In my last blog post, I talked about a tape-based media management workflow from camera to digitization.  In Part 2, we’ll look at a tapeless workflow from camera to transcoding.

Some may be shocked to find that a tape-based workflow and a tapeless workflow are pretty much identical with a few exceptions.

The process still starts in the camera, only instead of loading in tapes to our camera, we are loading in P2 Cards or SDHC cards, etc.

IMPORTANT NOTE 1: If your memory card is new, you must REFORMAT IT.  There is software that you can download to do this, but I recommend doing it in your camera.

IMPORTANT NOTE 2: If your memory card is not new and has footage on it, make sure you’ve copied the footage off the card (see below).  Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to REFORMAT the card again.  I recommend doing this in the camera.

IMPORTANT NOTE 3: Not all memory cards are created equal.  For example, SDHC cards have different classes or different speeds.  If you have a camera that can shoot variable frame rates like we do (Panasonic AF100), you’ll need a card that is at least class 6 or above.  Classes or speeds of cards go all the way up to 10.  With that in mind, not all cameras can use all different classes of cards so make sure you have the correct class of card for your camera and your shooting needs.

Once your card is REFORMATED and in the camera, we still set our Timecode to 01:00:00:00 for the first card.   Now, at this point, the workflow is a little different.  On a 32-gig memory card, recording full 1080/24p HD allows you to record over 3 hours of footage on some cameras (depending on camera compression).  The need to stop every hour is eliminated because we are no longer restricted by the length of a tape.  For most shoots, you’ll only use one card, so you can just let your TC run.  If you have an all day shoot, you can choose to just let the TC run for all your cards.  But what I like to do, if I’ve recorded for 2 hours on one card and have a break to switch cards, I’ll then start with the next hour.  In this example, it would be hour 3.   This is just a personal preference.

Now, the next question is, what do we do once our card is filled or we have a break to switch cards?

We are usually in the field so we bring along a laptop, a card reader and a dedicated hard drive.  Gone are the days of having to store your tapes in a waterproof, fire proof safe for eternity.  Now you can store all your raw camera footage on hard drives, which are much smaller and much easier to store.  (I’ll discuss the huge issue of backing up these files in a second).

Once we are done shooting we’ll take the card out of our camera, put the card into our card reader and boom, it pops up on our desktop.  Then I follow the same exact naming scheme that I would use for my tape workflow.  Only now I create folders with those names.  So…at the end of the day we are left with a series of folders on my dedicated hard drive that look like this,

  1. 020212_CAMA_001
  2. 020212_CAMA_002
  3. 020212_CAMA_003
  4. 020212_CAMB_001
  5. 020212_CAMB_002
  6. 020212_CAMB_003
  7. 020212_CAMC_001
  8. 020212_CAMC_002
  9. 020212_CAMC_003

This of course is an example of a multi-camera, multi-card shoot.

Now you are back in your office/edit with a hard drive full of raw camera footage.  We all know hard drives fail.  So what to do – we want this raw footage forever, right?  What we do is copy the raw footage from our dedicated field hard drive to a RAIDed drive that lives in our edit.  We use a 12 gig G-Tech Es Pro eSata drive.  Once a project is done, we store this rather compact drive in a waterproof, fireproof safe.  It’s way more space efficient than hundreds of tapes!

Now you have all of your raw camera footage copied on multiple drives.  You’re feeling good.  At this point, instead of digitizing your footage like you would do with a tape based workflow, we now have to TRANSCODE the footage so we can work with it in our edit program.

You’ll notice that you can’t play your raw files in your edit program or even in Quicktime player for that matter.  What you’ll have to do (and we’ll only talk about Final Cut Pro at this point) is open FCP, then open the “Log and Transfer” window (you’ll need FCP 7 or higher to have this option).  Here, you can simply drop one of your dated camera folders on the window and BOOOOOMM!  All of your clips you shot on that card will show up!

What is great about this is that FCP automatically fills in the REEL column with your folder name.  So if you were the type of editor that would just put in “lklj;lkj;jk;lkj” as your tape, now FCP automatically does it for you, keeping you much more organized.  “Thanks, FCP!”  “You’re welcome, unorganized-disaster-waiting-to-happen-editor.”

Now you go in and start logging your clips – it’s the exact same process as with a tape-based workflow but with a slightly different look.  You can still set your in and out points for each clip, add a comment, etc.

And, if down the road your transcoded footage goes offline, you can easily get it back by selecting the footage, right clicking and selecting BATCH CAPTURE.  The Log and Transfer window pops up and if you haven’t moved your raw camera files, FCP should be able to find the raw camera folder and re-Transcode your file.  If you did have to move your raw camera folder or rename it, you can easily re-point to the new folder.

Again, make sure you do not have your project file on the same drive as your transcoded media because if one drive dies that has everything on it, then you are out of luck.  So… we have our project file on our computer’s hard drive, a G-Tech Es Pro eSata drive for our raw camera files and another for our transcoded files.

That about does it for a tapeless media management workflow.  Next time, we’ll look at what to do once a project is done: do you really need all those TBs of media?  Storage space doesn’t grow on trees you know!