Retubing: Grand Canal, Wuxi, 1993
Retubing: Vltava Cruise, Prague 2008

Retubing: Return Of The Great Leap Forwards (opening titles)

The New York Cinema, Wan Chai, Hong Kong. I'd imagine the enormous Golden Harvest logo on the front was what drew me to it initially. It closed in 2006, and now it's the New Jade Garden Restaurant. Sigh. Compare and contrast.

1993: my first visit to the Far East, a weekend in Hong Kong followed by a fortnight in mainland China. I take along a camcorder, and end up making a holiday video - Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards - that lasts one hour and forty minutes. (You can see a bit of it in the previous post.) It takes about six weeks to edit, each cut done by hand using the old-fashioned method of recording from tape to tape and using the pause button to avoid the stuff I don't want.

1997: my second visit to the Far East, five days in Hong Kong. I take along a camcorder, but this time the holiday video only lasts forty minutes. And as I've just bought a computer, I can use the emerging technology of digital video editing to speed up the process.

Which doesn't explain why Return Of The Great Leap Forwards took nine months to edit. Or does it?

Anyone who's ever spent time editing video for fun will know exactly what happened here, of course. The sheer flexibility of digital editing is just mind-blowing when you first encounter it: the ability to play around with countless variations on the same few shots, tweaking them frame by frame until you've got the exact effect you're looking for. I actually had a rough cut of the film ready within a month of getting back from Hong Kong: I'd promised the Pals that I'd show it to them on the weekend before the handover of the territory back to China, and that's what they got to see. And then I spent months and months fannying around with the fine details, until I realised I had to call a halt to it and just declare it done.

Return Of The Great Leap Forwards was my first production in widescreen: my camera was cheap, so its version of widescreen involved simple letterboxing by drawing black bars across the top and bottom of the image. All well and good in the predominantly 4:3 world of the 1990s, but it meant that when I posted clips from it on YouTube in 2009, the first job was to crop those bars off, which has resulted in some fuzziness in the final image. And as with its predecessor, I've redubbed the audio to remove my tacky narration. But the clips still hold up, I think: there are currently five in total on my new YouTube channel if you want to seek them out.  (There used to be seven, in the days before The Great YouTubeocalypse. However, the one set in Planet Hollywood Hong Kong picked up some unwanted attention for using the Enter The Dragon theme on its soundtrack: while a fun piece at the Happy Valley racecourse lost all of its copious screen annotations when my account was killed off, and I'm buggered if I'm going to type those in again right now.)

For the most part, the editing in ROTGLF is pretty sedate: but I allowed myself to go nuts with the opening title sequence, a series of random shots from the whole thing hurled over The Chemical Brothers' The Private Psychedelic Reel. I never would have been able to do this sort of thing in the old pause-button-editing days, so I guess I just wanted to see if it would work. When I initially posted the result up on YouTube, I described it as "a big old two-handed wank of a video," and I'm happy to stand by that description today. Enjoy.


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