the list real. Tapes were ordered out of storage - of course, it would be too much to hope that they would be labelled with handy names like 'Holoship - Full Cut'. Nope, we get lumbered with 'Tape 5637'. So hundreds of tapes come up from the store. We've got Betas, D3s, D2s, VHSs, U-matics... a format for every occasion.

For the next however-long some poor sod (me) lives in a Portakabin - affectionately known as 'The Shed' - and sifts through everything in search of the line cuts for each episode. The line cut is the edit of the show made on the night of the audience recording, and finding that enables us to provide deleted scenes as per the director's original plan, rather than re-cut scenes from the footage of each isolated camera.

Hacking Back

While doing this - also flagging up moments from the rushes that might be 'interesting' for use elsewhere - another poor sod gets to run through every Dwarf episode for scenes relevant to the music featurettes.

Ah, yes, the music featurettes. This time around these two mini-extras will be based on 'Bad Guys' (Series V) and 'Sick' (Series VI). The music tracks selected - which is to say, the music we were actually able to clear for less than the Gross National Product of a small country - are 'You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet' by Bachman Turner Overdrive and 'Mama Told Me Not To Come' by Tom Jones and the Stereophonics respectively.

Anyway, back to the important stuff. With deleted scenes identified, clips selected and interviews and commentaries recorded, we wend our weary way to the shed once more to begin editing.

By this stage, every interview has been reviewed and separated into dozens of sections, each of which is given a quick-reference number. (RL27, for instance, is Robert Llewellyn's discussion of, according to the notes, 'Terrorform: lake shoot, the flames'.)

Hacking Back

These disparate sections are grouped together and placed in a rough running order within each episode category. Then, piece by piece, the sections are whittled down into coherent sequences. During this time it is not unusual to hear requests such as, "Do we have any more of Craig complaining about kissing the dung beetle?"

Weeks pass, and infuriatingly become months, as we get ever closer to the documentary final cut. Scenes from the show are added throughout to make sure everyone watching knows what we're talking about. This time scenes from the rushes have also been added to the docs - if you ever wanted to see Craig lighting his cigarette on an eight-foot jet of flame, Robert's South African teasing of Andy de Emmony, or a simple dialogue scene from Quarantine crumble around the cast's ears, this is your chance.

Both documentaries run at about 75 minutes - and for the first time we've had to monitor every minute of the bonus material to make sure it will all fit on the DVD. As with the Red Dwarf TV show, you re-watch and reassess in the hopes of finding another minute or two that can be lost without, y'know, actually losing anything.

Meanwhile, there has been enormous disappointment in the hunt for deleted scenes from The Inquisitor and Demons & Angels. Source tapes for the first halves of these episodes seem to have vanished into the ether, leaving us to retrieve a few scenes from low-quality U-matic tapes instead - making for grottier images and a time-code in-vision... or, if you prefer, a glimpse of the footage as the editors of the time were seeing it.

Still, at least you get the chance to see some of the moments that never made it - whatever their form. We have alternative versions of existing scenes, moments lost due to ineffective FX or slow plotting, not to mention acres of trimmed gags. Indeed, the deleted scenes remain a highlight of the next two releases, with the running times for both hovering around the 45-minute mark.

Hacking Back

Back with the documentaries, and a fresh-from-Oz Doug steps in to do the final edit, as well as add his own interview contributions - a final stage that gives him a chance to respond to things that may have come up unexpectedly in other people's interviews.

With the edit locked, the whole shebang is then whisked off to the online suite - sound is mixed, bluescreens are turned into composited space-scapes, music, titles and captions are applied... and everyone sits around nervously looking at the clock in the hopes of hitting the deadline.

Which, as I type this, is almost upon us. Right now the final playouts of 'Heavy Science' and 'The Starbuggers' - the names of the V and VI documentaries - are being laid down, along with the largest quantity of new bonus material produced for a Dwarf DVD to date.

There's still a long way to go, and more to tell you about, but for now this should give some idea as to why it takes so long to create Red Dwarf DVDs... and why the production team have no hair left. Scariest of all, and with masses still to complete away from the edit, in just a few months we'll be starting all over again!

More DVD details will follow soon...

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