Using a PC laptop in the field for backing up P2 footage:

The first day of shooting happened days after we received the cameras. The DP and producer spent those days setting up the camera and testing the P2 workflow they intended to use in the field. They purchased a PC laptop with a PCMCIA slot and loaded the P2 software that came with it calledthe P2 READER (Windows based only). With this software they were not only able to mount and see the card, but also plays it in it’s raw MXF form before you copy it to your backup hard drive.

When they were in the field, they would have two 4GB cards in the camera, with three others on reserve. The 8GB cards were not available at the time we received the cameras, so they provided five 4GB cards instead. My producer work out a system with the cards and the rubber caps that cover the connectors. In white permanent marker he wrote FULL on one side and EMPTY on the other. When a card was full, it was ejected (when the camera was powered down) and the cap was put on with the FULL side face up. Also the copy protection tab was flipped to protect against accidental erasure. Then the cards were brought to the download station where a tech would slide the P2 card into the PCMCIA slot and copy the footage from it to one of several 80 GB Lacie Porsche drives. They were organized into individual folders to keep things separated, and the folders were labelled A, B, C and so on. The tech would copy over everything on the card…the CONTENTS folder and the LASTCLIP.txt file. That TXT file is very important. You cannot import the footage into FCP without it.

After the contents of the card was copied over, the card was then erased and the rubber cap put back on it with the EMPTY side up. By the end of the two day shoot, There were three full 80GB drives with all the footage on them. The footage was both 23.98 and 59.94…the latter intended for slow motion purposes.

My producer took the information from the smaller drives and copied them onto a 1TB G-Raid. It was the G-Raid that I received to import the footage. The Lacies were put on a shelf…cold storage.

When I imported the footage I went to FILE>IMPORT>Panasonic P2. I was then given a window called IMPORT PANASONIC P2, and the option to name the reel. I did not, so it defaulted to P2 Import. I clicked on the “+” next to the VOLUMES/PATH menu to navigate to the folders containing the CONTENTS folder and LASTCLIP.txt file. When I clicked OK I saw a thumbnail picture of the clip next to the name, and timecode information. The file names had some pattern to them, but still a bit of randomness: 0001E4, 0002RC, 0003GH. The first numbers…0001, 0002…where in order as they appeared on the card. Clip 1, clip two, and so on. Imported I viewed the clips, and added descriptions to the names, like FIRING RIGHT and SOLDIERS MARCH IN FORMATION.

Now, when I began importing the footage, I did a bad thing. I forgot my basics of organization. For some reason, when I imported the P2 footage, I dropped all the clips into one bin. One bin for each day, so I had two bins. Two HUGE bins with over 1000 clips in each one. I don’t know what I was thinking. When I captured the Varicam tapes, I used one bin per tape…known as a Dailies Roll…and then organized into scene bins later. But the P2 footage I threw into one bin for each day. What a nightmare.

What you SHOULD do is drop each card into a separate bin. This way viewing and labeling them is easy and in proper order, as they would appear on a tape. I always create a folder for each tape. This way when I am looking for something and ask the producer for help, if they say “It was on tape 4” or “It was on the last tape we shot,” it give me another option for finding the footage. I do create SCENE bins that I OPTION-drag the clips into. Good organization is key for fast editing, and a successful project. I will stress this as often as I can.

NEXT: The P2 workflow with the P2 Store…and after that importing directly from the camera.