I bought the XDCam system (PDW-530P) early, in the summer of 2004 when it was still a new unproven format. Since then XDCam optical disk has almost become an industry standard for a lot of broadcast shows reality/news/sports and shows with lots of footage. During this time we’ve also invested in both the PDW-700 as well as our baby F3.
The 530 and the 700 both record to an optical blue laser disk (with disc media inexpensive enough to just hand off to clients) and the F3 to SxS solid state cards. They all fall under the XDCam format (with different bit rates and color sampling) and they are all file based. So you ask: Everything is file based now a days, so what?
Well there is more to file based video than just the ease of editing in your favorite NLE. One thing that often surprises me is how few people actually take advantage of the benefits of file based acquisition. I am going to focus on one of these aspects; how to easily log your footage.
We often work with clients who have no idea they can walk away with all the material we shoot, on their laptop, at the end of the shoot, and log everything with audio and timecode. The best thing is they can do this on the trip back, in their hotel room or even better; on the couch at home… I still hear producer/directors saying they have to go to the office and log their footage using a deck or an edit suite…just like the old days.
For every take, the camera creates one high resolution and one low resolution ( proxy) clip on the optical disc/SxS card. It is the low resolution clip (proxy) we are looking at for logging. The proxy file contains video, audio, timecode and meta data. The data rate is really low (1,5Mbit) so you can’t judge focus, color or video/audio quality but it is perfect for audio transcribing and performance review.
On the PDW-700 for example you can even add all these proxy files to a USB stick at the time of shooting. We use 1 USB drive per disk, which the client can bring home at the end of the shoot or send off to have transcribed.
If you choose not to add the proxy files to a USB stick while filming, you can add them to a computer later. This is a quick and painless process which takes a couple of minutes per disc. Simply hook up the camera via firewire (or even ethernet) and transfer your footage. Sony has specific softwares for browsing your proxy files i.e. PDZ-1 XDCAM Proxy Browse. Since we are Mac Based we use the very simple and easy to understand XDCam Transfer software intended for Final Cut Pro. We run this software as a stand alone application. Some clients scare at the thought of learning a new software but after 3 minutes they just smile.
It installs in a minute and takes no computer skill what so ever, which is a must sometimes 😉 . Click on a clip and hit spacebar. Look, Listen and note timecode. Make your notes, enjoy your cup of coffee.
Information about the clip is right there in the proxy window. Timecode, in/out marking, clip name, bit rate audio channels. If you use an external recorder you can, depending on what brand/model, set it up with matching clip names and of course timecode will always match.
This is a broad overview on how we try to get producers/directors/clients to log the footage if they have a need to. You can of course take this 1, 2 or even 3 steps further within the proxy softwares to add comments, change clip names, create sub clips, export rough cuts, in/out points and so on, but then you’re talking about operations that require a little more than just hitting space bar… 🙂
Disclaimer: Usual stuff, no one asked me or payed me to write this article.