Just What Did Videotape Leaders Look Like Daddy?

16 06 2009

Larry Jordan’s latest issue of Final Cut Studio Newsletter has this interesting flashback tip for those people who are printing to tape. I’m still used to seeing this for delivery to networks, but file-based workflows may make some of this obsolete.

In any case, this about what a video leader should look like. Perhaps the most useful bit in here is a description of what should be on the tape delivery slate. I was actually doing something similar to this for the new edition of my FILM EDITING ROOM HANDBOOK, which should be out early in 2010. Until then, Larry’s site is a must-see for this kind of cool information.

Hell, even after my book comes out, his site will be must-see.


Most final deliveries for high-end productions are output to video tape, either HDCAM or HDCAM SR and not delivered as a file. When outputting to tape, you need to allow room for leader material which the engineering types use to make sure the tape playback matches the spec of when the tape was recorded.

Traditionally, this leader material is:

Timecode Content
00:58:30:00 Bars and tone
00:59:30:00 Black audio and video
00:59:40:00 Program slate
00:59:50:00 Black audio and video
01:00:00:00 Program start

A program slate consists of:

  • Program Title Producer / Director / Agency responsible
  • Date output to tape
  • Running time (Never include frames and always round up)
  • Audio mix format (stereo, mono, multi-track)
  • Timecode format (Drop-frame or non-drop-frame)

To create these leader materials in Final Cut you can either use File > Print to Video, or build them yourself in the Timeline. If you create them in the Timeline, go to Sequence > Settings > Timeline tab and change the sequence timecode to 58:30.

That way, the timecode of your sequence will match the timecode on your tape. Note, to make sure all your program times are correct, use File > Edit to Tape to record to video tape.




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