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PART 7: TIMECODE
WHAT IS TIMECODE?
If you wanted to order an enlargement of a holiday photo you had taken on a roll of film you could easily identify the picture to the shop assistant because it has a number printed alongside the negative. Each number positively identifies each picture.
On video tape it is time code which identifies every frame you have recorded. Time-code time is presented as a 24 hour clock at twenty five counts per second (i.e. TV frame rate). Each frame is therefore numbered in HOURS, MINUTES, SECONDS and FRAMES.
FREE RUN or TIME OF DAY - TIME CODE
Time of day time code, also called free run timecode, does exactly what you'd expect.. It will ident each frame of video according to the time of day it was recorded. The main advantage is that as long as you wear a watch you know what time code is being recorded. On some productions a Production Assistant will log the shots, takes or important events and make a record of the time code, this speeds up time spent in the edit suite.
The disadvantage of "Time of Day" is that it will not be continuous throughout the tape. If you stop recording to change camera position and then restart there will be a break in time code corresponding to how long you stopped recording. This can be a problem when you come to edit.
With the old Beta-to-Beta tape editing you'd set "IN" points on the recorder and player. The machines rolled back(either 3 or 5 seconds) to lock up. During this time they like to see continuous time code. If there was a break in time code you'd may find that your edit machine would throw a bit of a wobbly and refuse to edit.
With Non linear editing we've found that this problem doesn't go away. When you digitised material from tape into your computer for non-inear editing - the software still like's to see some extra time code before and after each shot. These are called handles - if you check your software preferences you should be able to alter the handle length.
The only way around this problem is to ensure that that there is always a good five to ten seconds of recorded material (and therefore time code) before the action starts. This is fine for controlled shooting (eg a drama) but on shoots where you have little or no control (eg a news shoot) it can be impractical, if not downright impossible.
Another problem is if you are on a shoot over several days. Now tapes recorded on one day could have the same time code as a tape used the next day. In these situations you will have to be very careful about labelling tapes and boxes with the date.
TO SET THE TIME CODE TO A PARTICULAR TIME OF DAY?c
RECORD RUN TIME CODE
Record Run time code is similar to a counter. So, when the camera is in record - the time code runs and when you stop recording - it stops. This means that the time code will be continuous throughout the tape. (ie no tell tale gaps when you stopped for a break). Now your edit machines will be happy.
However, a word of warning. If you switch your camera off - then back on and start recording you may find that the time code does continue where it left off BUT there could be a few frames worth of blank tape. The time code is continuous but not contiguous! To make sure their are no breaks remember that once you have switched on - you may have to hit the RET button (on the zoom servo) the tape will rewind and park on the last frame - ready to do a seamless in camera edit.
An old camera trick is to use a record-run time code of 01 00 00 00 for tape ONE and then a time code of 02 00 00 00 for tape TWO. A handy way of electronically tagging your tapes.
However, if you prefer you can also zero the time code at the start of a tape. This will indicate how much tape you've used and so you can work out how much shooting time you have left.
TO ZERO THE TIMECODE?c
To memorise the data switch back to R-RUN
The user bit display works on the hexadecimal system which consists of a mixture of eight numbers or letters. There are sixteen possible characters, numbers 0 to 9 and letters A to F. A typical way of using the User bits is to ident the camera and the date. So, for example you could enter…
28 : 10 : 00 : C1 this would show the date and ident the camera as Camera 1. In this way if there is a camera fault it is possible to check from the tape which camera it came from and the day the fault first occurred.
you could set the time code to REC RUN and the user bits to Time of Day - now you have all your options covered.