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Preparing to Capture from Videotape

Whether you are connected to a server or working with standalone storage, the process of capturing is the same: only the destination of the captured media changes. The destination can be chosen in the Capture Settings tab in the Log and Capture window.

To open the Log and Capture window, choose File > Log and Capture, or press Command-8.

The Capture Settings tab, in the upper-right corner of the Log and Capture window, contains several controls that must be set correctly for successful capture from videotape.

Begin with the Device Control pop-up, which enables Final Cut Pro to start, stop, and otherwise control your deck via its FireWire connection (or its connection to a FireWire converter, if the device itself doesn’t support FireWire), as well as a 9-pin (RS-422) serial deck connection (either provided through a third-party capture card, or a USB adapter).

Once you have specified the correct Device Control settings, you should use the Capture/Input pop-up to set the frame rate and compression settings that will be applied to the tape content as it is imported into Final Cut Pro.

If you share your system, you should confirm your settings are correct before starting a project with a close deadline.

Click the Clip Settings tab. This is where you will select the components of the tape you want to capture, such as audio and video.

It’s generally wise to capture the video and both audio tracks from all field tapes. You can always delete unnecessary or unused elements, such as audio from alternate mics, in the Timeline. It is much more difficult to go back after the fact to capture a track you missed—as when, for instance, a reporter records interview sound on the wireless-mic track while you’re shooting coverage in a different direction.

Last, click on the Logging tab. We are going to use this to name the clip, not to log clips offline and then batch capture.

This tab lets you set the logging names for the clips as well as the target bin. You may want clips to be named sequentially as you grab the shots you want: for instance, exterior, exterior-1, exterior-2, and so on. The naming convention can be set in this tab.

Note that you cannot name a clip while it is being captured, so you can either just let the naming happen by itself (number suffixes increment automatically), name the clips after they’ve been captured (the current best practice), or name them prior to clicking the Now button.

Pre-roll during capture is unnecessary and should be avoided at all costs, but thousands continue to do it, even in news. It is a holdover from the linear tape-to-tape world, in which you had to back your decks up at least 5 seconds from the start of a selection, pause, and then play to make sure that both the player and recorder were synced prior to capture. The net loss for this outmoded practice is anywhere from 6 to 10 seconds per shot. Ten shots equals at least one minute lost, and you don’t have a minute to lose.

Instead of pre-rolling, Final Cut Pro lets you set your deck to All Enable mode, so that you can control it using either its physical buttons or the transport controls in the FCP interface. Shuttling using the deck’s knob or FCP’s slider, for instance, has the same effect. Once you set the deck to All Enable you don’t have to set it again. Most Sony Betacam decks have menu setting 006 assigned to this. Panasonic uses menu setting 004 for most of its decks. These menus are adjusted using either the front panel display on the deck itself, or using a monitor attached to the TC Char output, which is usually output 3.

Once this is all set up, you can begin the capture of the material from tape.

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