Thursday, May 14, 2009

Do You Hate Capturing?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you need to start editing right away, or cut while on location to see how things will look later? Or, for those still shooting on tape, are you just over the whole capture process? Have you ever got back into the edit bay and found that in the best take of a shot, there was a glitch in the tape and it’s now completely unusable?

If any of this hits home with you, let me tell you about one of my favorite, and most relied upon tools…Adobe’s OnLocation CS4.

OnLocation is a tool that allows you to capture video while you’re shooting, all through the firewire ports on your camera and laptop. It can capture DV standard definition in both AVI and Quicktime formats, as well as, HDV and DVCPRO HD. It includes a monitor for viewing your image, scopes (waveform and vectorscope) for fine tuning your image, as well as a set of audio meters. The monitor includes markers for title safe, zebra, and colors bars for proper calibration.

Using this tool, I’ve been able review footage while in the field, all while not touching the tape in the camera. I’ve cut together takes (after importing the footage into Premiere Pro) and checked to make sure edits will match. And for interviews, I’ve created (ahead of time) a shot list in OnLocation using all the names of the people I’m taping, along with any other metadata needed. This has made finding clips much quicker in editing.

Let me walk you through the basic workflow. After hooking up the camera and booting up the laptop, I start by creating a new project in OnLocation. Depending on the nature of the shoot, I can then just start shooting. OnLocation will start once I hit record on the camera, and create the clip until I hit stop on the camera. It will even get the 5-10 seconds before I hit record – no more missing the start of a shot because I hit record too late...which sometime happens when covering a live event or presentation where I have no control over when things start.

The other option is to create a shot list. I had a shoot where I was doing a group of interviews. I got everyone’s name ahead of time, and in OnLocation created place makers for shots. I used the interviewee’s names to title each clip. When I got to the shoot, I just opened up the project, found the clip place marker in the shot list for the first person, highlighted it, and then hit record.

All the metadata that I include with the clip in OnLocation carries over into Premiere Pro when I edit. I’m able to search through the clips using the metadata - I can search for the date, the location, whatever I include. And I can now, using the speech to text feature in Premiere Pro, create a text file of what’s being said in the clip and search by the words spoken. While this technology is still a bit rough (the transcription isn’t always accurate), most of the time it’s good enough to still be a help with long interview clips.

Something I’m looking forward to in the future is Adobe Story. Shown at NAB this year, it allows you to import in (or create) your script, then export out an XML file that OnLocation can import. Using all the shot information from your script, a shot list will be created in OnLocation including all the information from the script – characters names, location of the scene, dialogue, etc. This metadata then lives with the video clip while you edit, helping you find the shot or take you need all that much quicker.

From this quick overview, I hope you can see why I love this tool. It’s been an incredible timesaver. As I said, I never go on a shoot without it. It’s become just as valuable to me as my camera or NLE. If you ever find yourself in a position where you think you could use something like this for a project, let me know. And while I don't rent out my laptop for others to use, I will come out and capture footage for you - just let me know and I'll give you more details. I’d be happy to show you why I love it, and after you try it, you may never shoot without it.

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