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Chapter Four. Preparing to Edit > Logging With Final Cut Pro

Logging With Final Cut Pro

Log and Capture Window

At first glance, the Log and Capture window can be intimidating. It certainly seems to require a lot of information! However, once you learn to use this tool, it will speed your logging process considerably.

The Basics

Like most features in Final Cut Pro, the Log and Capture window includes a huge number of options you don't need right away. You can get by just fine with a very limited subset of logging capabilities.

Figure 4.3. The Log and Capture window is accessible by selecting Log and Capture from the File menu or typing -. Any time you want to move footage from your tape into your computer, you will use this window.

At the most basic level, you can log a clip if you can tell Final Cut Pro just three things:

  • the clip's starting time (its In point).

  • the clip's ending time (its Out point).

  • the clip's name.

IN AND OUT POINTS When you're working with a clip, Final Cut Pro allows you to set special markers identifying the frames that begin and end each shot you want to use. These markers are known as In and Out points.

When it comes time to log, four basic steps will do the job:

Play your tape, using the to start and stop playback, until you find the clip you want to log.

Use and to mark the In and Out points, thus marking the precise segment of the tape you wish to log.

Hit , or click the Log Clip button to enter the clip into the database.

Type in a name for the clip in the dialog box that appears, or accept the name generated by Final Cut Pro's auto-naming feature.

That's it! Once you've learned those steps, you're ready to log and capture your footage. All the other controls are gravy.

I find the on-screen controls too small to use effectively, especially since you need them so often—so I recommend memorizing and using these four keyboard shortcuts.

Required Fields

As you can see, the Log and Capture window contains more than ten fields waiting for input. How do you know which fields to use for each clip?

Only four fields are required: Reel, Clip In and Out points, and Name.

Provide Meaningful Reel Numbers

It's critically important to enter a reel number (or name) when you log shows with source footage that spans more than one tape. In fact, Final Cut Pro won't allow you to log a clip without entering something in the Reel field.

Be sure to enter meaningful information in the Reel field. Final Cut Pro doesn't care whether you enter text or a number, but whatever you enter into that field is the only thing that will tell you which tape to put into the deck when you do the capture later.

Always include something that's actually written on the outside of the tape. While you may remember which tape is which over the first few weeks of a project, who knows what you'll remember when you need to revisit the film months or years down the road?

It's equally important to be sure that all clips from the same tape are entered with exactly the same reel name. Final Cut Pro will treat Tape 2 and Tape 002 as different tapes. To assist you in making the names identical, the Shortcut menu will pop up a list of all the reel names you've already used in a given project. Rather than retyping a reel name from memory, select it from the pop-up menu to ensure that syntax and capitalization are identical (Figure 4.4).

Figure 4.4. The Shortcut menu provides a list of all the reel names used in the current project. Access it by -clicking the Reel field.

Setting In and Out Points

I've already described how to set the In and Out points. But how do you know where to set them?

Breathing Room

Always overestimate. Set your In early and set your Out late. Once your clip is captured, you don't want to have to go back and look at the tape again. If an assistant is logging, the editor may never even know that something exists on the tape if it was cut off during logging.

Also, transitions and other effects sometimes require additional frames beyond the footage you mark between your In and Out points—another reason to provide a little slop on either side of each clip.

When to Add Handles

At the point when you actually capture the logged footage, you have the option of adding handles to extend the shots slightly. This is one way of ensuring you capture enough extra footage before and after each shot to allow room for transitions and other effects.

HANDLES Extra footage before and after the selected In and Out points. Final Cut Pro can add handles automatically during capture.

You can set the default length for your handles in the Batch Capture dialog box (Figure 4.5). Handle length will be applied uniformly to the beginning and end of every captured clip. Usually editors set this value to one or two seconds.

Figure 4.5. The Batch Capture dialog box appears when you click the Batch Capture button in the Log and Capture window. Here you can set how much time you want to add as a handle before and after every clip to be captured.

Using handles ensures that you get a little room to maneuver within each clip, but it's a pretty generalized way to address this problem. If you set your In and Out points thoughtfully in the first place, you can customize the amount of elbowroom you leave yourself shot by shot—and may not need to add handles at the time of capture.

It's a good idea to decide whether or not you intend to use handles before you begin logging. If you do plan to use them, then you can set In and Out points for the beginning and end of the action in each shot. For example, set the In just as the director calls “Action!” and the Out right as she says “Cut!” The handles will provide the slop you may require later. If you don't intend to use handles, you should set your In and Out points earlier (perhaps as soon as the camera begins rolling) and later (when the camera stops rolling).

The only problem with using handles is that Final Cut Pro requires at least three to five seconds of pre-and post-roll before and after each clip it attempts to capture. This means that you cannot safely set an In point earlier than five seconds into the tape or an Out point later than five seconds before the end of the timecode on the tape. Since most people log a tape right up to the last frame, adding a handle may reset the Out point for your last clip off the end of the tape—which will generate an error when you attempt to capture the clip.

PRE-AND POST-ROLL In order for Final Cut Pro to capture clips accurately, the deck needs at least a few seconds before the clip gets up to speed—and a few seconds after the clip ends so Final Cut Pro can close the file properly. Different decks require different amounts of pre-and post-roll; you can set the values in the General Preferences window.

What's in a Name?

Because naming your clips is so important, Final Cut Pro provides quite a few powerful features to help you do it.

Keep Names Short

I warned earlier about using cryptic names for your clips, but sometimes you won't have any choice. The problem is that the name you give your clip is carried over to name the actual file on disk. And thanks to the Mac Classic operating system's antiquated 32-character limit on filenames, that means you can't exceed 32 characters when you name your clips.

To make matters worse, Final Cut Pro reserves 6 of those characters, leaving you only 26 characters to work with. Why? To accommodate another of the Classic OS's limitations: the 2GB file-size limit. When you capture a clip that needs more than 2GB (easy to do, since 2GB stores only ten minutes of DV), Final Cut Pro creates a reference movie that points to a linked array of 2GB files. Each of these files is given a custom extension: AV-001, AV-002, and so on.

Fortunately, we can look forward to relief for both of these problems when an OS X version of Final Cut Pro is released.

No Dupes, Please

It's very important to avoid creating duplicate names when you're logging your clips. Final Cut Pro allows you to have multiple items with the same name in the Browser, but because your clip names will become filenames, they must all be unique.

This may sound easy, but when you start logging shots for a long project, you'll be surprised how often you're tempted to use the same clip name, such as CU Trey_01 or LS Sailboat. Fortunately, Final Cut Pro has a screening mechanism that warns you during capture if you attempt to create a duplicate filename. But at that point you won't know which clip is which, so it's much better to avoid the problem in the first place. Use some piece of information unique to the shot, such as a description of the scene it was in (CU Trey Hockey Game_01) or, with more generically named footage, the date or some other detail to help differentiate the clip (Feb2 LS Sailboat BootWaves).

When to Use Auto-naming

For certain types of footage, where the names of clips are going to be very repetitive or follow numerical patterns based on scene and shot names, you should use Final Cut Pro's auto-naming features to generate clip names. This capability is designed to name and number your clips automatically, based on the information you type into the fields below the Name field (Figure 4.6). The tiny check boxes beside each field indicate whether that field will become part of the clip name. If you leave a box unchecked, that information is still recorded with the clip but will not become part of the clip name.

Figure 4.6. The clip name is based on the text in the fields below. Check the boxes next to the fields you wish to include. You cannot type directly into the Name field.

In the simplest case, you can just use the Description field to name your clips. Every time you log a clip, the field is incremented with a number or letter. This prevents you from logging clips with duplicate filenames.

For instance, let's say you're logging a tape of nature footage taken in Yosemite National Park. The first thing on the tape is a long shot of Yosemite Falls from the valley floor. The shot runs for 20 seconds, and then zooms into a CU of three struggling hikers climbing an adjacent trail. You type Waterfall Hikers Zoom into the Description field and log the clip by pressing .

Once the clip has been logged, the Description field automatically increments to Waterfall Hikers Zoom1 (Figure 4.7). Assuming the next shot on the tape is another take of the zoom, all you need to do is set new In and Out points and press again—and the second shot will be automatically logged as Waterfall Hikers Zoom1. No retyping required.

Figure 4.7. The Description field becomes the name of the clip. Each time you log another clip, this field automatically increments the previous shot's name so the current one has a unique name or number.

Using Multiple Fields

If you check any boxes to include additional fields in the clip name, the information will be separated with an underscore. Use the Description and Shot/Take fields when you plan to have multiple takes of each shot.

For example, imagine the next section of the Yosemite tape shows a series of CU shots of the hikers. Since you know ahead of time that this series exists (from the camera log, or from having been at the location), go ahead and type CU Hikers into the Description field and 01 into the Shot/Take field (Figure 4.8). After you log the first clip by pressing , the Description field remains unchanged, but the Shot/Take field changes to 02. Each time you log a clip, the last-used field will be incremented; the others are left alone.

Figure 4.8. The checked fields make up the name of the clip separated by an underscore. Each time you log the clip, the last-used field is incremented.

If you're working with footage that was shot using the traditional Hollywood naming scheme, you will have scene numbers and take numbers for each shot. In this case, you can ignore the Description field, and just use the Scene and Shot/Take fields (Figure 4.9). Or you can use all three fields to provide a description plus the scene and take information (Figure 4.10).

Figure 4.9. Footage named in traditional Hollywood style has only a scene number and a take number. In this case, use just those two fields. Be sure to check the correct Include check boxes to reflect the fields you are using.

Figure 4.10. You can add a description to the shot to help the editor identify what the subject is.

Alternately, if you have distinct scene, shot, and take numbers, you can use the Description field for your scene number, the Scene field for the shot number, and the Shot/Take field for the take number (Figure 4.11). This is great for footage coming from corporate or industrial shoots, where scene names tend to be discrete from shot numbers.

Figure 4.11. If your shots have unique scene names, shot numbers, and take numbers, you can use all three fields to hold the different bits of information.

Using Manual Incrementing

All these auto-naming and auto-incrementing features really come in handy. Even a small reduction in steps will save you loads of time and hassle, given the huge number of shots you have to log in any project. Using the auto-naming utilities also assures that your clips are uniformly named, which makes them easier to sort on and search for.

But wait, there's more! You may have noticed a little button, the one with a picture of a slate on it, next to each of these naming fields. This is the Manual Increment button (called the Slate button in the documentation). Clicking it adds a number (or letter) to the end of whichever field you clicked next to.

This is great if you want to increment the scene number. Let's say you're working in the Hollywood naming scheme and the last shot you logged was scene 44a, take 4. The next shot is take 1 of scene 44b. You can increment the scene number from 44a to 44b by clicking the Manual Increment button once (Figure 4.12). This not only changes the value in the Scene field, but it resets the Shot/Take field back to 01! It's a great time-saver when you're working with clips that are constantly incrementing, such as footage from dramatic or scripted shows.

Figure 4.12. Clicking the Manual Increment button increases the number or letter in the corresponding field and automatically resets the fields below it.


If you -click the Manual Increment button, it clears the field entirely.

Why All These Fields?

There's no reason you can't simply type the scene, shot, and take numbers right into the Description field. But by breaking down the information into individual fields, you will be able to sort and search on any one of these fields later.

For instance, if you want to find all the shots from scene 21, you can perform a Find All in the Browser, search only in the Scene column, and look only for clips with the number 21. Once you do that, you can collect all those clips into a single bin, and sort based on shot number or take number. For simple projects with only a hundred or so clips, this degree of control may not be absolutely necessary. But on a larger project like a feature film, with thousands of individual shots, file management at this level is fundamental to the editing process.

How to Log Short Clips

Ideally, you will be able to log your clips without stopping the tape—but when you find yourself logging clips that are less than 30 seconds long, you will hardly have time to name them and enter your comments before they've passed and the next clip has begun. You may find yourself racing against the tape or constantly stopping and starting playback to give yourself a chance to fill in the fields in the Logging tab.

This is the time to turn on the Prompt for Name feature by checking the Prompt check box on the Logging tab (Figure 4.13). When this option is enabled, clicking the Log Clip button (or hitting ) automatically pauses the tape and opens the Log Clip dialog box, which will prompt you for a name (Figure 4.14). Once you dismiss the dialog, the tape will begin playing again, and you can move on to setting the next clip's In and Out points.

Figure 4.13. If the Prompt box is checked, every time you click the Log Clip button (or type ), the Log Clip dialog box will open, asking you to name the clip you are about to log.

Figure 4.14. The Log Clip dialog box includes the Log Note field and the Mark Good check box to allow you to provide additional information about each shot.


The Log Clip dialog contains a Manual Increment button (the one with the little slate). If you want to increment the shot name (trees, trees1, trees2) just click that button, and the clip name will be updated without any further typing on your part.

How to Log Long Clips

Logging longer shots allows you plenty of time to type in a name, comments, and whatever other information you require while the tape is rolling. If your shots are mostly longer than 30 seconds, you may be able to log the entire tape without ever stopping it.

To work this way, uncheck the Prompt check box (see Figure 4.13). Then, while the tape rolls, set your desired In point and enter the name and any other information you want to supply in the fields in the Logging tab. When the shot ends, mark the Out point on the fly and log the clip. The fields you've chosen to fill in are captured and stored with the clip. Playback will not be interrupted, and you can begin logging the next clip immediately.


Back up your project file! All the information you enter during logging is stored in that file. (It is not stored with the media files when you capture.) With a copy of the project file (and your source tapes), you can re-create your whole project—any time, anywhere.

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