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Assignment 9: Making a Log Book

Right now, get any old three-ring binder, no more than 1 inch thick. You can either design the cover and log sheets yourself or use the ones that are on my Web site at and Place the cover sheet under the plastic on the front of your notebook.

Now print out about 20 copies of the log sheets and place them in your notebook. Use tab dividers to separate the blank log sheets into two or three sections: one marked M for “master,” one marked S for “source,” and (if you need it) one marked A for “analog.” Now you have a handy log book to keep track of your first tapes.

Your logging station

You don’t need any fancy setup to log your tapes. In fact, in Chapter 5 I advise doing it away from your editing system, mostly to break up the process physically. (I think it’s healthy to cut back on your time in front of a computer.) Logging does not require a computer or even a TV set, although you could use both or either if you so choose. Figure 4.4 shows my logging station.

Figure 4.4

Figure 4.4 This is my friend Laura pretending to log one of my tapes, while actually demonstrating excellent logging setup and position. You can do it anywhere, and all the materials you need (videotape, log book, pen) are close at hand.

  1. Sit down somewhere comfortable with your camera and log book. Place the log book in your lap and open it to a blank page.
  2. Flip out the camera’s LCD, and turn on the timecode and data code displays (for date).
  3. With a nice pen, write the reel number at the top right corner of your new log sheet (so that you can see it easily while flipping pages). Try to write legibly.
  4. Rewind the tape to the beginning, and press Play.
  5. You should be able to log the tape in real time, as it plays, without making any stops. (You can stop if you want to; you just shouldn’t need to.)
  6. Keep your notes short but descriptive. Focus on scene changes—actual events of shooting and the dates shot—not on the detail of the content from each shot or setup.

That’s all there is to it.

The time to make a log is the first time you sit down to watch a tape. You can probably tell why you need continuous and ascending timecode; how useful is a log if every series of shots begins again at 00:00?

How much detail to log?

I try to be pretty casual with my logs. The more accurate you try to be, the slower the process and the more likely you are to bag the whole exercise. For S tapes, the most important distinction is to note the scene changes. Don’t get too caught up in precisely noting the timecode; it is only there to help you find material on the tape. For instance, ignore the timecode unit of frames. Also, you need to be only reasonably close with the seconds, but do get the minutes right. With a little practice, you can do this while the timecode is displayed, without ever stopping the tape after you press Play. There is nothing wrong with starting and stopping the tape to be more accurate in your logs, but it will slow down the process and establishes a degree of accuracy that is unnecessary. And so, after a little practice, your list might read as follows:



Thanksgiving with family



Jonah learns to ski



Airport coming home



Jonah makes a kite

Notice that I didn’t use any end times (I only use end times on the clips recorded onto master tapes), and I’ve kept my descriptions very general. A more accurate but laborious log describing the shots in more detail may or may not help make material easier to edit. For instance:



Thanksgiving cooking


Dog eats beets sequence


Grandpa arrives


Cutting the turkey



Drive to Ski Mountain


WS Summit, Jonah turns



Airport, coming home

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