What Happens On XDCam

What Happens On XDCam
For a volatile movie star, it’s just not possible to cue back the tape when shooting on XDCAM.

I was working as an Avid editor for entertainment news in Los Angeles. One day, the edit suite was slow, so I was helping the crew set up for a celebrity interview in our studio. We had just switched over from shooting on Betacam SP to the new Sony XDCAM disc media. We were all still learning the technical aspects, as well as getting used to a new workflow.

The celebrity arrived, publicist in tow, to promote a new Movie of the Week. He was a well-known action star from the ‘80s, but had fallen on hard times since his heyday and had admitted in the past to drug and alcohol problems. It became apparent that he was intoxicated during our interview.

Our reporter started with softball questions about the actor’s new project. Some similarities were drawn from the character to the actor’s very public real-life experiences. Questions were politely posed in such a way that the actor could have easily avoided answering them, but he got really offended. The interview deteriorated into a rant-and-rage session, getting completely out of hand. Then he and his publicist demanded to review the footage. The cameraman obliged, and everyone watched on the studio monitor.

The publicist found a point in the middle of the interview where things began to go wrong. He instructed our cameraman to cue the footage back to that point, and that part of “the tape” was where he was to begin “recording over from.” Our cameraman tried to explain that it wasn’t tape we were shooting on. Our producer wanted the problem solved so that they could move on and told our cameraman to just do what they wanted and “press the damn record button on the camera.”

Well, that’s what he did, and the interview resumed with toned-down questions and answers. Everyone was happy, and our guests left.

Afterward, our reporter said, “Wow, that was fireworks! I wish we still had that on tape!” To which our cameraman replied, “But we still do.” He then proceeded to explain how the camera wasn’t designed to erase the clip from the point at which it was cued, and it instead started recording a new clip on a different part of the disc media.

Some of us were tempted to use the “lost footage” in the editing room, but it wound up on the cutting-room floor. I guess it just goes to show that you should always be careful what you say in front of the camera.

Andrew Grant is a New York-based freelance editor, cameraman and independent filmmaker.

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