Tape Logging in Excel

Logging the footage captured on a film shoot is an essential task in the filmmaking process. The log sheets are the first way a director communicates with an editor, and provides an editor with a road map of the clips he has available to work with. Logging every shot and take during production may seem tedious and redundant - especially if the footage is being recorded to a hard drive where timecode is unnecessary. But a good tape log saves hours in the post-production process by giving a rundown of shots' technical notes, the director's opinions, and the way the shots cut together in the film. Complementing the script and storyboards, the tape log is the editor's single most important document - a lifeline to all the work put in on set.

If done properly, it is possible to take timecodes logged in Excel or any other spreadsheet program and import them directly into Final Cut Pro. Unfortunately, Final Cut Pro is a bit picky about what it will take, so pay close attention to capitalization and punctuation. However, if done correctly, this can greatly speed up the postproduction process, going straight from shooting to offlined clips ready to batch import. So how to do this feat? Read on.

Set up the Spreadsheet File
For this demonstration, we'll be using Excel on a Mac Laptop, but almost any spreadsheet program will work, including Appleworks or OpenOffice. I've also logged on my PDA (PocketExcel) and my Ti-83 Plus (CellSheet App). It's all about file conversion. But more on that later.

Set up the names of the cells in the first row of your spreadsheet to correspond to column headers in the Browser window. Any Browser columns you put in the spreadsheet will be applied to the clips when you import it. You can log any of the browser columns, but it needs the following four:
  • Name
  • Media Start
  • Media End
  • Reel
It's also useful (Read: Necessary?) to also put in Scene, Shot/Take, Log Note, and Good. So when it's all set up it will look something like this:

should look like...

Now on to logging.

Tape Logging
So, tape logging, column by column:
  • Name: Leave this blank for now. We'll automatically create it later.
  • Media Start and End: This is where you'll log the start and end timecode of each take. Normally, the end of the previous take is the beginning of the next take, so if that's the case, leave the Media Start blank. We'll fill it in later. Another important thing to know about timecode is drop and non-drop frame. DV Video is drop frame timecode, or 29.97 frames per second rather than a straight 30. To notate this, seperate the seconds and frames with a semicolon. So instead of 0:02:30:25, you'd have 0:02:30;25. Other tips:
    • You don't have to enter leading zeroes. 0:00:05;15 can be logged as just 5;15
    • Even if shooting at 24 frames per second (for DV Video), your timecodes will include frame numbers 24-29, because the video is converted to 24 frames per second AFTER importing. So don't worry about it for now.
  • Scene: Up to you, but will probably look something like 006A. Leading zeroes (i.e. "006" insteadddd of "6") will be good here, because the way Final Cut Pro sorts, "Scene 13" will be above "Scene 2", but "Scene 13" will be below "Scene 02". Clear as mud? Good.
  • Shot/Take: Again, up to you. Leading zeroes are good here as well.
  • Master Comment 1: The "Comments" section of Log and Capture in Final Cut Pro. I usually put a description of the shot, such as "CU Jamie"
  • Log Note: Notes such as "Good" "Boom in Shot", etc.
  • Good: Like checking the "Good" checkbox in Log and Capture in Final Cut. Can only be either "Yes" or "No". Capitalization counts.
  • Reel: Your reel name. You can just enter it in the first row, then when you're ready, copy it, select all the blank cells in the column, and paste it.
Your logged spreadsheet will look something like this:
Name Media Start Media End Scene Shot/Take Master Comment 1 Log Note Good Reel
  5:15;23 5:45;11 006A 01 CU Jamie Boom in Shot No Movie-001
  6:11;18 006A 02 CU Jamie   Yes Movie-001

Excel Black Magic
AKA Formulas. Most, if not all, spreadsheet programs have something similar. If you're crazy enough to log on something like a Ti-83 Plus, this is the point where you'd want to import that file into Excel.

To start with, click on the empty Media Start cell, then press the = key. Next, click on the Media End of the previous shot. It should say something similar to "=B3". Press enter, and it should copy the text down from the above cell. Pretty cool, huh? You can copy that, then select all the other blank Media Start cells, then press Paste again. It will not only paste the formula, but also update it to correspond with each row.

For the name, enter =CONCATENATE(B4,"_",B5) and press enter. It should take the scene and combine it with the shot and take separated by an underscore, like the Log and Capture window does. So your finished spreadsheet will look something like the following:
Name Media Start Media End Scene Shot/Take Master Comment 1 Log Note Good Reel
006A_01 5:15;23 5:45;11 006A 01 CU Jamie Boom in Shot No Movie-001
006A_02 5:45;11 6:11;18 006A 02 CU Jamie   Yes Movie-001

For more information, check the Excel help for the use of Formulas.

Importing to Final Cut
When you're ready to go, choose "Save As..." from the File Menu. Under the Format menu, choose "Text (Tab delimited)". Your workbook will save as a .txt file. This is called Tabbed Text.

Next, in Final Cut, choose File->Import->Batch List at 29.97fps (your framerate may differ). The file should import without a problem. If there are issues, check to make sure that
  • All shots and takes are filled in.
  • There are no formulas entered for empty rows. Only enter forumlas for the rows where there's actually shot.
  • The first row of your Excel file has the column headers, and that each are capitalized correctly.
  • The good column has only Yes or No.
  • There are no empty rows breaking up your shots.
Your imported clips will show up as offline video in the browser window. Voila! Questions? Check the Excel help or the Final Cut Pro user's manual - this information is also explained there.

      - Wes