Log Jam


Q I’ve been on a few independent productions trying to do whatever I can to help. Since they’ve had no real budget, they’ve welcomed my participation, but I get the feeling I need to do a better job. Recently, I was responsible for taking log notes for use in the edit, but I heard that the notes weren’t that useful for the editor. I thought I was doing it right—people I had asked gave me direction, but I guess maybe it wasn’t enough. Maybe if the notes were in an electronic form they might work better, but I’m not sure. Is an electronic method the solution or is there some other way?
Ken L.
Via email

A Log notes can mean different things to different people. I’m going to assume that by log notes you’re talking about scene and take information along with time code and director’s comments about whether a take was good or not. (Script notes, used when shooting a script-based project to keep track of what has been shot and can be referred to during the shoot, may also be referred to as log notes.)

In previous columns, I’ve discussed logging in the field as it relates to using slates and recording takes, but your experience with its usefulness in post is interesting. This is really what log notes are all about. Aside from the footage, they’re a record of what was shot.

Log notes are especially important with file-based recording versus tape because the ingest process often happens without any shot review. What I mean by that is that ingesting is often just copying files from one drive to another, whereas tape ingest requires someone to actually view the footage to mark where each take started and stopped. With file-based ingest, an editor may be expected to start editing without even knowing what there is to work with. This means that accurate and useful log notes are critical for efficiency during the edit.

You asked about doing it all electronically. There are solutions that, combined with wireless time code or time code slates, can help create logs. These may run on a laptop, a tablet or even a smartphone. But if the information in the logs isn’t useful to the editor, you’re back to square one.

For example, an editor showed me an electronic log he received for one day of shooting. Each record contained the scene, the take and the complete verbiage of what was said during the scene. At first glance, that makes sense, but for a scene that had 20 takes, there were 20 copies of the same words. This made the log very long—60 pages instead of six. And, unfortunately, there were no take notes to indicate which takes the director liked. It also didn’t represent what was actually said, it was just a cut and paste from the script. In this editor’s mind, doing it electronically didn’t really help.

That isn’t to say doing it electronically is wrong and that paper is the only way. Given the proper method, doing logs by software can work well. Some software even can export logs that then can be imported into editing applications.