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Dealing with Metadata

Metadata is information stored with digital files that indicates details such as who created the files and when they were made. Metadata is important when ingesting video because it maintains the link between each frame of video and its matching frames of film and sound. The computer maintains a record of this link throughout the editing process; when you convert your digitally edited sequence back into film, it is a simple matter for it to convert the time code numbers into the proper film and sound numbers for matching.

This data comes to you in two ways. The first is as data, embedded in the video file or a separate file (such as the FLEx file). Time code data is sometimes stored on spare, non-viewable, areas of videotapes. The information is usually placed in two locations: on the Longitudinal Time Code (LTC) area, sometimes called the address track, and in the Vertical Interval Time Code area (VITC), which is a number of scan lines that are not used for the picture.

The information is also placed visually—on the picture you will input into the computer for the editor to cut. This is called a burn-in because the numbers are burned on top of the picture, obliterating the image underneath. Sometimes, on wider-screen films, the numbers are placed in the black bands at the top and bottom of the picture, the letterboxing (see Figure 4.13). Various amounts of information can be burned in. In the example here, you see both 30 fps and 24 fps time codes at the top with the scene and take in between. In the lower band, there is the audio time code, sound roll, camera roll number, and key number. The burn-ins should be large enough to be read easily without blocking out too much of the picture.

Figure 4.13

Figure 4.13 A frame from Silent Night, Silent Cowboy that shows the various burn-in codes requested in the work order.

You can choose where to place the information. Some editors like to place all the information on two lines across the bottom or top of the picture. Others like to split it between one line at the top of the picture and one at the bottom. No matter how your editor likes it, be sure the telecine house is clear about the details before it makes the first day's transfers. It is better to have the dailies consistent.

On feature films, the letterboxing (shown in Figure 4.13) simulates the 1.85:1 aspect ratio that the film will be projected at in the theaters. Black bars are placed at the top and bottom of the video frame, precisely where the theater projector will cut off the film image. With these markings, the editor can get a good sense of just what the audience will see. If there is a microphone hanging at the top of the frame, she only sees it if the audience will see it, too. This does create some difficulty if the editor needs to see the picture out of the 1.85 area, so some editors (myself included) would rather get our telecine full frame and add the letterboxing in our NLEs. This will place the burn-ins on top of the visible picture area. In that case, it's a good idea to place them as high as possible, without putting them out of the visible picture area.

Notice from the work order (Figure 4.8) that the production company asked for one master tape to be struck from the original film negative—the dailies master. This is a high-quality HDCam tape that will be used at the end to create a high-quality edit of the film. But the editor will not want to edit from this tape because it takes too much hard drive space and is too taxing on the editing computer. So the production also requested that an HDV/DVCam tape be made simultaneously with the master tape (a simo cassette). This enables the editor to edit with all the burn-ins shown in Figure 4.13, and make work easier for the sound, music, and online editors who will complete the film after picture lock.

A number of other tapes or DVDs are created at this time as well. Three DVDs were made (probably for the producers, the director, and the studio) and one HDV/DVCam dub for the studio's marketing department. Some productions insist that each viewing cassette be labeled and burned-in with the name of the person who is receiving it. This is to protect against illegal duplication of tapes.

Make sure you receive your editing room tape as early as possible—even if you or your apprentice, Phillip, need to go get it yourselves.

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