November 28, 2005

MovieLogger by Digital Heaven

MovieLogger 1.0
US $99.
Imports to Final Cut Pro 4.1 or later.
Mac OS X (fully compatible Windows version coming by first quarter 2006)
Download from the Digital Heaven web store at

Reviewed by Loren S. Miller

If content is king, here's a coronation cloak. MovieLogger is a text-based logging tool for QuickTime movies, mounted in a clean and useful interface, and represents the next of a line of productivity-enhancing products from Digital Heaven. This convenient product comes from the same folks who brought you the outrageously inexpensive and very useful DH filter plug-in package for Final Cut Pro. Witness VideoSpace, a Tiger widget for calculating disk space for any codec. DH was also the first to develop a field-addressable analog dropout fix filter, DH_Dropout, and the first to issue a polished MultiCam XML editing solution, both for FCP. DH was in fact the first London-based post facility to switch from Avid to Final Cut Pro! Their future efforts will focus on more toolmaking for FCP editors.

Library View in MovieLogger. Orange headline indicates loaded clip. Green indicates mouse selection. Notice additional info popup.

Now, why would you log your master clips in anything but FCP or Cinema Tools?

Well, first, MovieLogger is a speed-dedicated tool with more room for comments and descriptions, yet forgoes the detail you may not need from Cinema Tools, especially if you're not contemplating film finish.

Second, it allows you or an assistant without an FCP license to affordably process captured QuickTimes from a FireWire drive attached to any old Mac or iBook running OSX and mark them up for later import to FCP.

Third, it allows you to field-process QuickTimes coming from tapeless devices such as Focus Enhancements' FireStore, and if you've been reading up on direct-to-disc technology you realize products like MovieLogger are forward looking.

Fourth, it'll be quite useful in shared storage workgroups where a log can be handed off to editor(s) for nimble assembly.

Pre-logging is hardly new. It comes from film workflow in the form of marked scripts and script supervisor's notes, and continued in efficient video production. When I worked on PBS "Antiques Roadshow" way back in Season 2, field shoots were prelogged on a Newton, timecode wirelessly drawn from BetaCam. It was pretty cool to take a ShotLogger file in Avid Log Exchange format, download it to my Mac desktop at the station and have all the offline shots predefined, tagged, commented, ready for batch capture with very little timecode correction needed. And every Avid editor knows MediaLog, which does much the same thing.

I was reminded of this workflow when I opened MovieLogger, but it's neater. Load a QT clip into the ML interface, tap keys with Control depressed to play, to mark Ins and Outs, and the timecode lists automatically. Add comments or shot description as desired. Log lists are "live"-- clicking on a log in the list will instantly locate the content at that log's marked In point on the ML timeline, and it's easily changed or deleted. Out points are optional-handy if you later wish to change markers into In-Outs, or subclip in FCP.

TimeStrip, transport controls and Log List area. Orange TimeStrip indicates loaded clip. The bar is scrubbable. Diamonds represent your In-Out selects. It's possible to log a huge amount of detail for each shot.

It can be very refreshing to view camera content outside of the FCP interface, which can pull you into "edit mode" rather than "what have I got?" mode. I enjoy several features of MovieLogger and one of them is "Jumpback"-the ability to punch a key and have the playhead rewind, let's say five seconds earlier, to re-view content. There are two user-definable settings for Jumpback.

This is truly a content viewing mechanism and caters to assessment. You can quickly jog, shuttle, play or reverse the material, tweak the log for highest efficiency and maintain a pre-edit objectivity where you can discover the material with minimal distraction. I find the ML viewer has the flavor of a movie theatre screen, which I find helpful. Indeed, you can toggle to full screen mode to get even closer to the material. And either 4:3 or 16:9 displays correctly.

Convenient Big Screen view.

Up to 16 movies can be imported into a MovieLogger project and selected from the Library View. What, you say? You have 90 reels? Then simply break them into several handy ML projects. The current clip can be viewed using the on-screen or full keyboard transport and log controls, including J-K-L, with Control key depressed.

Export any or all project library clips.

Export the final log for import to FCP via XML, or to Rich Text Format (RTF), simultaneously if desired, for further text editing, databasing or printing, which also makes MovieLogger perfect for tasks like language translation subtitling.

FCP XML Import options.

Each master shows up in the Browser as a marked online clip. Zip from one to the next Marker with Shift-M, mark an In and Out with Control-A, then edit. It's a rapid assembly method.

Since Marked regions are easily turned into In-Out points and those easily turned into subclips (Command-U), you can have essentially a workflow of logged selects from each camera master. You could automate this into a batch process with macro sequencing utilities like QuicKeys ( If you like, you can then make them independent clips and consolidate these as real master clips, pulling prints and holds just like some of us used to pin into our trim bins when assembling a "scene kit" for a session on upright Moviola or Steenbeck. Okay, you might not be that nostalgic and actually want everything online, but be aware, it's not so bad to lose huge clips in favor of short selects.

Markers display in clip viewer, with captions from your MovieLogger Log List.
Shots logged with optional Out points show up as extended Marker regions.

There are other logger utilities out there, but some, like CatDV, are too cluttered just for grappling with content and simple logging tasks. Why pay for features you don't need?

There will likely be a need for a pro version which expands the number of movies in a project; the need for FireWire and RS422 device control for those who are deskbound without FCP who want a choice between logging existing captures or pre-logging to define offline clips for batch captures, more fully emulating Avid's MediaLog. I could see the need for an advanced content search, thumbnail display, et al; even the ability to transcode a batch list for Avid ALE or FCP XML format or some format I can't even think of. But ML 1.0 alone has some nice touches for pro's, such as audio boost for material recorded at lower levels for broadcast delivery. It even features an autosave.

I suspect Digital Heaven will wait to hear from users and be guided by their needs. They have certainly answered some of mine with MovieLogger.

Digital Heaven offers a feature-restricted demo (three movies in a project, three logs) which lets you sneaketh into the king's quarters and don the coronation cloak to see if it fits.

Download from the Digital Heaven web store at

copyright©2005 Loren S. Miller

Loren S. Miller writes, directs, produces, designs, but really wants to edit. No, he hasn't been to a Renaissance Fair. Yes, he often meows like a cat at the drop of a mouse. Reach him anytime at Buy his world-renown KeyGuides™ right here at the lafcpug Store to help subsidize more great articles from his raging keyboard.


This article first appeared on lafcpug and is reprinted here with permission.

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