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Old 11-18-2009, 12:09 PM   #1
iceman iceman is offline
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Default Ask questions to Blu-ray Special Features Producer Cliff

This thread is dedicated to asking questions of industry insider Cliff (Special Features Producer) who has graciously taken the time to participate here. Cliff and all our insiders do this out of their free time and to try to keep us informed to their best abilities, and therefore are to be treated with respect and courtesy.

Before asking a question, please skim at least the last weeks worth of posts in order to make sure that the question hasn't already been asked or answered. Using the search function is also always a good idea. Please conduct your inquiries in a professional manner and avoid asking "chicken little" questions or asking when unannounced titles will come out.

Cliff - Special Features Producer - Track posts
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Old 11-18-2009, 12:38 PM   #2
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Hello Cliff, it is great to have you contributing in the forum. I have always wondered how the decisions regarding including an extended/unrated edition are made? Obviously, have profile releases will have a larger budget for the special features and additional consideration can be given to them. When considering the addition of an extended/uncut version what will be the role of the film's director? Under the same scenario what will determine the studio's decision to either use two discs (one disc for each version ala Blade Runner or Close Encounters of the Third Kind) or just one disc (seamless branching)? I appreciate your input.
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Old 11-18-2009, 05:02 PM   #3
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Welcome again, Cliff

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Old 11-18-2009, 05:32 PM   #4
Penton-Man Penton-Man is offline
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A BIG hearty welcome Cliff.
Are you at liberty to reveal what Blu-ray title you are currently working on?
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Old 11-18-2009, 06:10 PM   #5
kpkelley kpkelley is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Penton-Man View Post
Are you at liberty to reveal what Blu-ray title you are currently working on?
Or the one's that you worked on in the past?

Welcome, glad to see that the site continues to grow and improve.

P.S> Is this you?
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Old 11-18-2009, 07:17 PM   #6
Jeff Kleist Jeff Kleist is offline
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Yes, that's him
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Old 11-18-2009, 11:42 PM   #7
Cliff Cliff is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blu Titan View Post
Hello Cliff, it is great to have you contributing in the forum. I have always wondered how the decisions regarding including an extended/unrated edition are made? Obviously, have profile releases will have a larger budget for the special features and additional consideration can be given to them. When considering the addition of an extended/uncut version what will be the role of the film's director? Under the same scenario what will determine the studio's decision to either use two discs (one disc for each version ala Blade Runner or Close Encounters of the Third Kind) or just one disc (seamless branching)? I appreciate your input.
Usually (especially with horror and comedy) extended/unrated cuts are a conversation that happens just after post production and just before the theatrical release. They are, in many cases, brought on by a filmmaker's desire to include material they've just gone through the process of cutting (either by MPAA or studio mandate). Sometimes a filmmaker is just contractually obligated to deliver a pg-13 film, but nobody worries about that anymore because they know they'll usually get a chance to do the version they want once the DVD/Blu-ray is released.

But a major component of unrated cuts is budget. I've actually worked on a title where an unrated cut was completed and pretty much ready for release, but the studio backed off at the last minute (along with 3 months of "We are going to... We're not going to") simply because they didn't want to take on the extra expense of two separate releases (it wasn't a huge film and the studio wasn't crazy about spending anything more than they had to).

But beyond that, generally a director (especially on a new release) is as involved in the process as they want to be. I've dealt with two extended/unrated cuts (for Waiting... and Rambo) and the directors were as involved as they were when finishing the theatrical cut. It should be noted that doing an unrated cut for a new release is a breeze compared to doing one for an older film like Close Encounters or Blade Runner because the elements are all still readily available and you're usually still working with the same editor (who knows every bit of footage that was shot by heart). For something like Blade Runner or Close Encounters, that requires something more akin to an archeological endeavor. There might be elements that are scattered all over the world or simply don't exist anymore. The fact that Charlie de Lauzirika ultimately had as much footage as he did for the Ultimate Blade Runner set is a modern day miracle.

As to how a studio decides how to encode and present multiple cuts, it's interesting that you sited Blade Runner as an example because it actually does both. Generally seamless branching is done because it takes so much less space than doing two completely different encodes. But sometimes you just can't use branching because the new footage doesn't work with the old and makes branching impossible. With Blade Runner, the archive versions didn't visually match the quality of the completely restored Final Cut. Similarly, the workprint edition was of a slightly different aspect ratio (2:20 vs 2:35), so that wouldn't branch with the final cut or the archival versions. But the three archival versions (the US theatrical, the UK theatrical and the 1992 director's cut) do use seamless branching because they all mirror each other in their visual quality.

Hope that makes sense.
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Old 11-18-2009, 11:46 PM   #8
Cliff Cliff is offline
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Originally Posted by Penton-Man View Post
A BIG hearty welcome Cliff.
Are you at liberty to reveal what Blu-ray title you are currently working on?
Thanks for the welcome!

Just finished up Gamer last week (which as some of you probably already know is coming January 19, 2010).
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Old 11-18-2009, 11:48 PM   #9
Cliff Cliff is offline
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Originally Posted by kpkelley View Post
Or the one's that you worked on in the past?

Welcome, glad to see that the site continues to grow and improve.

P.S> Is this you?
My big ones have been Crank 1 & 2 and Rambo.

and, yes, that is me.
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Old 11-19-2009, 02:29 AM   #10
Icemage Icemage is offline
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Glad to see you've got your own dedicated thread over here Cliff. Welcome (again!).

Have you ever seen a case where a studio has intentionally (to your knowledge) held off special features on a relatively barebones release in order to save them for a later edition?
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Old 11-19-2009, 03:12 AM   #11
Cliff Cliff is offline
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Originally Posted by Icemage View Post
Glad to see you've got your own dedicated thread over here Cliff. Welcome (again!).

Have you ever seen a case where a studio has intentionally (to your knowledge) held off special features on a relatively barebones release in order to save them for a later edition?
Thanks Icemage.

I know there were a bunch of releases several years ago (from Fox) where the US releases were fairly featureless while the overseas discs (also from Fox) were loaded and in a couple cases (IIRC) even two discs sets. If you remember, titles like Fantastic Four and Alien Vs Predator were slim on the extras here in the US but had extensive docs and other goodies in places like Korea. I can't pretend to know why such decisions were always made (it could have been something as simple as the extra features not being completed in time for the US release), but in my titles I've never had a studio hold anything back intentionally.
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Old 11-19-2009, 03:29 AM   #12
Icemage Icemage is offline
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Originally Posted by Cliff View Post
Thanks Icemage.

I know there were a bunch of releases several years ago (from Fox) where the US releases were fairly featureless while the overseas discs (also from Fox) were loaded and in a couple cases (IIRC) even two discs sets. If you remember, titles like Fantastic Four and Alien Vs Predator were slim on the extras here in the US but had extensive docs and other goodies in places like Korea. I can't pretend to know why such decisions were always made (it could have been something as simple as the extra features not being completed in time for the US release), but in my titles I've never had a studio hold anything back intentionally.
Hm. I actually have that Fantastic Four (North American) Blu-ray disc, and yes, it definitely is pretty short of extras.

In some cases, the special features that existed on DVDs (and therefore should be complete, barring HD remastering) have been left off of releases, as was the case with Fantastic Four, which is why I was curious.

I had always assumed that the powers that be sometimes consider it worthwhile to hold special features for a later re-release - this was especially true in the early days of Blu-ray when the future of the format was relatively uncertain and the majority of purchasers were early adopters and collectors (who would obviously have a much higher chance of double dipping later if a "definitive" edition were to be released).

Thanks for the insight!
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Old 11-19-2009, 03:30 AM   #13
vegeta88 vegeta88 is offline
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Welcome Cliff and thank you for doing this; I am a huge fan of special features. Who usually makes the decision to do special features like documentaries and such? Is it the director, producers, etc? It seems like sometimes the director is in charge or guides them along like Jon Favreau for Iron Man and sometimes not so much.
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Old 11-19-2009, 05:36 AM   #14
Cliff Cliff is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Icemage View Post
Hm. I actually have that Fantastic Four (North American) Blu-ray disc, and yes, it definitely is pretty short of extras.

In some cases, the special features that existed on DVDs (and therefore should be complete, barring HD remastering) have been left off of releases, as was the case with Fantastic Four, which is why I was curious.

I had always assumed that the powers that be sometimes consider it worthwhile to hold special features for a later re-release - this was especially true in the early days of Blu-ray when the future of the format was relatively uncertain and the majority of purchasers were early adopters and collectors (who would obviously have a much higher chance of double dipping later if a "definitive" edition were to be released).

Thanks for the insight!
Interestingly, most studios don't run all that consistently. There are actually different people in charge of different titles. That's why you'll see a title like U571 drop its trailer (even though it was available all the way back to its DVD days) while 2 Fast 2 Furious gets a trailer (and in HD) when none was ever included before. Different people have different ideas of what should and shouldn't be included.

There was a studio that had pretty much dropped trailers on new releases and catalogs (can you tell I'm a trailer fan?) until I went to the head of the home video department and asked why they weren't including them. I argued that they were essentially a free extra and an additional bullet-point for the packaging. From that conversation on, trailers returned on both their DVD and Blu-ray releases. He just didn't get it because he wasn't a trailer fan.

So long answer short... sometimes the studio doesn't have a reason for doing something... they just do it because they didn't think otherwise.
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Old 11-19-2009, 06:04 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Cliff View Post
I've dealt with two extended/unrated cuts (for Waiting... and Rambo) and the directors were as involved as they were when finishing the theatrical cut.
I know a Rambo director's cut was talked about at some point, but that never ended up coming out and I don't think it was really announced whether the cut had been finished or not. Did you work on this, and do you have any info about whether it's shelved or still pending?
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Old 11-19-2009, 06:30 AM   #16
Cliff Cliff is offline
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Originally Posted by vegeta88 View Post
Welcome Cliff and thank you for doing this; I am a huge fan of special features. Who usually makes the decision to do special features like documentaries and such? Is it the director, producers, etc? It seems like sometimes the director is in charge or guides them along like Jon Favreau for Iron Man and sometimes not so much.
Generally it's the special features producer who drives the boat on what gets produced. That's how to distinguish the work of guys like Charlie de Lauzirika, Rob Burnett, or Van Ling, (and hopefully myself) from the big box companies who create what I like to call "disc fillers," or features that don't really seem to serve a purpose other than to be a lot of features for the marketing guys (if a disc has multiple featurettes and none of them are longer than 5 minutes each... that's a disc filler). They're usually short and pointless because they are cobbled together from pre-existing interviews. I work completely differently. While I'll certainly use pre-existing interviews, every major title I've worked on has been primarily comprised of new interviews created for and tailored to the DVD/Blu-ray (for example, on Rambo we had 16 people interviewed and only 1 was an interview done at the time of the film's production). So I'm able to go into the disc with a plan and I can tell a story about how the film was made. That's much more advantageous than just relying on what you've been given by someone else.

When that gets ramped up is when you have filmmakers who are involved and excited by the process and allow the producers access to the filmmaking process outside of the norm. I often think about the Superman Returns documentary that Robert Meyer Burnett did. There's three key pieces of footage in there that always jump out at me. The first is the very beginning when Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris are rehearsing 'the pitch' they're going to make to Warner Brothers to get the job. Think about that for a second... They're documenting the making of a movie that no one has even agreed to make at that point. Later, the camera is on for Singer as he finally tells Brandon Routh that he's won the role of Superman. And finally, the camera is allowed in the room as the filmmakers discuss the audition and casting of Kate Bosworth for Lois Lane. These are all amazing moments in the creation of this film to be witnessing and none of that would have been shot by the studio because no marketing person would have had the foresight to have a camera there shooting that early in the process. It took Singer and his relationship with Burnett to get that footage and capture those amazing moments. You can tell the directors who are most into the special features process because those are always the guys with the best discs (guys like Kevin Smith, David Fincher, Jon Favreau, Ridley Scott, and Bryan Singer).

Last edited by Cliff; 11-19-2009 at 06:37 AM.
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Old 11-19-2009, 06:35 AM   #17
Cliff Cliff is offline
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Originally Posted by neo_reloaded View Post
I know a Rambo director's cut was talked about at some point, but that never ended up coming out and I don't think it was really announced whether the cut had been finished or not. Did you work on this, and do you have any info about whether it's shelved or still pending?
Have faith...

Last edited by Cliff; 11-19-2009 at 06:38 AM.
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Old 11-19-2009, 06:40 AM   #18
Jeff Kleist Jeff Kleist is offline
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I think that it's a tossup between that and Tron that's Rob's best work. I hope people get to see the stuff that didn't make the disc at some point too
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Old 11-19-2009, 02:44 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Cliff View Post
...
As to how a studio decides how to encode and present multiple cuts, it's interesting that you sited Blade Runner as an example because it actually does both. Generally seamless branching is done because it takes so much less space than doing two completely different encodes. But sometimes you just can't use branching because the new footage doesn't work with the old and makes branching impossible. With Blade Runner, the archive versions didn't visually match the quality of the completely restored Final Cut. Similarly, the workprint edition was of a slightly different aspect ratio (2:20 vs 2:35), so that wouldn't branch with the final cut or the archival versions. But the three archival versions (the US theatrical, the UK theatrical and the 1992 director's cut) do use seamless branching because they all mirror each other in their visual quality.

Hope that makes sense.
Yes, I wanted to ask about seamless branching in exactly this context, but you beat me to it.

Thanks!
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Old 11-19-2009, 02:50 PM   #20
cjamescook cjamescook is offline
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Originally Posted by Cliff View Post
...
There was a studio that had pretty much dropped trailers on new releases and catalogs (can you tell I'm a trailer fan?) until I went to the head of the home video department and asked why they weren't including them. I argued that they were essentially a free extra and an additional bullet-point for the packaging. From that conversation on, trailers returned on both their DVD and Blu-ray releases. He just didn't get it because he wasn't a trailer fan...
I find trailers to be a mini-art form. It can be very interesting to see how thte trailer for a movie evolves. So, actually, I enjoy seeing all the trailers for a movie.

An example that comes to mind is Lost in Space. Say what you will about the movie or the script, but there were three different, but evolutionary trailers.

Last edited by cjamescook; 11-19-2009 at 02:54 PM.
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