Remember when the intern

Remember when the intern noticed that the Unity (central file server) didn’t have a data connection to the backup power supply? If the power went out, the battery would keep the machine on for 10 - 15 minutes, then it would just crash instead of shutting down gracefully.
So he decided, in the middle of a workday, to connect a serial cable between the two. And as soon as pin touched metal, BOOM, the computer crashed instantly.

It was me. I was the intern.

I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes over 15 years. What mistakes have you learned from?


I’d been working flat out for a week on a spot. The clients came in on Friday and asked to mix the two lighting setups that they’d shot. Not easy, but doable. I said I could have it to them by midnight.

The spot was a “oner” comprised of many takes merged together into a single shtot. It had three main parts that I rendered on two machines. Part 1 assembled it and did the main legwork, Part 2 comped the external elements and Part 3 polished everything up.

To save on time I rendered Part 2 on a second flame. I wire Part 1 to the second flame, render, then wire it back to the first flame and plug the clip into Part 3’s setup.

I didn’t hit the midnight deadline, and in the morning as I was rendering part 3, the delivery company was waiting to dub the spot to thousands of video tapes (distribution was different back then). I QC the spot multiple times and send it out. The dub house gets busy copying the spot to many many tapes.

The agency–away on a shoot–call in and say the light mix hasn’t been done. I swear up and down it has. It’s all I’ve been doing, all night. I check the setup, and there, in Part 3’s setup is the completed light-mix Part 2 render, not connected to anything.


That is one painful story!

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Working on a very large job when I was just getting started on Smoke that had a tooooon of deliverables. HD, SD, 45s, 30s, 20s, 15s, several different languages, of like 6 different related spots. Hundreds of deliverables.

It went a little long, as they often do, so the lead flame artist and I were staying over night on Friday and then were there most of Saturday again getting all the versions made and then everything laid off to tape, two copies.

So the producer comes in Saturday night to review everything. Says it all looks fine except how come the SDs weren’t letterboxed like the client asked for? Is that going to take long to fix?

Neither of us had asked about letterbox vs center cut.

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I used to work as vt editor in the local office for a regional news programme. We would cut stuff for use on the main show, and prior to transmission was played “up the line” to the main studios, where it was recorded onto tape and loaded into a robotic playout system.

One morning, whilst playing up some early cuts for the breakfast news bulletin, my friend stuck his head around the playout room door and handed me a bag with a butty inside and left.

Working one handed because of the sandwich, i was controlling the volumes of the audio tracks, becuase it was our practice to balance the audio into a mono mix live during playout. Expecting a sausage sandwich, I took a huge bite just as the tape started rolling.

The sandwich was not sausage but the much more deadly “Fried Egg”. A huge spurt of red hot, bright yellow yolk fired directly into fader 2 on the mixing desk.

I then spent the next 20 minutes sat at the mixer pushing and pulling that fader just to prevent it from setting solid.

It was often commented on, but no-one ever figured out what had happened to cause that fader to suddenly become rough and jerky. Sound was fine but fine control was gone!


I was alone working on a personal project over the weekend at the Mill NY and I accidentally dragged the entire server into the recycle bin and mindlessly clicked OK on the button the window warning me that everything would be deleted immediately because it was so big.

I swear, that minute or so where I realized what I’d done was like one of the worst moments of my life. Luckily engineering in London was able to restore it from the backup and nobody ever said anything about it again. Damned Lucky.


At my first job In LA, 22 years old, I developed a kind of practical joke rivalry with a producer. It started as small stuff, smearing Vaseline on the phone headset, etc. But it escalated, and the apex was when I doused his workstation with 6 week old rancid fluid from a forgotten chicken dish. The odor was more than I was counting on. It got into the central AC system and they had to evacuate the entire building of 200 people while firefighters used hoses to pump the air out. Everyone knew that if either I or the producer ever turned up dead, it was the other one who did it, so everyone knew. I was called into my boss’ office and I was ready to get sacked. Surprisingly, I got a substantial raise. But he did end the meeting saying, “oh, and don’t ever do that shit again.”


And I learned my lesson and have only done that twice again.

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I knew it . . that was you. I can’t eat chicken any more.

Just pinch your nose and it’s half bearable.

On my first job I was doing one-light’s to 3/4" I had to make 2 copies. One was bad, but I wanted to get on with my day, so I did a tape to tape dub from the first copy rather than re-run the film. But I didn’t write on the tapes with a grease pencil before I pulled them out of the machines. With no label, all tapes look alike so I lost the original. So I took the 2nd gen 3/4" and made another dub. Apparently the client was very upset with the quality. The boss was upset with me. My tenure there remained contentious.

It apparently takes a lot of effort to get canned. Try harder. I believe in you, Tim.

I feel confident that had I stayed one week longer at that job I would have gotten the axe. I guess I’m just a quitter.

One of my early big-kid Smoke sessions was spent building a fairly gnarly animation-intense spot from scratch to match an existing campaign. Lots of rotoed laptops whizzing around revealing price points and similar nonsense. At the end of a 14-hour marathon, I shipped the submaster that was going to be versioned into a zillion different 1-800 number versions overnight at ER with a single frame of the FPO approval 800 number on it. They didn’t catch it until they’d done all their dubs, and as such my employer ate about $15K of redubbing costs. I got called into the owner’s office the next morning. I fell on my sword and somehow didn’t get canned am and in fact still at the same shop 15 years later!

One Friday many moons ago, I called a former boss a liar and a bully for taking credit for all the work I did on two separate Super Bowl spots in a press release.

He fired me the following Monday—go on the day, we’ll send a box with your things to your house. Just thought I might post one of these where the boss isn’t an empathetic human.


I was a 19 year old second AD, long before Google Maps, and I was the local in charge of guiding the caravan of crew to the location. I guess I was too into the zone singing along to Sir Mixalot, and I kinda forgot to follow the pre-chosen map and I lost the crew. Several hours of production down time as cell phones didn’t exist and everyone was simply lost. #Winning

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I’ve got a bit of the opposite story…working on a series of spots that had various rebates in them, you now the type $15 - $4 = $11. Finishing them all up, had spent a week on these with 5-6 agency clients in the room the whole time. We do a couple of reviews, everyone is happy. My assistant, who was a very quiet person in situations like these, is sitting in the back of the room. She gets up and walks by everyone and leans down and whispers …“The math is wrong.” I look at the screen and yeah, no one caught it. I can’t remember exactly what it was but it was along the lines of 15-4=9.
And the best part was this offer came from the agency client, sent to us as a PSD.


Back in the days when spots listed phone numbers…. We once sent to air a spot that we had temped in a phone number until the client confirmed the number. The temp was the facility’s number, and in the chaotic rush to deliver no one noticed we didn’t update the graphic. Whoops.


I once delivered a spot and accidentally put in the wrong audio, not the mix from the sound guys but the offline soundmix which was ripped from the OST of a big movie.

To my defense it was like 4am and I was a intern. :rofl:


The graphics dept on the news show used to put the weather graphics together, and always used to put three random towns so locals could get an idea of the geography,
They tried to have town names with a link to each other - no idea how they got away with grouping Penistone, Scunthorpe and Wetwang!