London, Soho, February, 1999. 8:00 p.m. Boooom! I’m in my edit room-cum-office at the rear of The Soho Screening Rooms. Derry, the projectionist, is showing the director’s cut of Das Boot. Every time the U-boat is depth-charged, my adjoining wall shakes so much that tapes fall off the shelves. I’m bracing myself for another charge. Boooom! Trying to edit a conference video that’s needed for tomorrow in Holland. Boooom! Got to meet my client, Martin—ICI’s group public affairs VP—at the airport.

Tomorrow’s conference has three circular screens—just more work for me. This one depicts Wells Fargo’s exploding bank notes.

My BetaSP machine died yesterday. Chewed up tape. I rented a replacement today, but before I could lay off a safety copy to tape, my client wanted mega changes.

The Avid is unhappy too. It doesn’t like it when I go to the loo (translation: restroom). It misses me and crashes. I really have to go to the loo again but can’t risk it. I decide to go out into the reception area and then return. Fooled it. Still running.

This time I’ll take those few extra steps to the loo. I come back. It’s dead again. Thinking of making a life size replica of me so that the Avid thinks I’m still here.

Reminds me of the story about the lady with the broken vacuum-tube radio. She discovered that if she put her finger on a tube, the sound would come back. Tired of keeping her finger there, she replaced it with a pork sausage. It worked! The problem was that the sausage cooked slowly and needed to be replaced every Friday. “Hey mum, the radio’s fading, needs another sausage!”

10:00 p.m. I’m assembling the segments and keying in a circle matte. The team doing the set design and projection has succeeded in convincing the ICI conference lady to have three circular screens, one big and two small on either side. They call it “MoonVision.” Spare me from “creatives.” My compilation video is 85 minutes and all within a stupid circle.

Midnight. This is crazy. Das Boot is over. Derry has closed down the projection theatre. I’m alone. I’ve gotta go to de loo. I need to fool the Avid:

“Look, I’m just going to the Poland Street garage to collect my car. You be a good Avid and keep rendering those dumb circle mattes. Back very soon. Love you.”

Never fooled Avid for a moment. Whammy, it crashes again. Not your average Panic Kernel. It’s a (gasp!) General Error 41. The Mac’s running but Avid’s dead.

3:00 a.m. Nothing is working. I’ve done everything. Trashed preferences, ran Fix Permissions. Tried Disk Utilities, Norton, Disk Warrior, you name it. This job is on my books at £35,000 (US $70,000) and it has to be ready for today. Got to be out of here by 5:00 a.m. I’m distraught.

A thought. I have a BlueICE board in the Avid. It runs hot. I’ve squeezed in three little fans around the board and there’s a household fan on the floor pumping air into the Mac. The card gets so hot that its own heat sinks fall off. The Avid’s never been the same. Maybe it’s just a heat problem. OK, take it easy and cool it.

I turn everything off except the external fan. Vacate to the empty reception area. Nibble at the Das Boot leftovers in the kitchen. This is going to be my big, big screw up.

“Sorry Martin, Avid’s crashed. General Error 41.”

“The fertilizer plant in Taiwan?”


“Surfactants in Delaware?”


“Australian ethane pipeline?


“Wells Fargo exploding bank notes?”

“All gone. It’s over. I’m off. Got a green card. You’ll never find me.”

I go back. One last try. Give my Mac the old Das Boot start up. This is it baby, make or break. Yeah! Error 41 gone. Woo hoo! Avid opens up my project. I’m delirious. Hallelujah!

Render, render. Now save the project. Transfer 85 minutes to BetaSP tape—no time for a safety copy.

5:00 a.m. I spot check the tape. High on Das Boot caffeine. Drive home. Shower. Shave. Pack overnight things. Suit ‘n’ tie. Drive to Heathrow. Park. Run to Terminal One.

8:00 a.m. Made it. There’s Martin.

“Hi Martin!”

“Everything OK?”

“Piece of cake.”

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