A Streamlined Workflow


Q In your Video Assist column from the June issue, you had a question from someone about log notes. They wondered about editing all of their shooting notes into a file that could travel with or be embedded in the media. When they mentioned "scene and take," it got me thinking about the whole concept of takes. While some of the projects I work on follow a pretty standard shooting scenario of "roll sound, roll camera, mark it, action, cut," there are some that don’t. Many of the shoots I’ve been on shoot multiple takes once the camera is rolling, particularly if the scenes are short pickups. A director might say, "Give me that three ways, and, action." While it appears to be more efficient, it seems like it might make for problems farther down the line. Wouldn’t "one file" for "one take" be better? Productions are always give-and-take in my experience. The craft is important, but so is knowing when to push for what may help the overall process. I’m not sure if this is one of those cases, but I thought I’d bring it up.
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A "One file for one take" is an interesting proposition. There’s something to be said for opening up the drive with the delivered project media and seeing a "footage" folder and a "sound" folder and knowing they have a parallel structure with the same amount of files in each folder. Unfortunately, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that production is a complex operation. One person’s "efficiency" is another person’s "wasting time." If you have a large crew, failing light or any combination of factors, stopping to re-slate each take may not be the best idea. Yes, it may be more confusing when you get to postproduction, but the pressure to complete won’t be as great. Of course, proper shooting notes will help.

I think implied within your question is the whole issue of slates. With digital capture and time code, is a slate necessary? Isn’t all that information in the log notes? The notes can work if they’re good, if they relate to the files and if they follow the media.

To elaborate: By "good" I mean the notes are accurate, and they’re easy to read. With electronic notes, this certainly gets better, but only if what’s entered makes sense. Is there one take per entry or multiple takes? What’s a retake? Or a pickup?

As far as "relating to the files," do the notes refer to file names? Or time code? If you’re using time code, you can lose efficiency trying to match time codes to notes in post.

And, lastly, if the notes disappear or get separated from the media, then all bets are off. It may seem unlikely that the notes will disappear, but I recently talked with an editor who was "forwarded" the electronic log notes as a link to a cloud-stored folder. Unfortunately, the cloud security required specific permissions to be set and the person who created the folder was unavailable for two days.

Obviously, notes tell a lot more than a slate, but when you use a slate, at least the scene and take are embedded in the file. That information can be priceless in post.