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Tapeless Workflows

It used to be that most of the media you dealt with was recorded on tape. The beauty of tape-based formats is that there is a raw tape that can be stored and retrieved as needed. However, most productions are going tapeless (Figure 4.14). The advantage of being able to ingest footage faster than real time is the killer feature, but other advantages of tapeless workflows include working at higher resolutions than HD, mixing different frame types and rates on a card, and even (on some cameras) being able to access the raw sensor data.

Figure 4.14

Figure 4.14. A Panasonic P2 card

What makes Adobe Premiere Pro particularly amazing is its ability to work with tapeless formats without any transcoding or rewrapping. Yes, you’ll need a robust system and, preferably, a system with the GPU-based Mercury Playback Engine. The ease of the workflow on your system to handle media natively means that you don’t need to waste time; you can start editing immediately.

Mounting a Card

To load the tapeless media onto your system, you’ll need the appropriate card reader or drive. For many formats, this will mean an approved hardware device from the manufacturer (such as a P2 card reader or XDCAM drive; see Figure 4.15). In other cases, you may be able to use a generic third-party device (such as a CF card reader). Some cameras and hard drive recorders will require you to hook up the actual device to transfer the media. In any workflow, be sure that you attach the device to the fastest port and connection protocol supported by your machine.

Figure 4.15

Figure 4.15. A Sony XDCAM deck reads XDCAM media.

The following camera workflow guides may be useful:

Creating a Clone and a Copy

Although it’s possible to work directly from a card or field disk, it isn’t a permanent solution. Because tapeless media is expensive, you’ll probably want to reuse it! Therefore, you need to make sure the content on your tapeless media is archived. The footage coming in from tapeless sources should be moved to at least two locations (not on the same drive).

That’s how Adobe Prelude fits in. It was primarily designed for copying media from file-based storage systems to multiple locations with the option to transcode.

Storing your media can be done by using two separate but related methods.

  • Transfer the media. Whether it’s by unwrapping or simply copying the footage contained on a tapeless media device, the first step in archiving is to make sure you have a “live” version of the footage.
  • Back up the media. After footage has been transferred from the tapeless media, the next step is to create a backup of the tapeless media on your computer. In the world of tape, this process is akin to putting tape back on the shelf after you’ve captured it.

When you make a copy of your media, it’s not enough to just drag and drop files. In most cases, it’s crucial to maintain the file structure of the original tapeless media when copying to a backup device and your media drive. If you discard the metadata and folder structure on the card, you can lose important information and face challenges when importing spanned clips.

We’re big fans of cloning the disks. These clones are bit for bit verified copies of the originals. You’ll find this capability built into Apple’s Disk Utility tool, which allows you to create a disk image (.dmg) file. Unfortunately, Windows 7 doesn’t offer the same built-in feature, but there are third-party tools that allow creation of ISO files.

For those of you on set, this job is often performed by a digital imaging technician (DIT). Aside from being responsible for the transferring and extra copies of footage, a DIT might also check the footage for exposure and possibly apply a LUT or use a tool like Adobe SpeedGrade to check the footage.

Spanned Clips

Some formats will create multiple spanned clips to represent a single video file. A spanned clip divides the material into separate files to keep the length of any one file under a threshold (such as 4 GB). Although spanned clips are physically stored as separate files, they should be handled by Adobe Premiere Pro as a single clip.

Here are some important tips concerning spanned clips:

  • Select only one clip. The key to importing spanned clips is to select only one of the clips in the span. If you select more than one spanned clip, you will end up importing duplicate copies of the media.
  • Keep the XML. The reason you cloned the entire card was to retain all of the meta-data. Without this data, spanned clips typically cannot be reassembled.
  • Both cards. If the clip spans two P2 or XDCAM cards, it’s important to copy the entire directory for both cards to your drive. The copies should be at the same level in a media folder.
  • Favor the Media Browser. The most reliable way to import spanned clips is with the Media Browser. However, you can also use the Import command (File > Import) in most cases.
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