By Request: How to make a bunch of clips one clip

I was recently asked how to take a bunch of media and consolidate it into one clip.  In the good old days of tape, this was called making a clipreel and it’s a standard way of consolidating media for use in a project where you have a lot of stuff to slog through.  I’m demonstrating this in Premier because that’s the system we’re using here, but it can be done with many types of editing software.

To see full screen captures of these images, just click on them and they’ll open in full resolution.

Create your sequence.

Start by creating your sequence, as above.  This will necessitate creating a project, which I recommend, if you’re data is on an external drive, you put there so the way to organize the clipreel is saved with the footage, in case you need this again.  Also, it always bears saying: SAVE FREQUENTLY.

Add media to the sequence.

I won’t go into too much detail on this one as, if you’re reading this you probably already know how to do this, so here’s the short and simple way of getting to this phase: drag and drop your clips into the bin on the left that has your sequence in it.  That means opening an explorer window (in Windows) or a finder window (in Apple) and dragging the icons for the clips you want into the bin.  Then, once they are in the bin, drag them one by one into the timeline and move them so there’s a little black in between them.

Export your media.

For this, you want to do exactly as described in the above.

Set "video codec" to "DVCPROHD 1080p30". That should handle most HD. In other cases you may want another codec, but for us, this is what we're using.

Make sure your audio is "uncompressed."

See where it says "demo" as the name of the file output? By clicking on it...

...you can open a dialog box that allows you to rename the output file and also (very importantly) say where it goes on your computer.

Click on the export button at the bottom of the window. If you have CS5 Master Suite, you may be able to add it to the export queue of a program designed specifically for this purpose, but if you don't, then just click export and be done with it.

Then you’ll have to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  But whatever you do, don’t unplug the computer or reboot or anything.  Once this is all finished, you’ll have one big file of all your clips exactly as you lined them up before.  This is very useful when you’re working on a doc or any project with more than a 3 to 1 shooting ratio.

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The Maxdata Quad – It’s a hard drive – Review

I don’t usually buy external hard drives unless they are very specialized.  I’ve been eyeing the Drobo Pro for a few years now, because it comes with special software that enables you to RAID drives of different speeds and sizes without loss of space.  I like the Maxell iVDR because it is hardened to go in the field and shoot with an HDV camera.  I’ve even started looking at these new hard drives that come in a shell that is supposed to work like an airplane’s black box, protecting the data within from impact, fire and water.  So, what do I make of Maxell’s offering, the Maxdata Quad?  Maxell sent me a free one to review, and I have some thoughts.

The drive in question.

Well, it’s a hard drive.  It plugs in with USB 2, Firewire 400 & 800 and eSATA 3G.  It runs at 7200 RPM and it’s a hefty 2TB.  So, it’s big, it’s fast enough for backing things up (but not really as a media drive, unless you’re using a laptop and not running things in full HD) and it has a lot of handy plugs.  It needs an external AC adapter, but okay, so far, so good.

Look at all the pretty plugs

I used it a couple of different ways.  First, when it arrived, it was formatted in FAT32, which I imagine is so Maxell could slap a “PC and Mac compatible” sticker on the box.  FAT32, for those of you who don’t know, is an archaic format developed by Microsoft in the good old days of XP to be Mac and PC compatible.  It’s fine, unless you need to make files bigger than 2GB.  Then it’s useless.  FAT32 literally can’t handle files over 2GB so if you try putting your video outputs there, it won’t let you.

Maxdata Quad (at right) beside two home made drives. The middle drive is 300GB at 10K RPM and the leftmost drive is 2TB at 7200 RPM

So, as a media drive, this thing is useless.  I needed to copy some media onto it and it just couldn’t handle it.  I had to reformat it, which isn’t a big deal, but if I didn’t know what I was doing, I’d be in a pickle.  I made this thing NTFS, though since I run Macdrive software on my HP Z800, I could have made it a Mac formatted disk just as easily.

As an NTFS disk, I plugged it in first as Firewire, which worked okay although the computer lost sight of it a couple times, then as USB, which hasn’t had any issues.  Honestly, I wish it were USB 3 because I have the card and it’s just as good as Firewire, which is not that useful anymore given the advent of thunderbolt.  Of course, neither of these plugs mean much with an eSATA port on the box.  With a spare eSATA cable from my RAID controller I plugged it in and whoosh!  Nice and fast.  As fast as an internal drive of the same speed.  I’ve been transcoding my work library from Quicktime to MP4 so I loaded the Quicktimes on the Maxell and made the transfers to my internal storage.  So far the only problem with any of this is that quicktime crashes if I tell it to convert too many files at once.

Maxdata looking like a Cylon

Maxdata drive front, no light

So, the drive is good.  Thumbs up.  The only question I ever have about an external drive is this: when the bus in the box dies, and it will one day, can I extract the drive and put it in another enclosure?  Lots of external drives fall down here.  If the bus dies and you can’t get the drive out and into another box, then you have a working hard drive but no workable way to get the data off it.  It’s like a Dalek in one of those Dalek pods with the batteries flat.

A Dalek, inside its Dalek exoskeleton thing. What happens to the Dalek when its exoskeleton runs out of juice? How will it get out?

Sadly, without having to pay Maxell for the privilege of ripping apart its drive with a screwdriver, I can’t tell for sure if this is an issue here.

The drive goes for $326 (retail) according to Maxell.  I’m sure if it’s made as well as the other Maxell products I’ve used it’s fine.  Still, $326 is a little steep unless you’ve got your back up against the wall.  For $129 at Newegg, you could get a comperable 2TB internal drive (I won’t say which one) and put it in a $30 box with all the same plugs as the Maxell (minus the Firewire) and of course, an internal drive in an external box can be unplugged from the box and put into the computer or another box later.  So the choice of buying a drive like this is a personal one.  If you don’t feel comfortable taking things apart, or you just can’t be bothered, it’s probably worth the extra money to buy this drive.  For the advanced user, it’s main strength is the multiple ports on the back.  That being the case, I’d be tempted to put in a 10,000 RPM drive and use it for full HD media.  Of course, I don’t know if I can do that, because I’d have to pay Maxell for the drive they sent me in order to open the box.

As for the Mac and PC compatibility issues, I think it’s a wash.  There is no point to keeping anything FAT32 these days.  Just reformat to NTFS or whatever you want and leave it at that.  A lot of the need to put things on a drive and go between Mac and PC is media and media files are too big to go on this thing if it’s FAT32, despite its overall capacity.

Drive makers need to understand they are competing with cloud storage, so their drives need to work for the kinds of things people send around better than the cloud does.  Cloud storage has some legal issues coming down the pike (see below) it takes more time than loading things onto a drive, good cloud storage is expensive and some cloud storage isn’t that secure.

In light of these issues, portable hard drives can make a case for themselves, provided that they take advantae of what makes them special.  I’ve already mentioned the “black box” hard drives that are damage resistant.  Then there is network operable stuff like Drobo.  If you aren’t either of those ultra-specialized drive makers, you have some challenges, but here’s the solution:

Portable drives need to be

a.) fast – at least 7200 RPM

b.) flexible – you should be able to take the drive out of the box if you want and there should be a lot of ports on it, like this one.

c.) in an ideal world, the drive should come with a software package that adds the value of making it compatible with multiple platforms without needing some special format or software installed on the drive itself.

I know someone who uses Dropbox to send things between two computers in his own house.  Crazy.  Cloud storage runs into some of its unique problems.  If Maxell bundled software that enabled Mac to PC and PC to Mac disk reading, then the drive could be formatted in some sane format and there would be a lot of added value to the product.  I’m talking about a disc with software, not something loaded onto the drive.  Drives should be malleable.  I don’t like being told it has to be formatted one way or another.  They could even keep the PC and Mac compatible sticker on the box and mean it.  As it stands, for my purposes, it’s an expensive backup drive.   If you’re not a tinkerer though and you need a massive bucket of storage (and you don’t have files bigger than 2GB) go for it.

By The Book

When I direct, I am fastidious. Nothing gets past me. I make sure that if I can’t take camera and sound notes, there’s someone who will. I try to plan things out in as much detail as possible, but stay prepared for the plan to go awry and have some way of keeping track of the way things changed. It’s not what you imagine when you think of the glamorous world of film making, but neither is the crafts services table. Maybe it’s my time at NYU that made me this way, though probably not given the fly by the seat of my pants approach I used then. Maybe it’s the time I spent as a PA for Warner Brothers, though I had little responsibility then. I think, if anything, my attitude came from time I spent with Thor The Barbarian, a dear friend of mine who produced three seasons of great independent TV in New York, starting in 2000. We knew things never went as planned, and that the ability to improvise, to talk you way past disagreeable people and to keep it together was essential. We didn’t overload our crew with too many responsibilities, so no one ever cut corners and our editing staff (three FCP editors, including me) was never overburdened.

Not so however, when I’m only the editor. Often, I feel like a maid, sent in to clean up the mess left by the director. Take, for example, this anonymous batch of footage. It’s supposed to sync up, but someone recorded it on one camera at one speed and the other camera at another speed. The end result is two clips of the same action with the same actors at the same time that cannot sync up. What a waste.

Two shots of the same subject shot at the same time but do not sync.

I think much of the problem with film these days is that people think that because anyone can afford editing software and a camera, that anyone knows what they need to know in order to be a director or editor. Not so. Jack Warner once said “I don’t get what the big deal is about writing. It’s just putting one word after another.” That attitude is not seen as helpful in any quarter of the film industry, and yet people feel exactly that way about every other job in film.

There are things that are a certain way because they work a certain way and when someone does them differently, it tells you something about their background. If an actor prints his or her CV on the back of their headshot rather than stapling it, it means they don’t work very much, otherwise they’d need to update the CV often and therefore need to staple it to the back of the photo. If a sculptor has long hair, it tells you either he or she doesn’t work with stone very much, because stone dust collects in hair.

A clapper board (or slate) is used to do several things. First of all, it tells the editor what shot is which, where to look for sound (if recorded separately) if they should look for sound at all (if the shot is silent, or MOS, the clapper loader puts their index finger between the sticks of the slate when they hold it in the shot) if there are multiple cameras it should say what reels the shot is being recorded to, sometimes it will even have the timecode displayed on it.

Its most obvious function though, is to synchronize the sound between shots and depending on the production, separately recorded sound. This is not complicated to figure out. If you’re the editor, the sound of the clapper board has to line up with the first frame when the sticks come together. That means if the sticks are blurry or obscured in any way, it won’t work because you could be a frame out in either direction (or more) without knowing it. It means the clapper needs to be near the microphones or at least miced in the same way as everything else, so there’s no lag between the image and the sound reaching the microphone.

The most important thing though, is that the clapper’s top stick falls on the bottom one. This is to keep the sticks from blurring when they come together. Some people who don’t know what they are doing will lift the clapper up to the top stick, blurring not just the moment they sticks meet but also all the information on the slate. Some people clap their hands together, which in an emergency can work, but needs to be done the same way as the clapper is operated, not by clapping like you’ve just seen a Broadway show. Finally, there is the snapping of fingers, which, like the others, is equally stupid and useless. All of these are the hallmarks of the amateur film maker and sadly, some of the directors I’ve had to pick up after. Honestly, I’ve had an easier time doing honeywagon duty on a farm.

It’s important people know how to do these things properly, not to make me happy, but because it makes the film work.  I may have to forgo the use of certain shots because someone decided to cut corners.  It certainly takes more time in postproduction to get things to work when a director pulls this kind of act, and in the end, it’s not up to the director what the film looks like.  It’s the editor’s choice.