Digital Video Editing Preparation

With any nonlinear editing system, it is a good idea to know the system before you begin shooting so you know what your system is capable of. Don’t assume anything. Always do a trial run of any effects, tricks, media exchanges between machines, etc. before you invest any time or money into a project. If it is your first time editing with a particular system, don’t learn with a project you care about. Take a training course, assist someone else first or do a few trial projects of lesser importance. As with everything, you learn by doing and you don’t want to spend your time in the edit bay learning as you are wasting precious editing time. If you don’t know what you’re doing find someone that does.

Check your transfer

When you get your tapes back from the lab, make certain that all your footage has been transferred to your satisfaction. If not, determine whether the fault is with you for failing to be specific or with the lab for failing to follow your instructions. If you don’t have tone or color bars on your transfer, you won’t be able to set your wavefrom or vectorscope or calibrate audio levels. Double check to be certain that the Time Code from your transfer matches your window burned dub. If it doesn’t, don’t start logging.


Be careful, because sometimes decks seem to read TC from a tape even when there isn’t any on the tape. It will seem as if it is reading because you can note the TC of a particular clap, then fast forward or advance it, come back to the same spot and it will read the same TC. To determine whether there is TC, note the TC of a clap and then fast forward or rewind on another deck. Put the tape in the original deck then see if the clap matches the TC.

To check whether or not TC matches from your dub to your original transfer, find a clap on your dub. Then go and find the same clap on your original transfer. If the TC matches on both dubs, it is safe to assume they are identical. It is essential that you check before logging, otherwise all the tedious work will be wasted!

Log your tapes

The reason why you have the window burned VHS dubs made is so that when it comes time to log the tapes, you can do it from the comfort of your home or any VCR.

The author recommends that you:

  • Get a higher end consumer VCR with a jog shuttle or a VHS Industrial deck. Then you can advance frame by frame or pause while you write down Time Code and Shot descriptions.
  • Obtain some log sheets or some lined paper with seperate columns for A) Scene and Take Number B) Five to Six word shot descriptions C) MOS or SYNC D) Your own one word evaluations of takes E) Start Time Code F) End Time Code

As you sit down and begin to view your tapes, watch each through once just to get a feel for the footage. Then go through and find the start and end time code of each shot, shot by shot. Fill in the slate number, shot description, MOS or SYNC for your own evaluation of the take. This may seem like a tedious task and it is tempting to take short cuts or delegate the task to an Assistant. You are much better off logging all the information for every single take, even ones you know you’re never going to use, including camera flashes and roll out so that you at least have it all on paper as a reference guide later on. It will save time when you’re on the clock and your time is precious. I also find that I am much more intimately familiar and have a better sense of the footage if I log it myself.

Once you have completed your logs, you are ready to convert them from paper to a log file that the computer can read.

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