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News Flash: How to Log and Capture Footage from Videotape

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Most broadcast organizations aspire to tapeless acquisition, but the reality is that most are still using videotape in the field. This sample chapter focuses on techniques that accelerate the process of working with videotape in a nonlinear environment, specifically as it relates to fast-paced news and sports editing.
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The chief difference between transfers from videotape and from tapeless systems into Final Cut Pro is that videotape content can be captured to a hard disk or server only in real time—importing a 15-minute tape clip takes 15 minutes—while tapeless media allow faster-than-real-time importing. At one time Sony made a high-speed DVCAM tape deck and Panasonic made a high-speed DVCPRO deck that offered a faster-than-real-time ingest method called Serial Digital Transport Interface, or SDTI. Those decks are rare and are no longer manufactured.

Many broadcast stations have designated “ingest” stations, where new videotapes are captured to servers in real time as soon as they arrive at the station. This method provides access to raw material from all networked editing seats while the material is arriving on the server.

Ingesting the full contents of every inbound tape works well for many applications, but it falls short when, for instance, five photojournalists arrive back at the station with breaking-news footage just 20 minutes before airtime. This is where capturing directly in the edit room accelerates the process.

If you share the edit room (or a laptop) with other editors, it is always a good idea to confirm that the Easy Setup menu is set to your capture and delivery format before editing. This will maximize the performance in real time, as well as expedite the transfer to a playout server that is set to the same target format and codec.

The two fundamental rules for accelerating a videotape workflow are as follows:

  • Don’t log first and then capture if you’re under a deadline. Instead use the Capture Now button and grab material as you screen it.
  • Don’t mark In points prior to capturing. It wastes valuable time because the deck will have to “pre-roll.” Again, use the Capture Now button to grab material on-the-fly.

After a couple of times, you will remember all the details of the setup and capture, even under deadline pressure.

Logging Videotape Prior to Capture

Logging is the process of identifying material using timecode to describe certain elements within a shot. This is done either on paper or on an electronic log that can be used to retrieve video content automatically. Typically this process is used for episodic television, movies, commercials, documentaries, and longer-form news segments when multiple takes and alternate shots are available. Producers of breaking-news and sports segments seldom have those luxuries or the time to sift among them, so this guide does not cover the logging process.

Screening material, making selections, but not capturing that material at the same time when editing a news story is an impractical use of time. But if producers or reporters want to take timecode notes on sound bites, B-roll, or standup takes prior to walking into the edit room, let them. It is easier to have them hand you a sheet with time-code hit times and to load those elements directly than going through what is effectively an “offline”capture for a news story.

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