[Note: this is another in a series of postings that were originally hosted by Apple but went away when Apple cancelled mobileme.com.]
Many of us have acquired flashcard-based camcorders. Some as a complete replacement of our tape-based cameras and some as additional cameras. Now we are faced with adapting to a new workflow in using these card-based cameras in addition to, or instead of that used with tape-based cameras. In this posting I will discuss the workflow that I have evolved after using a card-based camera for awhile. This workflow assumes that one is primarily using the flashcard-based camcorder for high definition (HD) collection. The figure above shows my workflow elements which I discuss in the following paragraphs.
Virtually all these cameras use the AVCHD or MPEG-2 method of encoding the HD video before recording it to the card. The most frequent type of card used is the "Secure Digital High Capacity" (SDHC) card but some video cameras use the Compact Flash (CF) cards. Also, some Sony cameras will use only the Sony Memory Stick cards but recent Sony cameras have the ability to use either an SDHC or Memory Stick cards. High-end Sony and Panasonic cameras use proprietary cards - SxS and P2 respectively.
The files recorded to the cards come with a variety of extensions depending on the specific camera and manufacturer. File types include: .mov, .mx4, .mxf, .mts, and .mp4. The files are created using the various digital codecs and have different file type "wrappers" applied before recording which results in the different file types. Fortunately, Gen3 Cassies (S-2000, S-4000, and S-4100 all running Bogart 3) and most pc-based editing programs can read all of these file types directly.
I break the workflow process into three general stages - initial download, intermediate storage, and long-term archival storage and retrieval.
This stage is pretty straightforward. I can connect the camera to either the Gen3 Cassie or PC/Mac via USB and download the files directly from the camera. Or, I can remove the recording card from the camera, insert it a card reader and connect the card reader to either the Cassie or PC via USB for off-loading the video clips on the card. If off-loaded into the Cassie I'm ready to start editing immediately.
I use an external hard drive connected to my PC via USB as an intermediate storage device. By "intermediate" I generally mean that I use it to store the source video until I'm finished with the editing process and I've collected enough video on the hard drive to fill one or more DVDs. By using a USB-connected hard drive I can actually disconnect the hard drive from the PC and connect it to the Cassie for loading files from it directly into the Cassie.
I can also use the PC to load video file from the PC or intermediate hard drive onto a "thumb drive" for transfer to the Cassie. Of course, the Gen3 Cassie can be used to create output files within Media Manager than can be recorded out to either the thumb drive or hard drive.
ARCHIVAL STORAGE AND RETRIEVAL
I personally like to keep most of my source material in some form of long-term archive from which it can be retrieved if needed. The cost of the card recording media is too high to use the cards themselves as the archiving media. Although hard drives have a high capacity-to-cost ratio, I don't like them for long-term storage for a couple of reasons. First, they are complex electro-mechanical devices and therefore more subject to failure than other methods. Secondly, they are relatively hard to store.
Therefore, I have adopted DVDs as my method of long-term storage and retrieval. Although standard DVD-Rs (red-laser) could be used I opted to use Blu-ray BD-Rs. The Blu-rays have some five times the capacity of the DVD-Rs and are purported to have a longer lifetime than DVD-Rs. I cannot verify their longer life but I do prefer the higher capacity which is some 100 minutes of HD video. The specific amount of HD video that a DVD-R or BD-R will hold depends on the specific HD mode recorded. Many of the card-based cameras can record HD video at different bit rates. One Sony camera, for example, can record HD video at bit rates from 9 to 24 Mb/sec. The 100 min capacity mentioned previously refers to the 24 Mb/sec data rate.
When I've collected enough intermediate storage video to fill one or more DVDs I burn the files to the DVD for long-term storage. If I need to retrieve the files from the DVD I can either read them back into the PC or directly into my Blu-ray equipped Gen3 Cassie. If one has a Gen3 Cassie but without the Blu-ray burner then use DVD-Rs for the long-term storage and they can be read into any Gen3 Cassie.
WHAT IF YOU ARE USING A GEN2 CASABLANCA?
Unfortunately, Gen2 and earlier Casablancas do not have the capability to load AVCHD and MPEG-2 files via USB connections. And the Ethernet-Transfer application that is standard on Gen2 Cassies running later versions of SmartEdit only works for standard definition (SD) projects. If you are editing in HD on a Gen2 Cassie and have acquired a card-based camera you have a couple of options. If your PC has a Firewire output you could use a PC editing program to convert the files to HDV format and transfer them to your Cassie via Firewire. Or you could convert the files to AVI format and record them to a DVD and use Disk Transfer on the Gen2 Cassie to input the files. A DVD-R will only hold about 20 mins of HD video.
But you could still use the PC-centric archival method described above. (Or, upgrade your Cassie to a Gen3 model. 8-) )