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Harsh Reminder: Murphy’s Law Is Very Real

Jake HoltJake Holt

“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

From experience, I can tell you that this old adage almost always comes true on a video production or film set. And the production of our latest PDQ.com project was no different.

Two years ago, when I first started as the videographer for PDQ.com, one of the first things we made was our Mockumentary. We wanted to show, in a satirical light, a vignette of a chaotic and even oppressive corporate workplace. Our fearless leader, Shawn, plays a fictional version of himself wherein he weaves a fictional story about what it’s like working for this company.

We felt the video did a great job at representing our desire to be funny for you, the people. So, here in 2019, we decided it was time for a sequel; give everybody a not-so-subtle reminder that we’re still here; still trying to make you laugh despite very possibly being past our comedic prime. We like to think of ourselves as the Adam Sandler of software companies.

Whatever the end result of this sequel may be – whether it makes you laugh, cry, or cringe – the completion of this project in and of itself is basically a miracle in spite of all the forces of the universes that conspired against it.

Our process for these mockumentaries is thus:

  • First, we prepare a list of interview questions for Shawn that give him a wide gamut of subject matter to talk about. Then, we prepare the studio and bring Shawn in. After getting him mic’d up and all the camera settings nice and pretty, we hit REC and ask him the questions live. With his natural inclination for improv comedy, he riffs on the material, giving us tons to work with.

  • Next, we take what we like best from his interview, and compile a list of fun b-roll footage that would prove to make his points more evocative, visually complementing his jokes. After rallying the whole office, we spend an entire day filming these jokes and gathering all the b-roll.

  • Lastly, it’s now just a matter of stitching it all together in the editing room, where the final comedic timing and overall story structure is decided. Sounds like a pretty straightforward process, right?


Catastrophe #1: The C drive

Well into our primary edit of the mockumentary, we realized that the 4K footage from the Panasonic EVA-1 was simply too large and taxing to be edited from my slow 2 TB storage drive. So, we decided to move all the footage over to the C drive that ran my computer’s OS; a fast Samsung 960 EVO 500 GB.

Here’s where it all went bad.

I selected, unwisely, to cut the footage rather than copy it, so as to not confuse Adobe Premiere on where the footage was being pulled from; keep it all in one location for organization’s sake.

So, all the footage was now stored on the C drive, rather than the D drive. We noticed an immediate increase in editing speed. Awesome. But then, the next morning when I arrived to work, I nearly spilled blistering-hot coffee down my front when I found that this C drive, no matter what myself or I.T. did, would not boot.

The Samsung drive had crashed, utterly and spectacularly. It gloriously succumbed to death, murdered by an unforgiving mob of high-quality 4K video clips.

And with it went all of our footage. Luckily, I still had all the b-roll on our SD card. But Shawn’s interview was gone.

Catastrophe #2: The iMac

While mourning our footage and trying to patch everything back together like a quilt grandma made in the ‘60s, we decided that two dead PCs was a bad omen (yes, this had happened to me once before). So, we did our research and came to the conclusion that the best computer on the market for video editing was the new, beastly iMac Pro.

We got it approved and ordered, and as soon as it arrived, we excitedly tore open the box like a kid on Christmas morning – only to find that the Apple juggernaut wouldn’t power on.


An $8000+ machine was apparently DOA.

Well, it turned on and made noise, and even displayed properly when connected to an external monitor, but the beautiful 5K display on the iMac itself was nothing but black. As you might guess, we were pretty freakin’ furious. Our I.T. guy, Mark, bless his soul, was back and forth with Apple support for an entire day, trying to figure out a solution.

LUCKILY, when Expercom, Apple’s repair service, arrived, they removed the front of the display, giving us an intriguing look at the insides of one of these state-of-the-art computers.

Expercom’s repair tech was quick and competent. He quickly diagnosed the problem as being, simply, a faulty display cable. He swapped the cables out, replaced the screen, and we all crossed our fingers as he pressed the power button.

To our great relief, the display powered on. We cheered and thanked the technician. The iMac was fine and fully functional.

Catastrophe #3: The data recovery attempt

We sent the deceased Samsung drive off to a data recovery center and prayed that they would be able to salvage the footage from the drive’s corpse. Two weeks later, we’d pretty much lost hope. And rightly so. After we had prepared other solutions, they finally got back to us stating that they would indeed be able to make the recovery, but for $3000.

Not worth it.

How it all came together:

We were able to, with a deep recovery process of the D drive, recover the Adobe Premiere project file for a late edit of the mockumentary sequel. I then filled in the missing footage boxes with the b-roll that was still on the SD card. We also found that we still had the audio from Shawn’s interview, just not the video. We reshot the sections of his interview that were missing, and after many hours of editing repair on the new (and wonderfully fast) iMac, we finally had a piece of content that was ready to be shared with the world.

So, here it is. While watching the video, it may not be apparent how much pain it caused us, but all the same, we hope you find it enjoyable. And for all you video creators out there that have lost footage, I salute your fallen creations, and I offer a friendly reminder to back everything up in multiple places, always.

As a response to this whole situation, we invested in a NAS drive backup system with 32 TB – plenty of room, at least for now, to back up every piece of footage we ever record.

Happy content creation, everyone!

PDQ.com – Two Years Later – A Mockumentary

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