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Awful experience with Cinelab


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#1 Stephen Alexander Griebel

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 04:35 PM

I should have known something was up earlier this year when I had a test roll of 7265 plus-x on my new Bauer 715xl processed and telecinied. They included not a full data file (as requested) but a standard-play DVD, with a 30mb filesize. Needless to say, I wanted to see how good their setup was (and one would think they would want the same if I were to stick with them) but hey it wasn't the end of the world.

Well, it turned out my external lightmeter wasn't functioning properly so everything was underexposed. I got a new meter and about a month ago shot another test roll and got that out Priority. They say they received it on the 3rd of June and when a week passed without word I called them-- "it should be out soon". OK. By that time I was struck by something simple and easy to shoot (both essential as I'm trying to make the short deadline at AFI and Austin Film Fest) that just might work. I was running out of time and could not wait any longer for my test roll. Within three days I had shot 8 cartridges and immediately sent them out Priority, and they were received in two days. Well, that was over three weeks ago. I have been told time and time again that the stuff was processed and that it was going out "this afternoon". And I asked about my test roll-- they're just going to include it on the hard drive transfer-- thanks guys, a lot of good that does me!

Well, the external HD finally arrived two days ago and guess what-- Windows wouldn't recognize it. I immediately called them, requesting their computer guy-- "Oooh, he just stepped out". I leave my info and he's supposed to call me back. Well, an hour later (and an hour before their closing time) I call back and WOW, someone's there to assist me-- I'm glad I called. Anyway, turns out they sent a MAC PARTITIONED DRIVE (yes I downloaded MacDrive to no avail). I could not believe it, seeing how I specified that I had a PC both on the order form and in the many talks to their staff, but how they would not even call to check whether you've got a pc or mac is beyond me.
So, I race over to the nearest UPS store that hasn't had a pick up yet (in the next county) and overnight the drive back to Cinelab (they were kind enough to pay for postage I should add) and was assured that they would have the drive to me by today, Saturday. I even left them a message yesterday (during business hours) making sure that they overnight with Saturday delivery or else it will not arrive until Monday. Well, as Saturday is coming to a close, it looks like they didn't care to do that, and I have lost another two precious days (four total) due to their incompetence.

One would think that a company dealing with filmmakers would understand deadlines or at least be sympathetic towards those who have struggled getting stuff ON celluloid and payed them well to get it OFF.

On a side note, they charged my mother's card for both the test roll and the transfer, even though I requested that my father be billed for the transfer but that is the least of our worries right now.

Well, I've got three days to sift through the footage, and grind out a film, scored and titled...assuming I get the drive on Monday. As for the transfer, I'll let you know when I do and post grabs-- they better be spectacular (assuming what they developed is OK :] )

I know these guys are cheap, but I would pay double what I did to have that time back. Just thought I'd let those out there shopping for transfer houses know.
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#2 A. Whitehouse

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Posted 01 July 2007 - 03:32 AM

I understand that you're upset but this isn't what I would consider to be an awful experience with a lab. It doesn't sound as if they have damaged your footage at all. I don't want to sound like I can't appreciate that you're annoyed with them but worst case this is an inconvenience not an "awful experience". Sounds to me like they tried to straighten the mistakes they made out as best they could and you suffered from some poor customer service. It would have been good if they had been more honest about their timeframe.
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#3 Nick Mulder

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Posted 01 July 2007 - 03:56 AM

Maybe a bit redundant but can I ask what went wrong with Macdrive ?

I use it here and have had no issues since install - It even recognises macs in target disk mode... very handy
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#4 Chris Burke

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Posted 01 July 2007 - 02:34 PM

I don't really know that much about PCs, I am a Mac guy, but when I bring a mac formatted drive to a place that uses Window's, I have never had an issue. they were always able to read my drive. Perhaps it is your flavor of windows that is the culprit? I sympathize with you, it can be really frustrating when deadlines are fast aproaching and things have not come together as planned. However, I tend to agree with A. Whitehouse. It doesn't really sound like an awful experience, frustrating yes, but awful?? Trust me when I say that a lot worse could have happened at any lab. Cinelab is a very proffesional outfit that is quite busy these days. I know that one of their processing machines was acting up lately and they have been set back a bit because of it. They are big supporters of Super 8 and constantly strive to deliver the best service that they can. Don't give up on them yet! They are good guys who always try to help out the indie filmmaker. Best of luck on your future projects.


chris
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#5 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 01 July 2007 - 07:09 PM

What I find unfortunate from the filmmaker's point of view is that they ended up shooting the final version of their film without any information about how their retest came out even though a bit of time went by from when the retest was sent in versus when they actually started their actual shoot.
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#6 Stephen Alexander Griebel

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Posted 02 July 2007 - 03:41 PM

It's Monday and still no drive. I called and got a UPS tracking number just to see when to be at my house. Well, I found out why I haven't received it yet-- it's in South Carolina for some ungodly reason (I'm in Virginia). I'm sorry, guys-- I understand that others have had worse experience-- like processing troubles, but I think the situation now qualifies as "awful", if not before this latest debacle. And just because my film wasn't botched by the lab doesn't change the fact that it'll now take a miracle to make those two festivals-- AFI because-- well, it's AFI and I really believe in my project, and Austin because I'm moving to the city late September, so I'll be there for the festival. I know there are thousands of other festivals but traveling and promoting aren't cheap and that is no argument for me to look past Cinelab's unbelievable ineptness.

I know that editing in a few days would be cutting it close, but I've done it before (three straight days sans sleep-- gracias Escobar) on a picture with special effects and a longer running time. That's all thanks to Vegas, which is lightning fast compared to any NLE in a pinch. Well, how's one day sound, Vegas? You know, I still think we can do it...

Nick, I'm not sure what happened with MacDrive, but it simply would not recognize the external drive which was supplied by Cinelab. Apparently it had both Mac and PC partitions to further complicate matters. They could have easily partitioned the drive in FAT which both Mac and PC read but all their computers are Macs which won't write to FAT.

Edited by Stephen Alexander Griebel, 02 July 2007 - 03:43 PM.

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#7 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 02 July 2007 - 05:38 PM

Stephen,

It sounds like some of your difficulty may have been caused by lack of experience on your part, it sounds like you made a lot of assumptions. There are a few basic things that you could have done to make the experience better for yourself.

1) When dealing with a lab comunication is essential (no duh, I know.) dealing with an out of town lab is a real challenge. Take it seriously. First, you should request a specific sales rep be assigned to your project. One individual who is your primary contact and knows everything about your project. On smaller projects they don't often do this but if you ask I imagine they would since its no extra cost for them. Second, you should write a post procedural memo for your rep so he or she has documentat on exactly how to deal with your project.

2) Be more realistic in creating a schedule. When you create a post schedule you need to include time for problems, and the unknown.

3) Finally, UPS and the other services are far from perfect so you need to be on top of tracking your shipments from the time they get picked up from the lab. They often make mistakes but they are also very good about bending over backwards to fix them. I've got the stories to prove it.

4) Get a friend to be your post supervisor. Someone who is detailed oriented, pragmatic, and not emotionally involved in the project. That way they can be an advocate for your project, without getting angry etc.
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#8 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 02 July 2007 - 06:04 PM

Steven,


1. There is nothing on your original order form about PC or MAC, I can post a copy of it if there is any doubt.

2. The original drive reads fine on both the G5 mac and the Dual Xenon WinXP Avid system, are we responsible for your computer problems too? The drive is formatted MacOS (extended, Journaled) the second drive we sent is NTFS.

3. We sent the drive as we said we would for Saturday delivery and UPS screwed it up, I can post the tracking number for all to see, are we responsible for UPS do you want me to call them incompetent?

4. We sometimes are delayed getting film out and sometimes smaller jobs like tests get caught in the volume we do, we need to add staff to help us expedite jobs I am doing this right now.

5. Steven your insulting tone and statements are unjustified grow up.

-Rob-
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#9 Nathan Milford

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Posted 02 July 2007 - 09:31 PM

I've sent copious amounts of 16mm and 35mm Cinelab with absolutely no problem.

This is because I (or my producer) have communicated, clearly and directly, with one person who was responsible for my projects.

I do this with the Postworks, Technicolor and Duart etc...

I'd have to agree with Douglass. You seem a bit of the novice to make the assumptions that you did. I hope that, whether you use Cinelab again or not, you will have learned from the experience and will schedule and communicate with a bit more care.

With that said, your harsh tone is a bit unfounded and you come off more like a whining child in a supermarket than a professional trying to produce a film. By bringing your dirty laundry into such a public place (that is searchable by potential employers, collaborators and perhaps service providers who will see you as a problem client) you belittle yourself and your project.

With the volume that Cinelab processes and develops, scans and ships (dozens of clients on this board alone I'm sure) with little or no report of problems, did it occur to you to look inwardly for the problem before you potentially slandered a pretty reliable lab?
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#10 Kevin Olmsted

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Posted 03 July 2007 - 07:19 AM

I'm still a relative newbie to Super 8 but I thought I'd add a comment here to help balance out the negative testamonial. I've sent two orders to CineLab and had very pleasant experiences on both occasions.

I sent out three rolls of Tri-X for process on a Monday and got them back on that Friday. I also mistakenly sent them 64T on another order (which they don't process) but they were very helpful in getting my film processed AND telecined. About 10-day turnaround on that order but it was my fault.

As I called around to the big processors around the country (before deciding on CinaLab), I got the dinstinct impression that Super 8 is a somewhat lower priority for them when compared to the volume of 16mm or 35mm they probably get in much larger quantities and make more money on. Compare that to the hobbyist sending 1 or 2 rolls or filmmaker sending a test roll.

Plan for something to go wrong or be delayed because it will.

Edited by Kevin Olmsted, 03 July 2007 - 07:21 AM.

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#11 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 03 July 2007 - 12:17 PM

As I called around to the big processors around the country (before deciding on CinaLab), I got the dinstinct impression that Super 8 is a somewhat lower priority for them when compared to the volume of 16mm or 35mm they probably get in much larger quantities and make more money on. Compare that to the hobbyist sending 1 or 2 rolls or filmmaker sending a test roll.


This is the case, but the world of film and TV is really driven by relationships. A good sales rep for a vendor loves to develop relationships. If you present yourself in a way that they think of you as a friendly and good person to work with, and potentially a long term client then you will get good service, because they want you to stick with them. Keep this in mind when talking to any vendor in the film and video world.
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