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Nine Inch Nails: Documenting a tour on DVD.

60 Performances of Each Song
Handling the tremendous amount of footage proved to be the most difficult aspect of the project. In more than 200 tapes, there were around 60 instances of each of the songs from across the tour—ranging from a whole song or half of a song, to pieces like the beginning and end of a song minus the middle.

Cataloging went on for a couple weeks before Sheridan could even begin editing. Every song on the DVD had its own dedicated 60GB FireWire hard drive. Or two.

“It was an awful lot of learning as you go, but the end result was that it has a quality to it that seems homemade in a good way,” says Reznor. “There are things done wrong, quirky things. There’s meticulous attention to stuff that probably isn’t that important, and it unmistakably came from us as opposed to the company that’s doing the next band the next week.

“It’s made the process of editing video harnessable and understandable to me. iMovie and Final Cut Pro have done for video and movie making what the drum machine concept did for music,” says Reznor. “Now you don’t have to be rich in an expensive studio, where only the elite few can make music. With a drum machine you can make music—now, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be good—but you can make stuff that can sound like it’s got a certain quality.”

Trent connects
Getting Closer. NIN-hungry fans connect with Trent.

One Inspired Alchemist
“Programs like Final Cut Pro and iMovie have taken the act of making and editing videos and movies out of the hands of the offline, archaic two-tape system to something that’s usable, is fun. You get immediate results, and it’s a fraction of the price—and inspiring,” explains Reznor. “And I think that’s the important element that gets overlooked. It’s easy to use and it seems to make sense.

“That’s what impresses me about it,” he adds. “Especially Final Cut—it’s approachable. It’s not written by one engineer for other engineers to look at.”

Further, the NIN is excited about Final Cut Pro for Mac OS X. Says Sheridan, “As soon as I get my hands on Final Cut Pro 3, I’m switching to Mac OS X.”

Nailing It With DVD Studio Pro
For the DVD authoring side of things, Reznor and Sheridan turned to DVD Studio Pro. “For someone like me—where it’s not my field, but I’m intelligent enough to understand what’s going on in there, DVD Studio Pro was excellent because I did the tutorials, I read the manual, Rob and I answered each other’s questions, ‘Oh, that makes sense, you can have a movie as a button’ or ‘You can do this,’” explains Reznor.

“Some questions weren’t answered, but it got us up to a point where we could make a mock up of how we thought the DVD would go, because we wanted something that we could just mess around with, going, ‘Let’s see, does this background look good going into that one?’” he adds.

percussive insanity
Percussively insane. Jerome Dillon dispenses blood, sweat and cymbals through living nails.
  alohn rocker
Lohn Rocker. Danny Lohner hammers the axe.

“Because we’d never created a DVD before, and we didn’t really know what we were doing, we had intended from the beginning to have Bob Ludwig’s mastering studio do the authoring portion of the DVD for us, since that’s where the surround sound for the DVD was getting mastered,” says Sheridan.

“But when we saw DVD Studio Pro coming out, we thought it would be a great opportunity to really explore the ins and outs of DVD authoring—the possibilities and limitations of the medium,” he adds. “We set out to create a version of our DVD that we could show to the authoring studio to give them a really clear idea of what we wanted. We also used DVD Studio Pro when working with David Carson on the layouts of the DVD Menus.”

DVD: As Simple As Counting To Nine
“We found we could whip up some graphics, throw them into the program and instantly see the interaction of one menu with another—and that was great,” says Sheridan. “We were excited, because it was yet another aspect of this project where new technology was allowing us to do everything ourselves.”

The duo found DVD authoring a bit more daunting than simple movie editing. “With Final Cut Pro, I already knew how video worked and could build off of my knowledge of programs like Premiere,” says Sheridan. “But in the case of DVD Studio Pro, I’d never worked with anything similar.”

“However, after running through the tutorial, Trent and I were very confident with the program, and had very few troubles creating various reference versions of our DVD.” he adds.

electronic destruction
Feeding the Fire. One keyboard down, how many more to go?

One Down, More To Go?
When asked about the possibility of future NIN DVD projects, Sheridan elusively comments, “I’m never quite sure what Trent’s going to come up with next, but I would say that both he and I are definitely interested in putting more NIN material out on DVD, especially now that we really know how it all works.”

But for now, Reznor’s back in the studio, and says he is “kicking back into writing a new NIN album proper and trying to gain some objectivity after focusing the past year and half on the DVD.”

NIN Web and iMovie On Tour
Since the NIN camp is a Mac-purist conclave, it’s no surprise that Sheridan designs and manages the website with Macs as well. For this task, he uses Flash. But like a true old-school webmaster, Sheridan codes most of the HTML by hand—only occasionally turning to an HTML layout program for a shortcut or two.

Additionally, the NIN website hosted a movie log of fan footage all along the Fragility tour, with updates for every new venue. “We used iMovie for all of the clips that were posted to the website during tour,” says Sheridan. “Then, towards the end of the tour, when we were getting into Final Cut Pro, we switched over to that instead of iMovie.”

And All That Could Have Been
Preview the upcoming DVD now in QuickTime.

More About Trent Reznor
In this earlier article, Reznor talks about sound designing and the events that swept him from the cornfields and dropped him into the life of a full-time digital composer meets rock & roll hero.

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