Strong words, I know! This, coming from someone who could potentially make his money by simply laying off a 23-minute show to HDCAM or capturing a few innocent Digibeta tapes every now and then for a project. Yeah, I agree, it’s kind of a huge deal. 😉
But still, I have to declare it. I am completely over tape!
So, why am I being all dramarama about this? The simple answer is that I have worked with tape for my entire career-so-far and I feel that it’s time has come and almost gone. It’s a workflow that is great for delivery. For backup and archival purposes, it’s better than hard drives. But dealing with tapes has become a huge time-suck for me in the world of freelance shooting and editing.
Now that I’ve minimized my edit suite to two systems — a late-2012 iMac and a separate assistant’s station — I find that it’s very difficult to implement tape decks into my workflow.
Renting decks has always been a frustration and added cost. I make very little, if anything, on any rental markup. And then there’s the issue of liability — these decks cost between $30,000 and $120,000 and I need to be insured for them in the event they are stolen.
Setting up the decks used to be fairly easy in my old setup. However nowadays, it involves hooking up all the cables needed which used to just hang neatly from the back of my equipment rack. Last, there’s the issue of stability and making sure your deck has been properly serviced. The other day, the rental house delivered a PAL deck by mistake. My session was delayed by a few hours and then involved resetting everything up.
And so, my self-declared final tape job occurred on Friday, July 27th, 2013. It was a job for my old client and friend, Huell Howser.
Huell passed away in January of this year. There have been a lot of “final jobs” for Huell over the past year. But this was really the final, finito, absolutely last job I’ll ever do for ol’ Huell.
Part of my anti-tape declaration is based on the fact that tape was an unavoidable part of Huell’s workflow. If he had worked another ten years, then we might have moved to a file-based workflow around year ten! Huell moved very slowly when it came to updating his technology.
The other part of my tape defamation is in part because I’ve been mourning his loss and am I’m now beginning to move on with my company and career. It’s time for something exciting and new! And I’d just prefer that tape be as little a part of that as possible.
Back to my farewell Huell/Tape edit session, all I had to do was capture a few tapes, lay off a single 26-minute digibeta tape, and make a couple insert fixes on some older shows. But the session was riddled with technical gaffes and issues that sprung up mostly because my “modern” equipment and software can’t handle tape as well as an old Mac Pro tower and FCP 6/7 could. I’m talking to you, Mr. Blackmagic Ultrastudio Express (bane of my existence).
I used to be pretty upset about this. But not anymore. As I said earlier, I recognize that tape’s time has come and gone. With 2K, 4K and higher deliverables, there’s simply no tape that can support these formats for playback. LTO will continue to be used for backup purposes. I think we, in the world of production and post, are pretty much on the same page here and I recognize that I’m not saying anything new.
I used to really enjoy online editing and color correction from a financial standpoint. Now, I relish in the fact that I can spend some extra time finessing and coloring my footage inside the NLE. Dealing with exporting is still a process that requires watching down the file. If you have problems with it, there’s no “insert” or “overwrite.” It’s all about re-exporting.
But, I don’t have to worry about my blackburst generator bursting or my audio going out of sync on playback. I don’t have to worry about my old waveform monitor/vectorscope dying every few years and having to find a new one on eBay. This is all good news.
Removing tape from my workflow adds back in many needed hours for reviewing and logging footage, editing the content and just being creative.
So will I use tape again if I have to? Ok, ya got me. Sure. I’ll probably use Premiere CC since it seemed to work the best in terms of capturing footage over SDI. That all said, leaving tape behind lets me focus on one very important thing – delivering better work.