Capturing the Source Clips with Final Cut Pro

How you capture the source clips with Final Cut Pro depends in large part on the actual media used for the telecine transfer.

Recompressing the Captured Files

Regardless of how you captured your video, you may decide to recompress the files to make them smaller and easier to work with. For example, taking advantage of the correct codec may allow you to edit on an older portable computer.

About Compression

Compression, in terms of digital video, is a means of squeezing the content into smaller files that require less hard disk space and potentially less processor power to display. The tradeoff is lower-quality images.

It’s important to remember that the edited video that results from Final Cut Pro when used with Cinema Tools is not typically going to be used in an environment where high quality would be expected. The most common use of the edited video is to give the negative cutter a visual guide to go along with the cut list. This means that the quality of the video only needs to be good enough to make your edit decisions and read the window burn values. However, because your edit decisions are sometimes based on subtle visual cues, it’s best not to get too carried away with excess compression.

Important: Do not use long-GOP codecs, such as most MPEG-2, XDCAM, H.264, or HDV codecs. In addition to being difficult to edit, these files cannot take advantage of the Reverse Telecine feature.

Capturing Tactics

There are several approaches to capturing your video and audio. Determining which is right for you depends on a number of factors, including whether you have device control of the source tape deck and the transfer type used (camera-roll or scene-and-take).

Device Control

A primary consideration when determining how to capture video and audio is whether Final Cut Pro supports device control for the deck you use. Device control allows you to capture precisely the video and audio you want in a way that can be exactly repeated, if necessary. You can even set up a “batch capture” that automates the process, freeing you to do other tasks.

Capturing without device control presents several challenges. Clips that are captured manually do not have precise start and end times. If you intend to match start and end times from a telecine log, you must trim the clips after capturing them. Additionally, without device control, a clip’s timecode does not match the timecode on the tape. Final Cut Pro has a provision for changing a clip’s timecode, but in order for that timecode to match the source tape, you must have a visual reference (a hole-punched or marked frame) with a known timecode value.

For more information about device control, see the Final Cut Pro documentation.

Camera-Roll Transfers

Camera-roll transfers require you either to capture the entire tape or to manually capture a clip for each take. As long as the tape uses continuous video timecode and film key numbers, Cinema Tools requires only a single database record showing the relationship between the two.

If Final Cut Pro has device control of your source deck, the best method for capturing the desired takes is to use the Final Cut Pro Log and Capture window and enter the In and Out points and reel number for each. You can then use batch capture to finish the process. It’s not necessary to create a database record for each clip, as long as you do not change the timecode.

Without device control, you must manually capture either the individual takes you want or the entire tape. You may need to trim a take that you capture manually, and you will also have to manually set its timecode to match the source tape. An advantage to capturing the entire tape is that you only have to set the clip’s timecode once (assuming that the source tape had continuous timecode). The drawback is the amount of disk space required, although once the tape is captured, you can use Final Cut Pro to create subclips of the useful takes and then delete the unused material.

See Capturing Source Clips and Connecting Them to the Database for details about capturing clips.

Scene-and-Take Transfers

Scene-and-take transfers generally result in records in the Cinema Tools database that are suitable for performing a batch capture. You can export a capture list from Cinema Tools and import it into the Final Cut Pro Browser. Final Cut Pro can then perform a batch capture (assuming it can control the source device), creating clips as directed by the Cinema Tools list. These clips can then be easily linked to records in the Cinema Tools database.

Finishing with High-Quality Video

If you intend to provide a high-quality video output when you have finished the project, there are several issues you might need to consider.

When capturing video for the initial offline edit, you can capture with relatively high compression and include burned-in timecode and key numbers. The compression makes it easier for your computer to work with the video and requires less hard disk space, allowing you to capture more video to use for making your edit decisions.

After you have finished the offline edit, you can use Final Cut Pro to recapture just the video actually used in the edits, using a high-quality codec and a version of the video without burned-in timecode and key numbers.

See Working with 24p Video and 24 fps EDLs for more information about this process. Also see your Final Cut Pro documentation for more information about offline and online editing workflows.