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Synching Dailies

Most film and television projects have their dailies sunk up at the telecine house, so you may be able to skip this process. In that case, you can skip ahead to the "Working With Dailies Sunk in Telecine" section.

If you will be synching the dailies, you will want to organize your material to make this easier.

Organizing Materials

After you've checked all the paperwork, you can start to organize the dailies. Directors have different organizational preferences:

  • Organize the dailies according to script order, so that Scene 11 always comes after Scene 10, no matter what the shooting order was.
  • Arrange the dailies in the order in which the film was shot, which helps the director remember the day better.
  • Organize according to which camera the takes are from (when multiple cameras are used). For example, the director might like to see all the shots from Camera A then Camera B for the same setup. So 10A-1 "A" is followed by 10A-2 "A" and 10A-3 "A," then 10A-1 "B" and so on. Or, the director might like to organize it so 10A-1 "A" is immediately followed by 10A-1 "B."
  • Some directors don't care about the order—they screen it in the order that it comes from the telecine house.

Before the first day of dailies, ask the editor how to organize the dailies. I like to create a series of folders in my NLE to group the original material received in the morning. I'll label one folder "Dailies Tapes," a second "Sound Files," and the third "Dailies Sunk." Notice how clear these designations are. In this way, if I am sick one day, then a replacement can easily jump into the process and keep things organized in the same way that I do.

Now, let's start to sync the dailies.

Creating the Sequence and Leader

To create a sequence for the dailies, use your NLE's timeline and include all the dailies for the previous day. At the top of the sequence, place one minute of bars and tone. If you follow the instructions in Chapter 3, "Before the Film Begins," you should have this ready in your standard elements bin. I then cut in 10 seconds of black, followed by 10 seconds of a slate, which includes all the crucial information for the day (see Figure 4.20), including contact information for you.

Figure 4.20

Figure 4.20 Place ten seconds of slate at the top of each roll of dailies.

After the slate, add another 10 seconds of black, followed by an Academy Countdown Leader at the beginning of the sequence. This leader, with its 8-7-6-5-4-3-2 sequence, should have a one-frame long 1000Hz sound tone (called a pop or a beep) at the exact frame where the number "2" appears.

Synching the Dailies

In general, do not remove anything from the picture roll in case someone needs to see it. Some things, however, are clearly not needed. You can cut off portions of the picture before or after the takes that are completely clear or black. Cut off long pieces at the end of takes where the assistant cameraperson has put his or her hand over the lens. Do not cut out, unless asked, color cards, gray scales, or pauses at the end of takes where the actors are still visible. On Fame, one take was going badly for one of the actresses. She stopped in the middle of the take and waved for the director to cut. Later on, the editor, Gerry Hambling, was able to use that wave to make another story point. If I had thrown away this "bad" part of the take, he wouldn't have known it existed on the negative—and he would have lost the solution to the problem with that scene.

24 vs. 30 Frame Projects

Before you begin digitizing your first dailies, you need to make one irrevocable decision—at what frame rate to input the footage. Earlier in this chapter, you learned about the 2:3 pulldown. Remember that in the United States film is projected at 24 frames per second (fps) and video is projected at approximately 30 fps. This creates certain problems in converting from one frame rate to another as you digitize the 30 frames per second video dailies.

If your project will end up back on film, you need to digitize and edit the film at 24 fps since that is how it will be distributed. With television shows and web videos, this issue is a little trickier. Normally, it would make sense to edit the film in 30 fps since that is how the project will be shown. That way, only one conversion is necessary—when the original film is digitized. Your 30 fps digitized material would directly match your 30 fps final edited master. However, some networks and web companies are asking for delivery in 24 fps formats because of the growth of 24 fps high definition. In that case, you will most likely edit in a 24 fps project (sometimes called a film project).

Finding Sync Points

When you sync dailies, you are combining the picture and sound files so that people's mouths move at the same time they are talking. This involves finding a common point between each take of the picture and audio, and then telling your NLE to combine the takes. There are several ways to do this (see Figure 4.21 on the next page), including using either the in or out marks (also called in and out points) as the common sync points.

Figure 4.21

Figure 4.21 In Final Cut Pro, you sync dailies by finding a frame with a common sync point and merging the clips. This example uses the in points, which you've already marked in the picture and the audio, as the common point.

If the picture and sound have the same time code (created using a process called jam sync on set, where the camera and sound recorder are linked up with a smart slate that displays the time code), then the work is very easy. However, it is likely that you won't be working with a smart slate. In that case, you need to find the sync point by looking at and listening to the dailies.

The best sync point is the exact moment when the slate closes. This provides a clear picture frame and a definitive audio frame that you can easily see when you turn on the waveforms as in Figure 4.22. If you mark these matching moments with in or out points, then use the Merge Clips (Final Cut Pro) or Group Clips (Avid) command, and a new clip will be created with the audio and video sunk up. Continue this process until all the takes are sunk.

Figure 4.22

Figure 4.22 A sample of two tracks on a sequence's timeline, with the waveform visible.

At this point, you can add an Academy Tail Leader, with its own pop, two seconds after the last frame of your dailies.

In general, leave the MOS takes completely silent. Sometimes the sound recordist will take some wild sound (that is, sound for which there is no picture). Generally, these wild tracks are added to the end of the dailies or left out of the synching process entirely. Check with the editor to see what she wants to do with them.

Working with Dailies Sunk in Telecine

Often, the dailies are sunk by the telecine house. This greatly simplifies your work and makes the dailies available much earlier. Nearly every decent budget film and television show that is shot as a double system (with separate picture and sound) has the telecine house sync their dailies for that reason.

However, this doesn't mean that you have nothing to do. You need to check the following:

  • Make sure the telecine house transferred everything listed on the script supervisor's notes (in particular, the editor's log) and the camera and sound reports.
  • Check the accuracy of FLEx files as well.
  • Make sure the information for every take is correct.
  • If multiple cameras were used on the set, you probably need to add the designations for A and B cameras to the end of the scene and take number (for example, 34-2A or 34-2B). Most telecine operators don't bother to write the camera designations in the name portion of the file.

Confirm that the telecine house sunk the dailies correctly. I often find that their work is not as precise as mine. In that case, you need to re-sync the material using the method described in the previous section.

Checking Your Work

Don't let anything leave your editing room without checking it for accuracy. For example, the assistant cameraperson on the set might have clapped the slate a second time (this is called second sticks and is, ideally, noted on the script supervisor's notes as well as the camera and sound reports), but you might have accidentally sunk the picture up to the first clap. Screening the dailies once, all the way through, will ensure that nobody else sees a mistake.

Checking the dailies also gives you the first real look at any problems inherent in the footage. If there is anything serious that hasn't come to your attention by now, a viewing will bring it to your attention. And let us not forget the importance of listening to the dailies as well—preferably with headphones. As you watch the dailies, keep the script supervisor's notes nearby for reference as well as your own lists of what is on each dailies roll.

Once the dailies themselves are ready, you need to create the editor's dailies notes sheets for the editor (see Figure 4.23). Some editors like these notes on loose-leaf paper and some prefer spiral notebooks, but the basic concept remains the same. At the top of the page is the dailies roll number and the date of shooting. Following each take on the roll is a short description of the shot. Leave room for the editor and director to make notes during the dailies screening. Your description should be fairly short and standardized. List the size of the shot (WS for wide shot, CU for close-up, and so on) and a description that identifies it for the editor (master, dolly to CU of ABBY, and so on). You can decide what to write as you watch the shot, using the script supervisor's notes if necessary. As you watch the dailies, confirm that everything is in perfect sync.

Figure 4.23

Figure 4.23 A page from the editor's dailies notes for the editor to use at the dailies screening with the director.

Many editors like to have their assistants break to a new page when a new scene starts. That way, when they are finished watching dailies, the sheets can be separated and placed into a large three-ring binder along with the dailies notes from the previous days, in scene order. It is easier for editors to find notes organized by scene order than in the order of the dailies reels.

As you do this, make sure your video burn-ins are placed properly on the screen and that every A-frame is on a zero or a five frame (if your editing machine requires that). Be sure to compare the visual burn-in codes (the video and audio time codes, as well as the key numbers) at the start and end of every take against the numbers your NLE says are at those frames. They should match exactly. When you're finished with all this, you've finished synching the dailies.

Screening Film

In rare cases, the production company will ask to screen a film of the dailies rather than a videotape. Or, it might want to screen the HD master tape rather than the sunk footage created in your NLE.

In these cases, you will actually screen your film or HD tape, running in sync with your sunk audio. Some facilities allow you to screen the material directly from your NLE. Others require you to output your dailies sequence to a tape (either audio or video) that can be locked together with the film or HD tape.

Since you will have little or no ability to edit those formats, make sure that you do not remove or change the order of anything in the dailies. Ensure that the order in which you are synching (down to the exact number of frames between takes) is exactly the same as your HDV/DVCam tapes.

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