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Blas Kisic

Off-speed timecode playback

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I've gone over the relevant threads, which were very helpful (and must publicly aknowledge Marc Wielage for his time on email and over the phone, helping me figure out this issue,) but I couldn't find an answer to this particular issue.

 

I have an upcoming shoot that includes playback of a track, which a few 9-year olds (background) will lip-synch to. I've built a striped-timecode playback track, with the appropriate countdown beeps, by summing both stereo tracks into the L channel and TC on the R channel. Regular speed is 23.98 and we're shooting with an Alexa.

 

They also requested a 60fps version and a 120fps version. I did the math and used a Pro Tools plug-in that speeds up the track(s) without affecting the pitch.

 

I'm feeding the TC channel to a Comtek 216MHz tx, which sends its signal to a TS-3 slate connected to a receiver in the appropriate channel. When running 23.98fps everything is perfect. However, any other speed shows jumbled numbers on the slate. I spoke to Charlie at Denecke about this, and he said it would read 60fps, but the slate won't read even that speed.

 

So I have two questions:

 

1) if I switch to a higher-resolution wireless system (I have a couple of Sony UWP kits that I use for camera hops,) will the slate be able to resolve the higher speed(s)?

 

2) Should I stripe 23.98fps timecode on the higher-speed tracks, sending those reference tracks to post, so they can at least line them up with the camera's visual cues?

 

Thankful in advance for any suggestions or comments you might offer,

BK

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Blas,

Yes first try a higher end wireless system like Lectro or Zax.

Second, in Pro Tools... On your sped-up versions that you made, process the music and the timecode differently. Use the pitch correction for the music like you are doing... But DON'T pitch correct the time code. "Let the timecode go chipmunk" is a saying we came up with on glee while figuring this out.

Let me know if this works for you!

-Devendra

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1)  NO, I would not think so.  I don't think that is the issue... It's not quality of signal ... level maybe...

 

Use the TC for the regular speed material... I would not personally worry about the TC on the other material...

  It is so difficult for the talent to peg the material, at those speeds...especially for little kids..thus REAL and perfect sync is meaningless...  

 

  Maybe the camera cues as you say may make it a necessity...

 

   They can eye it and do a fine job at it... EDIT:  Unless you are about to do a whole season of this...

If you must have the code, try Devendra's approach, it sounds viable...  Probably the right way to handle it.

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I agree it is challenging to lip sync at high speeds. Depending on the song it's pretty much impossible above 2X unless it's a very slow song inherently.

Though using timecode for the high speed playback in addition to the normal speed will help out post immensely. And I think you'll get your slate to read the high frame rates once you try the non-pitch correct approach.

You're right the quality of the wireless might not make a huge difference but the level of the timecode will. Make sure the timecode signal is nice and hot.

Hope it helps Blas!

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Devendra is the man. They did (and still do) tons of off-speed Pro Tools sound playback on Glee, and there's a lot of skill in pulling that off several times a week without any problems.

 

I agree that once you get past double-speed, it's very hard for most talent to lip sync with the lyrics. 

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I've learned a lot from Phil Palmer over the years and his technical problem solving abilities. It's pretty cool to apply many of these things in everyday workflow that we figured out through sometimes trial and error. Trial and hopefully minimal error can turn into normal everyday successes. But I still worry whenever I turn in that edit master file for high speed music. Once 7am rolls by and no email from Encore, I feel relieved. :)

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Well I'll be.  Didn't know that one about the timecode "going chimpunk" - that would've saved me a lot of trouble over the years!

 

I have previously found that there is a Waves plug-in that does the speed up right with TC so that it still holds.

I'd have to go back and research which one it is.

 

Last time I did all that prep was for a music video and they ended up requesting on set that even when they ran off speed that I play back the 23.98 version.  Was told "we have a way to adjust it in post."  I called the editor and checked and was told that was the case.

 

-greg-

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Thanks to all who replied!

Devendra is, clearly, _The Man_, though (in truth, I'd been told to call you, I just couldn't find your phone number…)

 

Anyway, here's the scoop: Comtek works fine for this. I sped up TC in "Chipmunk mode" and, guess what? It worked like a charm. I was shocked to realize that the slate tracks all the way to 120fps!

 

We're all set for tomorrow and I don't expect any unpleasant surprises. I'm quite grateful to have this resource at my fingertips.

 

Thanks again!

BK

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Anyway, here's the scoop: Comtek works fine for this. I sped up TC in "Chipmunk mode" and, guess what? It worked like a charm. I was shocked to realize that the slate tracks all the way to 120fps!

 

That is amazing! You'll have to report back on how well the girls were able to lip-sync. I'd be surprised if they could make it up to 72fps, but miracles can happen.

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Just curious, Devendra - how far overspeed was is it usual to go on Glee? Of course your Cast would be far more used to the process, and adept at it, than the average music-clip participant. Also, if you don't mind - how much pre-roll code for slating do you guys allow?

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2X seems to be the ticket. Visually achieves the effect and is still singable with practice. About :30 of timecode before the start of the song. Timecode starts at 00:59:30. For cueing into different parts of the song, about 8-16 bars of preroll seem to do work. The 2nd AC will get faster at slating/watching for the numbers to start then FOing.

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Thanks, once again, to all who replied with very useful comments and suggestions.

 

As most of you predicted, they stuck to 60fps - although, given the natural rhythm of the song, 72fps would have been doable as well.

 

Unfortunately, it wasn't my happiest day on set because 1) the production team –especially the 1st AD– wasn't quite up to the task of organizing a day of shooting with 20 minors, a wind machine, a Steadycam and two cameras running at different speeds, with clients breathing down their necks… and, B) in spite of the fact that we tested the PB rig repeatedly, twice in the morning and once again after lunch (most of the morning was MOS) and boom op Tom Cassetta's expertise and best efforts, "on the day" the speaker went on the fritz.

 

This particular speaker is three months old and had no problems whatsoever on two previous PB jobs, but apparently some combination of surface heat (it was a 100F-day in Burbank) and sun exposure caused its amps to shut down intermittently. Tom played with the XLR input and turning the unit on and off, and made it work – but, of course, we had to reset the track, cut camera, etc.

 

So, after a few failed efforts, and while we were clobbering together a MacGyveresque wireless solution, we were just told that we were done with PB… Clearly not my proudest moment in film production, but sometimes shit happens, and apparently there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

 

What I learned: that I should have a plan B even if there's no way in hell that a particular piece of equipment can fail. I didn't have room for a second 15" speaker, but next time I'll have a smaller unit just in case.

 

I also called the producer a couple of days later to offer her a discount on the equipment rental - she was very grateful for the offer, but said that it wouldn't be necessary (in reality, the PB was a minor part of the whole spot, maybe two or three shots, if that.)

 

Well, that's the story. Thanks for listening,

BK

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Ah, that's a drag. In the past, I usually tried to take along two JBL EON 315 speakers, even if we wound up only using one. These work well on the ground (and angle up towards the talent) or on a stand, whatever gets them out of the shot. I also have a couple of Remote Audio small battery-powered speakers, which would be horrible as a replacement but at least it's some kind of sound.

 

One of the JBLs I had was a little intermittent and had to be slapped in order to turn on. I think it was just a bad switch or circuit breaker from the factory, but usually we were able to get it to work on set. These unexpected challenges are harrowing, but trust me, they make you stronger over time. (Or they drive you crazy!)

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Thanks, Marc.

Honestly, the only reason I didn't bring another one along was because it wasn't needed and I didn't have any more space in the car.

Live and learn - two is one and one is none…

BK

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BK: " if I switch to a higher-resolution wireless system "

huh? :blink:

 

Sorry, I missed this earlier.

Mike, what I meant was that maybe the sound quality of Comteks wouldn't be able to reproduce the TC beeps above a certain speed, in which case I wondered whether a Lectro would be a better choice to send 120fps TC codes.

BK

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