Remember Ricky Fitts from American Beauty? You know, the guy who walked around filming bags blowing in the wind and had thousands of DV tapes in his bedroom? Probably not, still from the description you can imagine the trouble that guy is in if he wants to find a particular scene or a particular tape. With thousands of tapes to choose from how is he going to find the bit of footage he’s looking for? Well maybe if he had FootTrack life wouldn’t be so tricky (well for Ricky it would, his Dad being a nut job and all).
FootTrack is a nifty application that does a task I didn’t realize needed doing: cataloging digital videotapes on your Mac. Sounds a bit unnecessary on the surface, those little lines on the piece of cardboard that comes with every blank tape are there for a reason. Yet using those lines becomes quickly tedious. Hence if you have more than a couple of tapes FootTrack is a very nifty utility. But, one might argue, I paint people’s names on grains of rice for fun and profit so small lettering is no challenge. Is there a real difference between the little lines and FootTrack? Well the lines are hard to write on for most folks and, unlike FootTrack, don’t provide a video preview.
Like the little lines FootTrack is fairly intuitive, unlike the little lines the program is actually easy to use. You pop a tape in your camcorder and capture the footage in a process not unlike iMovie. You name the “tape” you just created (make it match the name you wrote on the tape) and all the clips on the tape are now in a “virtual” tape on your hard drive. You can, predictably, add all sorts of information about the tape and clips, location, length etc. and export said data to a spreadsheet or database. You don’t actually need to export the data to make all the info you added useful, FootTrack has snappy search feature included. All of this is undoubtedly useful stuff but nothing you couldn’t accomplish on your own with, say, AppleWorks. The thing that really makes FootTrack worthwhile is the video preview.
The video preview feature is the central feature of FootTrack. Once you create a tape, essentially a copy of the actual footage, you can save it for later reference. This, of course, is useful because you no longer have to drag out the camera, hook it up to the computer, guess at the right tape and hunt for the required footage. With FootTrack you just fire up your Mac and go from there. This not only saves time fast forwarding and tape hunting it saves wear and tear on your camcorder (Do you really want to use your GL2 as a glorified deck?). I can hear the objection: Video files are huge, I won’t have any hard drive space left after just a few tapes! Fear not, FootTrack allows you to save your tapes at a variety of compression levels so you can get enough resolution to find the clip you are looking for without have to save every clip at full gigabyte devouring quality.
So how useful is all this functionality? Pretty useful if you’re working with more than a few tapes. Once you have six or seven tapes you like to pull specific scenes off of things can get confusing no matter how good you are at tiny lettering (take that, rice writing guy). If you’re working with dozens of tapes FootTrack is nearly indispensable. There is other, people tell me, useful features of FootTrack. Stuff like batch capture with Final Cut Pro. Since I use Media Edit Pro I can’t really delve into any of the more advanced features of FootTrack, I suggest you try the demo. Trust me :If you’ve had trouble keeping up with your tapes or have grown tired of hauling out your camera just to hunt for a missing clip you’ll be very happy with FootTrack. If you tape over the same tape again and again never saving your old footage you’ll still find some utility in FootTrack (think of it as a way to never buy another tape) though I suspect videographers with scads of tapes will get the most use out of it.
MyMac Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: Saves wear on camera, saves time, coolest icon EVER