Capturing and Organizing Footage

As I am working on my first video project with Final Cut Express (FCE), I will try capture the essential steps for future reference. The steps are taken directly from the user manual, but with its 1152 pages it is a bit unwieldy and not a good quick reference guide.

First a few preparations:

  1. Connect external hard disk, preferably Firewire, and set it as Capture Scratch via the Prefrences Menu. This Drive needs to be connected and turned on before you start up FCE.
  2. Select the “Limit Capture Now To” checkbox. Enter a number of minutes for the maximum duration of your tape. To be safe, you can add an extra minute or two.
  3. Define an Easy Setup. In my case, this is “DV-NTSC anamorphic”, which implies that I recorded in 16:9 widescreen using the 16 bit audio setting

The next steps are to be performed for each new project with new footage:

  1. Create a new project via the File menu.
  2. Create a new Bin in the Browser, right click, and select “Capture Bin”. Since I am importing reels, I call the bin “Reels”. This is for my raw footage that I will later divide into subclips and then organize them into other bins for future editing.
  3. Connect you Camcorder (preferentially on grid power, rather than battery), set it to playback mode, and turn it on.
  4. Press Command-8 to open the Capture window. Insert a tape, and set the Reel Number when prompted by FCE.
  5. Use the transport controls to rewind. Press “Now” on the bottom right to start the tape and the capture process.
  6. When complete, close the capture window on the top left by pressing the close button.

The next step involves the Start/Stop Detection (p. 192) which is not done automatically as in iMovie, followed by organizing your clips:

  1. Double click the Clip in the Browser to open it in the Viewer.
  2. Choose Mark -> DV Start/Stop Detect.
  3. Switch the Browser to list view and locate the clip you were working on in the Viewer. Click the disclosure triangle to view the clip’s markers.
  4. Double click individual markers to review the corresponding subclips in the Viewer. Then click and rename them. I like to add a number in the beginning so that I don’t loose the chronological order of my clips (Unfortunately, FCE allows you to sort only alphabetically, or by clip length, but not by time code).
  5. Create bins for the various scenes/shots
  6. Drag in the Browser to select the desired markers.
  7. To make subclips, you can either choose Modify -> Make Subclip, and then drag them into the appropriate bin, or even easier, Option drag then markers to make subclips without removing the original markers (If you just drag, you still create subclips, but the markers disappear).

To simplify organization and renaming of the subclips, I like to change the standard window layout. I close the sequence window, enlarge the viewer to fill almost the entire screen, leaving enough room on the right for a browser window in list view to view all my subclips and on the bottom for another browser window showing all my bins. To save this as a custom window layout, press and hold the Option key, then click Window -> Arrange -> Set Custom Layout. Note that you can easily switch between bin and list view by right clicking on the browser background. There is also an option to increase the font size.

Here’s a screenshot:
FCE Window Layout for Organizing Clips

2008-07-18 UPDATE
I described above that there is no way to sort chronologically. Actually, there is, but it requires a rigorous Log and Capture Approach rather than the quick and dirty Capture Now method described above. Doing so, you will also have Media In and Media Out columns. Together with the reel number you can then sort chronologically.

The website referenced above — Ken Stone’s Final Cut Pro — is a phenomenal resource for anything Final Cut Pro in particular, and Final Cut Studio including Live Type, in general. Several items discussed here are also applicable to Final Cut Express. It’s just a shame to read about specific features that you cannot use because they would cost you an extra 1000 dollars.

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