Electronic Log Notes

Shooting logs have become more and more critical for me. As project timelines get shorter and shorter, the time I get for producing the first cut gets shorter and shorter, too. This means I don’t often have the luxury of taking time to watch all the footage there is. And there’s more of it: with digital versus film shooting, there seem to be more takes, and less of an impetus to say “cut” quickly.

As a result, any tools I can use to get quickly informed about the footage I am working with are critical to my work. Electronic shooting logs are one of those tools.

I’ve dreamed of electronic logs being created on set, embedded into camera footage and riding along through the post-production workflow. They would contain all the metadata from the camera, like any particular frame rates and audio information. They would also include information about what was shot – scene number, take number, shot type, and director’s notes.

But I have awoken from that dream to reality and sometimes to a nightmare.

First the reality.

Because camera manufacturers have their proprietary ways to record footage, the reality is that there isn’t any metadata standard that includes shooting logs. Some try to integrate scene and take information, but getting that done on-set and into the camera is difficult.

Instead, third-party logging apps running on computers or laptops are used. The logging device is either synced with timecode at regular intervals or is connected via wireless timecode transmitter/receivers.

During the shoot, scene, take, and the rest of the log notes for each clip are recorded. Since timecode is available, each clip is stamped with timecode information.

If there is a continuous timecode connection, the actual starting and ending timecode is recorded; otherwise, an approximate start and end are selected when the person taking notes pushes the appropriate buttons.

Once the shoot is over, the log notes are exported and sent to edit. If everything goes well, the logs can be joined up with the footage in the bins, and all is well.

Next time, the nightmare…

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