Production Journal: January 25, 1995

We finished the laser disc master Monday night and will see a prototype copy Monday. Monday I will be in Tulsa, which is where the software is being developed, so we will look at it together there. Laser discs of the sort we are using have the capacity to stand on a still image or move through motion footage at any speed. My next task is to finish the design of the disc, which is controlled by a computer in the network; this means I can issue a command such as "play that great lava fountain sequence again" and every videodisc player hooked in to the network will obediently find that part of the disc and play it. But I have to define what the "lava fountain sequence" consists of -- a still picture? a five-second clip of moving images? or something neat like two still images of five seconds each, followed by a ten second motion sequence in 50% slow motion with a freeze frame at the end for five seconds, followed get the idea. The more I can anticipate the action on the live screen such that I can build longer sequences of that nature, the easier my job will be during the program. The software controlling the disc is elegantly designed, allowing me both routine sequences that I will tend to run in the same order in every program, as well as not-so-routine sequences that might be called for on occasion. Now the task is for me to say what all the sequences are.

We are gathering information from all the scientists about the equipment they will need, and planning things like how big a table they will need to set it all on. We have also decided that tents are a more appropriate means to keep things protected than the custom shelters we were going to build. The down side of tents is the noise of flapping canvas, I guess. The proportions may not be optimal for us. The tops may be more opaque than we would like (cameras like diffused light, and dislike extreme contrasts of dark and light). But it is nice to gradually move into this detailed level of planning, instead of the more sweeping, intellectually challenging tasks of determining who gets to talk about what. I am still wrestling with some of those issues, but now there is some balance, and it seems more concrete, more real. Like it is really going to happen!

So, the script. We've added another scientist, Steve Montgomery, who (I have to find this out) either discovered or did the definitive field work on carnivorous caterpillars. This does not really change the script much, as he will rotate with Ken Kaneshiro and Rosie Gillespie.

The scientists are all receiving a second draft of their program outlines, which takes into account their responses to the first version. For the most part, the revisions were painless and had more to do with using language more precisely. This is wonderful for a writer to be able to say, because it means the essential structure is sound, just the trimmings need adjustment.

We have a crew going to Hawaii tomorrow to shoot some additional recorded sequences but primarily to look at the site which has changed so much since we were there before. At this moment we are concerned about placement of the lava crane, among about a hundred other logistical nightmares. the rest of the expedition participants are getting forms in the mail that the Jason Foundation needs back; these deal with scary stuff that we are all risking, for which no one else wants any responsibility whatsoever. I wonder how many other people, before signing this legal document, will ask why am I doing this?

I guess one reason is that we all are partly adventurers. To me, the Jason Project is the information-age equivalent of a safari or a voyage of discovery. For the scientists it is a serious expedition, but for us on the production side (who share in the scientific dimension but do not create it) it is a mission more like preparing for a major surgical operation. It is a huge and difficult jigsaw puzzle of competing needs and limitations, wrapped around a core of fascinating ideas and people. It has elements of theater, elements of science, it calls on our most profound understanding of how to communicate complex ideas, and it lets us play with some of the greatest toys in the universe. Yeah, I guess I'll sign.

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Gene Carl Feldman ( (301) 286-9428
Todd Carlo Viola, JASON Foundation for Education (