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ACing in a tape workflow- Advice needed


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#1 Robert Tagliaferri

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Posted 19 September 2008 - 01:13 AM

Hello all,

I was wondering if anyone could give me a rundown on standard procedures for working with a tape camera. I've ACed mostly 16mm, 35mm and recently have been working with the Red a little, but I have never ACed professionally in a tape workflow. I got a job doing half a day of B-roll stuff for an indie feature on the HDX-900 because the show's regular AC couldn't make the day, and he referred me. I'd really like to make a good impression. What do I need to know about working with this camera?

1. Striping the tape? I know that it is common to lay bars down at the head of each tape. How many minutes/seconds is standard?
2. Labeling tapes: What is the standard practice for labeling the tapes? What info should be included on the label?
3. Any other info I need to know?

I'm not too worried about working with the camera as I'm usually pretty quick to catch on to new cameras and am planning on studying the manual before the shoot.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Cheers,
Robert Tagliaferri
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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 19 September 2008 - 04:30 AM

The standard is 30 seconds of bars and tone at the start of each tape. Normally the tapes are labelled with the production's title and the tape/reel number, there are also boxes that can be ticked with further technical info and sometimes the sound recordist wants their reference tone level noted.

I'd also mark it with the frame rate and progressive/interlace, especially if this is different to that being used on the rest of the production (eg 60i on a 24p production because it's being used for slow motion effect shot).

Ask if they want other info on the box, sometimes they want a note of interviewees names, locations, content or they might want slate numbers.
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#3 Chris Keth

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Posted 19 September 2008 - 03:30 PM

I try to record another 15 seconds of bars at the tail. I was requested to do this once because apparently it's a pain to capture footage right to the end of the tape. Some scratch at the end with continuous timecode make it much easier, I guess.
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#4 Allan Legarth Nielsen

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Posted 19 September 2008 - 04:25 PM

I was AC'ing on the HDX not long ago. And the DP asked me to put the timecode at 01:00:00:00 on tape one, 02:00:00:00 on tape two, 03:00:00:00 on tape three and so on. So not only the case and the tape is marked, but also the timecode indicates what tape it is, just in case.

Definitely put framerate and format (720 or 1080) on, it also makes it easier for the person digitizing.

As Chris said, also do 15-20 sec of colorbars at the end.


Just to be sure, you do know that video/HD lenses has a back focus ring, right? check this between each setup, and if there's time between takes.

Edited by Allan Legarth Nielsen, 19 September 2008 - 04:27 PM.

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#5 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 19 September 2008 - 06:43 PM

Just to be sure, you do know that video/HD lenses has a back focus ring, right? check this between each setup, and if there's time between takes.


I wouldn't go as far as this checking the back focus unless you're using the Panavision F900 which has a poor design mount prone to thermal expansion etc. Certainly check back focus every time you change lenses, first thing in the day after the camera has warmed up, if the temperature on set has changed and if you've changed locations.

Also, do it correctly, it's surprising how many people adjust the back focus with the lens stopped down instead of wide open.
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#6 Robert Tagliaferri

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 03:00 AM

Thanks for all the advice guys
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#7 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 10:42 AM

I try to record another 15 seconds of bars at the tail. I was requested to do this once because apparently it's a pain to capture footage right to the end of the tape. Some scratch at the end with continuous timecode make it much easier, I guess.

If you have the luxury....
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#8 Chris Keth

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 07:45 PM

If you have the luxury....


Very true, notice that I worded it "I try to..." ;)
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#9 Michele Peterson

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Posted 22 September 2008 - 12:46 AM

the DP asked me to put the timecode at 01:00:00:00 on tape one, 02:00:00:00 on tape two, 03:00:00:00 on tape three and so on. So not only the case and the tape is marked, but also the timecode indicates what tape it is, just in case.


This is very common in single camera video shoots. The alternative with multi-camera shoots is to set timecode as time of day so that the cameras are all synced to the same time. This can really help the editors because in ENG/Documentary style productions A & B cams are not shooting at the same time but will occasionally be shooting the same scene suddenly and matching timecode is beneficial.

Most sound mixers will record to tape in one or both cameras if possible and to a backup drive, so a clapper may still be needed for the back-up drive. But if they are recording sound to multiple cameras, they may be comfortable with those tapes as backup and not record a backup sound separate, thus clapping will not be needed.

Are you shooting tape in for a scripted film or for ENG/Doc/Reality?

For scripted dramas, tape is pretty much the same as film without the film loading, just label the tape very similarly to film.

ENG type shoots will require you to be running around on the fly even more so than features do, but then those don't have as many lens changes (a main zoom and a telephoto are usually all you get in ENG). Having batteries alwasy charged and in your backpack, along with blank tapes and your regular tools is necessary since you are following the action, and not getting to plan in advance for it.

Tape labeling, in my experience, is much more varied depending upon what they production wants. Put Company, title, cameraman, camera designation & tape #. ENG shoots often label the interviewee (as mentioned by Brian), or main event on the tape to give an idea of what the scene is since there aren't scene #'s in ENG.

Edited by Michele Peterson, 22 September 2008 - 12:49 AM.

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