The human mind craves order. Since the first human decided to neatly stack a stockpile of defensive rocks, we’ve been on an endless quest to organize stuff. And when it comes to video editing, we face a desktop full of virtual clips, graphics and sound files arrayed in a virtual environment of digitally created folders, bins and project files. And, in such a fluid, digital world, it is important to develop a consistent scheme for identifying, locating and storing our files.
For this reason, many of today’s editing systems include sophisticated, specialized databases for keeping track of the digital assets that will make up your projects. And like all databases, if you spend some time thinking in advance about how you want to organize things, you’ll avoid problems down the road.
Log and Capture
To turn your physical videotapes into virtual electronic clips, connect your camcorder to your computer and invoke the log and capture system for your particular software.
Around the main Log and Capture (or Batch Capture) window, you’ll find several places that display, or provide a place for you to enter information about your clips.
If you’re working with any kind of time code, you will typically see three time code entries. One displays the current time code being read from the tape deck, another allows you to set an "in point" from that footage, and with the third, you can specify an "out point" for the current clip. Once you set the in and out points, the time code display window will often switch to show the duration of the clip.
In addition to these three basic time code windows, another dialog may pop up on your screen that allows you to capture or enter a wide variety of other information about your clips. Reel Name, Clip Name and Location fields allow you to specify where your clips are stored on your field tapes or on one or more hard drives.
Beyond those basics, today’s editing applications allow a vast array of optional fields that let you further break down the information that describes your clips.
Apple’s popular Final Cut Pro software has no fewer than 15 places for data entry on its main Log and Capture window. Using them, you can apply a wide range of sophisticated sorting and sifting capabilities that can really help you organize your digital assets. Even so, it’s not critical to use all of the available fields for every clip you log.
In fact, editing software designers have taken great pains to simplify functions such as Log and Capture, using basic keyboard shortcuts to help you work quickly.
Using the JKL row (see the sidebar: JKL Controls), it takes just a few keystrokes to shuttle through your virtual footage in many modern programs.
After setting your appropriate in and out points (tap "I" to set an in point, "O" to set an out point), a keystroke (F2 in Final Cut Pro) brings up the Log Clip screen, where you can type in a clip name and add an optional descriptive note. Then, by pressing the Return key, you can go back to the logging window in preparation for logging your next clip.
Logging subsequent clips is even easier, since the software will automatically ratchet up the clip numbers for you. So, if you name your first clip "CutCake 01," the Log Clip window will automatically enter "CutCake 02" for the next logged clip.
These four basic keystrokes (Set In, Set Out, F2 and Enter) are all you need to log subsequent clips until you need to change the base info in one or more fields.
Since we often shoot our field tapes in sequence and want to edit longer takes into smaller sections, this kind of automatic naming provides real timesaving convenience.
Once all your clips are logged, it is time to go back and actually capture the video from your camcorder to your computer.
If you have plenty of disk space for your incoming capture, you’ll probably want to simply perform a batch capture for all the clips in your logging bin. If so, your capture application will prompt you when you need to change the tapes in your feeder deck, if you logged a number of different tapes, or "reels" on a single project.
But, if your hard drive storage space is limited, your software’s ability to sort your clips by a variety of fields will really shine.
Let’s say that you shot a series of kitchen scenes on different days and they are stored on different tapes. Use the Find or Sort commands built into your logging database to gather all the kitchen shots together. Then, you can capture just these scenes, allowing you to edit the kitchen sequence without clogging up your hard drives.
Throwing a Search Party
In fact, it’s this flexibility of searching and sorting digital assets in an application that makes it advisable to take some time before each editing session to think about how you want to organize things as you work.
Generic names like "Shot 1, Take 1" will do the job if you work on one simple project at a time and don’t really need to store your work for the long term.
But, if you find yourself making video after video, or working on complex projects that are broken into multiple sections, multiple tapes and even multiple cameras, you’ll need a better naming convention. Otherwise, it’s quite possible to find yourself with a whole bunch of clips in a logging bin, all originally from different source tapes, but with identical clip names.
Planning for Success
So, as you sit down to plan your next project, familiarize yourself with your application’s abilities to sort, store, name and retrieve your digital assets.
Think about what bins you’ll need, which folders to use to gather similar clips, and what names and numbers you’ll use to keep your data easy to locate and sorting correctly. Planning actually begins well before the logging and capture phase, however. Real organization comes from creating a shot list before you even roll a camera and from making sure that you carefully and logically label your tapes.
And remember, a strategy developed with an eye to long-term usefulness is important. Because, if you develop long-term clients, it’s not inconceivable that you’ll someday find yourself re-visiting a project long after it’s been delivered to the client, and forgotten. By that time, you most certainly will have forgotten the proper order of the clips.
And if you find yourself in that situation someday, facing a long string of clips all named "Shot 1, Take 1" don’t say that your friends here at Videomaker didn’t warn you.