Formatting a Fresh Videotape

Master Tapes

When editing together all the many pieces of source material needed to create a video presentation, it is quite common to (a) need to leave a blank space in the program on the master tape which will be filled in later, when the appropriate material finally shows up, and (b) need to re-record over portions of the already recorded master tape. This type of editing is performed using an edit controller computer, in our case a Grass Valley GVG-252.

In order for the edit controller to be able to "skip ahead" in the program, and index around on the tape in a random-access manner, the master tape used in the recorder for an editing session needs to be "formatted" with a continuous sequence of timecode.

Recommended Practice: Format the WHOLE Tape

In general, it is best to format the entire reel of tape with black and timecode. That way there is never any difficulty with not having enough pre-formatted tape. Sometimes programs become much longer than anticipated when the customer says "Oh, by the way, could you please edit a copy of the XYZZY show onto the end of this one, so that the audience will have it available for reference....".

It is extremely unlikely that any single video presentation will not fit on one reel of tape. We stock two lengths of tape, 20 minutes, and 60 minutes. Formatting one such tape should not be a burden, especially if the formatting is done a day in advance of the actual start of editing. Going to lunch or dinner or a staff meeting is a good way to busy yourself while the formatting is happening; watching a blank screen for 20 minutes is even more boring than a staff meeting.

If the presentation to be assembled is known to only run for "a few" minutes and time is of the essence, then aborting the formatting process early is certainly understandable. However, be certain to take into account the amount of tape needed for the 1 minute of header and 15 seconds of trailer, in addition to the tape needed for your program. Be conservative and add at least another minute to your estimate. Be even more conservative and just format the whole tape! :-)

Common Procedure

Procedure for Sony Betacam PVW-2800

  1. Place the REMOTE/LOCAL switch in the LOCAL position. This switch is located in the upper right corner of the front panel.
  2. Place the 3-position INPUT SELECT switch into the COMPOSITE position.
  3. Ensure that in the VIDEO TRACKING section the LEVEL knob is pushed in, and the other knob is set to the FIXED position.
  4. Ensure that the AUDIO LIMITER switch is set to the OFF position.
  5. Ensure that all 4 of the audio level controls (labeled CH-1 and CH-2) are pressed in; they are only active when pulled out.
  6. Ensure that the 3-position CTL/TC/U-BIT switch located immediately to the left of the timecode display is set to the TC position.
  7. Check the tape to be formatted to ensure that it's red write-protect tab has been pulled out all the way, so that it's surface is flush with the surrounding blue plastic case.
  8. Insert the tape in the recorder. Verify that the "REC INHIBIT" light over the button does not light up.
  9. Flip up the bottom half of the front panel. Inside, locate the switch marked REGEN/PRESET and change it from the normal setting of REGEN to PRESET. Don't close the front panel, as a reminder to yourself to put the switch back to normal when you are finished.
  10. In the middle of the front panel, press the HOLD button. The hours portion of the timecode display will start to blink.
  11. Press the RESET button on the right side of the timecode display. The timecode display will now show all zeros.
  12. Press the SET button next to the HOLD button. The timcode display will revert to the number it had formerly displayed, but don't panic, the it will go back to zero when you start recording. This is a user-interface botch on the part of Sony.
  13. Press and hold the RECORD button, then also press PLAY. This will start the recording process. The timecode display will jump back to zero and start counting. The small green SERVO light below the RECORD button should light within 5 seconds.
  14. Verify that the green word VITC is backlit, as is the green word DOLBY NR.
  15. Optionally, at the 20 second mark press the red-colored COLOR BARS button on the video switcher and the ON button beneath the OSC LEVEL knob on the audio mixer. At roughly 40 seconds release the ON button on the audio mixer and press the red-colored BLACK button on the video switcher. When preparing master tapes, it is preferred to do this operation as your first directive to the edit controller, rather than manually.
  16. At the end of the tape the recording will stop and the tape will automatically be rewound. If you don't want to format the whole tape, press the blue STOP button when the timecode counter indicates a large enough number. Then press the white REW button.
  17. When the rewind completes, press the blue EJECT button and label the tape.
  18. If you don't have any more tapes to format, crouch down and restore the REGEN/PRESET switch to it's normal REGEN position, then close up the front panel again.
  19. Restore the REMOTE/LOCAL switch to it's normal REMOTE position.

Procedure for Sony U-matic BVU-870 and BVU-850

(Terse outline)

  1. Move the REMOTE/LOCAL switch from REMOTE to LOCAL.
  2. Ensure that the INPUT SELECT switch is set to LINE.
  3. To zero the timecode generator, turn the POWER switch of the recorder off briefly and then on again. (Electrically this is ugly, but it's a lot simpler than the horrid menu systems on the other machines.)
  4. Quickly insert a write-enabled tape. (The time code is counting).
  5. Quickly press and hold REC and PLAY until the green SERVO light has lit.
  6. When enough tape has been formatted, press STOP, then REWIND.
  7. Restore the REMOTE/LOCAL switch to it's normal REMOTE position.
  8. When the rewind completes, press the blue EJECT button and label the tape.

Note: The U-matic machines can not be used for ASSEMBLE editing, only for INSERT editing. So tape formatting is not optional.

Procedure for Panasonic AG-7750 S-VHS machine

  1. Move the CONTROL switch from REMOTE to LOCAL.
  2. Ensure that the TRACKING knob is in the FIX position.
  3. Place the 3-position INPUT switch into the LINE position.
  4. Ensure that the S-VHS switch is in the ON position.
  5. Ensure that the MODE switch is in the PLAY position.
  6. Ensure that the "HI-FI REC" switch is in the ON position. (In the lower right corner, on the flip-down door).
  7. Ensure that the INT/EXT switch is in the INT position.
  8. Move the REGEN/PRESET switch into the PRESET position.
  9. Ensure that the AUDIO-CH2/LTC switch is in the AUDIO-CH2 position. This allocates Channel 2 (Right channel) for audio, not timecode. Timecode sounds horrible when played as audio.
  10. Ensure that the VITC switch is in the ON position.
  11. Ensure that the REC_RUN/FREE_RUN switch is in the REC_RUN position.
  12. Move the black SEARCH/MENU switch into the MENU position. (This switch is located under the left corner of the tape cassette slot).
  13. Press the MENU button. (Also labeled as "READY"). Direct your attention to the menu on the small monochrome monitor for C-VTR (upper right monitor in bank of 4).
  14. Use the jog dial and/or the PAGE DOWN ("<<" rewind) and PAGE UP (">>" fast forward) buttons until menu entry 5008 is blinking: "08 Time Code Preset".
  15. Press the DATA button (Also labeled as "STOP"). A TCG number will appear, with the first digit blinking
  16. Press the black RESET button (above the PAUSE button). The TCG number should go to all zeros.
  17. Press the white SET button (also labeled as "SEARCH"). Do not be dismayed that the TCG value has reverted to a non-zero value. It remembers what to do.
  18. Move the black SEARCH/MENU switch back into the SEARCH position.
  19. Check the tape to be formatted to ensure that it's write-protect tab has not been broken off. If the tab is missing, cover the slot with a small piece of tape.
  20. Insert the tape in the recorder.
  21. Press the red REC button, wait for the tape to load.
  22. Hold down the red REC button and press the white PLAY button. Tape formatting will begin.
  23. When enough of the tape has been formatted, press STOP, then REWIND.
  24. When the rewind completes, press the blue EJECT button and label the tape. (Upper right corner of the front panel).
  25. Restore the REGEN/PRESET switch to the REGEN position.
  26. Restore the CONTROL switch to the REMOTE position.