Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Timecode Burns

Submitted by Peter John Ross

Want to know a trick to save your expensive digital video camera from getting editorial wear and tear? Especially all you Canon GL1 owners, or people trying to pay off their cameras.

After the shoot, when you have all your footage, and your tapes all numbered, most people log their footage as they go using their non-linear editing program (Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, or Avid). Which is really cool because you can mark in and out points and you can make a digital log of your footage on each tape.

But you are running a master tape in a deck or camcorder, rewinding, fast forwarding, and playing the footage multiple times. That’s wear and tear on your equipment, your irreplaceable master tapes, and it’s also extra time.

Here’s the not so secret tip, but surprisingly most people don’t know about it.

Make a VHS tape with the timecode showing onscreen. Most camcorders will allow you to select data or timecode output in the menu or on the remote.

Now you can rewind, fast forward, and play over and over again your raw footage and not risk your master tapes or add mileage to your camcorder.

The next step is to watch and log your footage and write down on a piece of paper the timecode of the in and out points of only the footage you need. An important step when logging is to think about the filename for each clip. The official name for your sheets of paper is an EDL (Edit Decision List). You can basically edit your whole piece using the paper edit selecting angles and takes. You use your EDL’s to make the editing decisions and make an offline edit.

All of this while only wearing out the heads of your twenty-nine dollar VCR as opposed to your $2,000 GL1, which some people are still making payments on. Not to mention watching the footage again, making yourself more familiar with the raw, unedited takes.

At this stage you can then use your non-linear software to type in the in and out points you wrote down and use the filenames you made up for each clip and then tell the computer to capture the footage and it will record all the footage from the whole tape, or even multiple tapes if you like, to your hard drive.

Make sure to save the batch capture list. It can be handy later on, such as after you edit your masterpiece, delete all the raw footage and want to make changes a year or two later. If you save the list you can easily use it to recapture the raw footage. On my first few projects I can’t do this because I don’t have a capture list or even a paper EDL to refer to, so I can’t re-edit unless I start from scratch, but I’m only a little bit bitter.

Please note the other benefit – hard drive space. If you do an offline, paper edit from your EDL’s, you are only capturing the footage you need, as opposed to capturing takes and footage you do not need, and filling your hard drives with large video files that you don’t use.
So by copying your raw footage to a VHS tape with timecode you get to:

  • Preserve the life of your camcorder.
  • Preserve the life of your master tapes.
  • Have the safety of being able to easily recapture your footage.
  • Become more familiar with your footage.
  • Save valuable hard drive space.

Timecode burning – this is an old, but very effective technique.

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