Yes, I am a tape labeling maniac. I let every crew I work with know this about me. I believe that every professional document is the ultimate communication device. This is especially true for tape labels. Yes, we are moving into a digital world where a lot of footage is moving around on drives. But drives and discs sometime need labels. And, tapes are not dead yet. I don’t care about spelling. I’m not the best speller in the world myself but I do what to know what is on that tape.
Where did this labeling snobbery come from? I lay the blame squarely at the foot of America’s Most Wanted. I worked on the show early in my career and quickly learned the benefits of a well labeled tape. At AMW, as at many places, the tapes moved between so quickly between so many people (producers, associate producers, shooters, transcribers, editors, production managers, etc.) that it was critical that all the pertinent information be placed on the label so that any person at anytime would know what was on that tape. This point was driven home years later when I helped a production company sort through their archival tapes that were boxed and stored in a closet. It was nearly impossible to tell what was what because the tapes were labeled with one word that meant nothing to anyone who was not there when the tape was shot.
Here is some basic tape information I like to include:
- Name of project, tape number, date
- Subject name, title, city
- Type of footage shot (interview, B-roll, stills)
- Technical specifications (frame rate and frame size)
- Audio info like what was recorded on each channel
If space allows, I’ll also include:
- Producer name
- Crew names
- Production company and telephone number (in case the tape gets lost in transit)
If I am working on a long shoot that will generate a lot of tapes, I pre-print labels with all the consistent information typed out. I leave space to fill in information that will change from tape to tape like tape numbers and dates.
Now that I am supervising and executive producing more projects, I don’t go out into the field as much. But I do give a tape labeling demonstration every time I work with a new production staff after which I expect tape labels to come back full of significant information.