Play's Pocket Producer at HD Vision and Verizon

Play's Pocket Producer, in conjunction with 3Com's Palm Pilot, Palm III or Palm VII, is a convenient timesaving device for generating edit decision list (EDL) logs for video post production. Pocket Producer's RS-422, LANC and LTC cables allow for communication and control of tape decks in the field as well as the production studio. The Pocket Producer pod, which clips onto the bottom of the Palm, can generate logs or rough EDLs in nine of the most common linear and nonlinear EDL formats.

Pocket Producer requires the Palm OS to be at level 2.0 or higher with a PC (at least 486x25 with Windows 95 or higher) or Macintosh compatible computer (PowerPC processor, Mac OS 7.1 or later). Both computer systems require 8MB of available hard drive space, a recommended minimum 16MB of RAM, an available serial port for the Palm's cradle and a 13-inch (640 x 480) or larger color display.

I am a left-handed, Macintosh beige G3 computer user. This required me to purchase a MacPac from 3Com so that I could install the Palm IIIe software.

It took me about an hour to install Pocket Producer's PPLogger software into the Palm Pilot and LogWriter into my Macintosh. The manual states that LogWriter can be installed off the Pocket Producer CD by double clicking on the Mac Installer icon. But there was no such icon on the CD provided, so I just dragged the LogWriter software from the CD to my Macintosh hard drive.

The 61-page user manual is easy to read and far more enjoyable than some ops manuals I've read in the past. A few technical definitions and explanations in the manual are incorrect. For instance, LTC stands for longitudinal, not latitudinal, timecode. Drop frame timecode drops the first two frames of the timecode count at the beginning of each minute except for every tenth minute. Also, many editing systems use vertical interval timecode (VITC), and a note about making sure that the LTC and VITC are set to record the same timecode should be included in the manual. Pocket Producer can only read LTC. If the LTC and VITC timecodes do not match, problems generating an accurate log or EDL will occur.

These technical errors notwithstanding, the manual provides easy to follow instructions and illustrations. It also has seven pages of instruction regarding basic operation of the Palm PDA, which allowed me to start using Pocket Producer without having to spend too much time reading the Palm III handbook.

In addition to the manual, Play provides a Pocket Producer Quick Reference foldout with a well laid out full-color set of Pocket Producer basic operating instructions and a Palm Graffiti writing software alphabet and number listing. I found this Quick Reference to be a great tool for learning Pocket Producer's functions and Palm's Graffiti handwriting software.

The Pocket Producer pod clicks into the bottom of the Palm organizer and, like the Palm, is powered by two AAA alkaline batteries. Play recommends having replacement batteries available and, based on my experience with the two joined devices, battery life is relatively short compared to operating the Palm by itself.

The post production facilities in the Dallas/Fort Worth market where I work do not have video tape decks or camcorders with LANC jacks, so I cannot provide any comment regarding the use of Pocket Producer via LANC control. But I did a significant amount of testing with the RS-422 and LTC Pod Protocol settings and was impressed with the results.

At HD Vision in Irving I generated several Sony edit format logs of high-definition footage in tape formats from three different kinds of machines: a Sony HDD 1000 high definition one-inch machine, a Panasonic HD-D5 and a Sony HDW 500 HD Cam.

At Verizon Directories and Verizon Corporate Communications I controlled and generated GVG and Avid format edit logs using a Sony 3000 one-inch machine, a DVR-20 D2 deck and a PVW-2800 Beta SP machine. In both facilities, Pocket Producer controlled these machines and generated logs with no problems.

Pocket Producer's Palm display and controls are very intuitive and function like an edit controller. There are in and out mark points, go to in, go to out, a duration indicator, standard play, pause, stop, fast forward, rewind, and shuttle controls, along with what Pocket Producer calls "Tag" functions.

This helpful function lets you program a clip duration that marks an in and out point with the press of the Tag button. It also allows you to choose the in point or the out point as a reference point for the clip. There are also five-, 10-, and 15-second tag functions.

Some controls have increment up and down arrow pairs that function like single frame trims. If you depress them for more than a second the trim arrows repeat, allowing you to easily trim a single frame or many frames. I really liked these trim arrows for fine tuning mark points and changing scene and reel numbers of my clips.

Pocket Producer's 9.5-foot RS-422 control cable was long enough to allow me freedom of movement with the device even when it was hooked up to rack-mounted video tape machines. Play also provides an LTC adapter that permits the RS-422 control cable to be connected to the timecode out of a camera for field logging applications.

Pocket Producer can also be rigged with a wireless microphone system (not supplied) to allow for wireless field logging.

You have to know what kind of timecode - drop frame or non drop frame - is on the video tapes you are logging when you use Pocket Producer and adjust it accordingly so that what you log is accurate. Pocket Producer's manual does not provide any detail or warnings about the limitations of the edit formats you are generating logs for. It is justifiably beyond the scope of the manual to list all the nuances of these edit formats. But a statement or two to make users aware of EDL format limitations would be helpful.

The Sony and GVG edit formats, for example, have a six-character limit for reel identification. Any reel identification longer than this is truncated. Reels labeled Tigers-1 and Tigers-2 would appear as Tigers in a log with the distinguishing "-1" and "-2" cut off. A production assistant, assistant director or producer using Pocket Producer to generate a Sony or GVG log needs to know this limitation in advance so that the logs generated are accurate and time is not wasted.

Pocket Producer will only work with 3Com's Palm Pilot, Palm III, and Palm VII. Play has no plans to offer Pocket Producer for use with other PDAs on the market.

Despite some of the user manual's informational shortcomings, and a less than intuitive system of generating the logs once they are HotSynced from the Palm Pilot to the Palm host computer, I found Pocket Producer to be a very helpful timesaving device. Individuals already familiar with the Palm PDA will welcome this additional producer's tool.