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Travis Prater

Is Timecode Dead?

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Hey Guys,

I had a professor at my film school tell me today that Timecode on film sets is a dead concept. His thinking was that with software like Pluraleyes and the like, there is no need for it anymore. I have always been under the impression that Timecode is widely used, and am curious if this professor is on to something here, of if he's a bit out of touch.

-Travis

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Timecode is very much alive in almost all feature length movie productions and I believe every episodic TV show whether shot on film or digital. PluralEyes has been a real boon for the support of gear that does not provide timecode capability. PluralEyes does indeed work very well. Even though timecode is extensively used, when it is used only to establish sync, something much older than timecode or PluralEyes also works very well --- the old traditional clap slate.

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For DSLR shoots time code is semi existent. You can buy lockit boxes for a 5d now but a lot of people just use pluraleyes on those shoots. But on your features films and TV series TC is still widely used. Gotta be redundant when filming because its cost so much. The scenes are still using a marker slate to be the back up plan. In case the TC is lost(red cameras notoriously are known for this) the clapper will be your back up. If there was a mic on the camera or you were sending wireless or line level to camera they can use plauraleyes to sync your double system tracks. Most features use TC slates, which redundantly show the timecode and other info on the slate to help give another visual frame reference.

Your teacher may have ment this as TC is dying but he is wrong. TC will be used for a long time to come still.

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I do lots of DSLR shoots, some get Pluralized. Most of them want a TC slate too so they can see where in the audio file the start of the take is. TC is not dead at all, because it's not dead in post. Ask your teacher how he would do a conform without TC?

phil p

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I believe your professor is a bit out of touch... Syncing picture to sound is only one use of code on the set. As intranets evolve over sets, timecode (or perhaps satellite time-of-day code) will drive the timebase of the intranets. An intranet set will coordinate scene/take metadata between camera, sound and script. Timecode also assigns a unique ID to every frame, rather invaluable down the workflow... Source timecode on audio is still the only way to find pieces of things in audio-post. Perhaps your professor hasn't noticed that the "clapper slate" which was to have become obsolete with timecode, is still used on every take - sometimes the cool new electronic stuff doesn't work; redundancy rocks!

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We don't clap stix because we like the sound of it. Good work flow is good work habits. There is great value to all aspects of syncing sound and picture and multiple cameras and giving post the best material to work with. Timecode is very much a part of it. So are the new tools like plural eyes and the other softwares out there. I think your professor has a point, but it doesn't mean that TC is dead.

CrewC

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I use a timecode recorder and slate on 90% of the shoots I do. Only 10% of my shoots are single system straight-to-video camera recordings. And those cameras have timecode. I think that adds up to timecode on 100% of the shoots I do.

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I had a professor at my film school tell me today that Timecode on film sets is a dead concept. His thinking was that with software like Pluraleyes and the like, there is no need for it anymore.

What the F school is this dunderhead teaching at?

I've told many clients and filmmakers before: timecode is the railroad tracks on which the production train runs. Without the tracks... train don't run. (Another good analogy is that timecode is the "sprocket holes," but I don't think young filmmakers know what those are.)

Any so-called professor who says something this is incredibly ignorant. A professional production needs timecode in order to organize the footage and help the post department edit, mix, and conform the footage for the final film. You can get along without timecode, but that's doing it the hard way, especially if you're using professional equipment that has timecode. And when you have vast amounts of footage, as for a program using multiple cameras, having matching timecode on all cameras helps make matching it all up comparatively simple. Doing it by hand is ten times harder. Any basic book on post-production (or dialog editing or sound mixing) makes this very, very clear, even to beginners.

The whole point of timecode is to make things run faster and more efficiently, and also help keep everything in sync -- and that includes multiple cameras and a soundtrack. Stuff like Pluraleyes is just a tool, not something that's intended as a substitute for the right way of doing things. It's a workaround, not a replacement for real timecode.

Having said all that: I did a shoot a couple of weeks ago where I dutifully synced up my TS-3 slate and handed it to the AC, who looked at me as if I was from Mars. He sniffed, "we haven't used timecode slates at all on this project," and I shrugged and replied, "it's harder that way, but that's your call," and put it back in its case. Silly.

--Marc W.

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You should send a link to this thread too this 'professor' so they can see the position of people that actually have an idea of what they're talking about is

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Before I forget, it's great that you questioned your teacher and looked in to it.

Beyond sound and post, *many* Script Supervisors also use time code in their notes as well. If they take detailed notes, they are going to write down more than "take 3 was pretty rad".

Maybe the real world experience that your teacher has is of a specific type of project, for a specific client that has a specific workflow. These days, they might be shooting on cameras that don't even have timecode.

Most of us work with a lot of different cameras for a lot of different clients with a lot of different workflows. In addition to my comment about shooting on film, I have done a lot of shoots on the RED One, and never had a microphone attached to the camera. I attach something to send a scratch track that could be used for PluralEyes, but what if batteries die or the camera is out of range? The timecode slate with sticks and lockbox on camera is super-redundant, and post really likes it that way.

I also do plenty of docu/reality TV jobs that use multiple cameras and at least one multi-track audio recorder. On those jobs we don't use slates, but we use timecode. We jam all our gear to be synced. It would be a nightmare for post sort out 5+ cameras with the recordings from multiple mixers without timecode keeping everything locked. Just think reality TV where cameras are covering the same event from very different positions. There are cases that you can't get audio to a camera for PluralEyes to work with.

I have done some jobs where it is a 5D shooting a locked off talking head interview. They said "just bring your mixer and we'll give your our Zoom H4n to record to" (a non-TC recorder). For those instances, that works great. Just remember the examples posted above for when the shoot gets a lot more complicated.

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" the real world experience that your teacher has is... ?? "

... none recently on any sort of professional (or "proper") production ??

" Timecode on film sets is a dead concept " is just your professor's wishful thinking, after reading too many press releases...

" a professor at my film school "

What film school ?? what class ?? what professor ??

Edited by studiomprd

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From a practical perspective, it's worth nothing that with multiple, similar takes, Pluraleyes can get confused, since it's based upon waveform matching. If you have a consistent delivery from talent, the program won't be able to distinguish between closely-matched takes.

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From a practical perspective, it's worth nothing that with multiple, similar takes, Pluraleyes can get confused, since it's based upon waveform matching. If you have a consistent delivery from talent, the program won't be able to distinguish between closely-matched takes.

If you have the clapper read the take number/name before clapping, then yes.

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Thanks guys for all the info, it is just as I suspected... This is also the production sound teacher who says that you either get metadata or good sound, not both, because there's no time on set. Needless to say I'm taking everything with a grain(or handful) of salt. I don't really want to name names for obvious reasons...

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" don't really want to name names for obvious reasons. "

fearing retaliation ?? (another no so good attribute for a college professor...

" you either get metadata or good sound, not both, "

seriously mis-informed, and apparently no real ("proper") experience.

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who says that you either get metadata or good sound, not both, because there's no time on set.

That's just crazy. You make time and be a professional.

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Regarding metadata: if you are running and gunning an 8 channel over-the-shoulder rig on a 12- hour reality day, metadata is not always a possibility. Post is happy to get any metadata they can.

When doing jobs that proceed at a more controlled pace, there is ample time and opportunity to pay proper attention to the quality of sound as well as enter metadata.

Timecode isn't on EVERY shoot and metadata is sometimes sacrificed for time. I wish your instructor didn't speak in absolute terms.

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"Regarding metadata: if you are running and gunning an 8 channel over-the-shoulder rig on a 12- hour reality day, metadata is not always a possibility. "

it is with a Fusion...

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