The Importance of Timecode

Posted on by Sudd

Recently, – hosted an interesting discussion on the importance of timecode in editing today.

NOTE: I always thought of IMUG as “belonging to” Carey Dissmore. However, when I mentioned this to Carey, he set me straight: “The IMUG list is not “mine.” In fact, I am neither host nor list mom, just one of the founders of the community behind it. René Hedemyr of Stockholm is actually the host and administrator of the list. While René takes a pretty laid back approach to community management, if anyone is to be credited for hosting the list it is most accurately him.”

So, thanks IMUG and Carey and René for allowing me to quote from this thread.

Robert began the discussion by asking:

What’s the benefit to adding timecode…? I sometimes get DSLR and GoPro footage that has no time code and it gets edited in FCPX without giving it much thought. So, why stripe in post?

Carey Dissmore responded:

Relinking accuracy comes to mind. Using [the] first hour as a reel number identifier is another.

Piers Goodhew added:

For me, TC’s one remaining killer feature is logging: if it’s acquired carefully, you can log any shot in up to 24hrs of rushes with just four numbers…. [Provided that] if you have uniquely named clips *and* some kind of timecode, then you have two *redundant* ways of referring to a shot, and if somehow an obviously wrong shot appears in a project after a conform, you have two ways of trying to find out what went wrong. Above a certain level of budget, expectation of completion, whatever, that would be a small price to pay.

But I don’t know that I personally would devote much effort to adding TC to clips that didn’t come with it.

Steve Oakley suggested:

One quick reason – clips that came from different cameras with the same clip names, or you have thousands of clips kicking around and EVERY bit of metadata matters when relinking back.

The time and effort to set TC into the mov’s and unique reel name is a minute or two. you can batch process hundreds of clips at once in a project. a few minutes up front could save hours or days of misery if you ever need to relink back to that media and paths have changed, ect. where your NLE just doesn’t automatically grab things.

another is simple logging. you know you shot something in the morning or evening, and used ToD TC. or producer logged on their watch… makes things much easier to find.

I think the question is, what are the disadvantages of NOT setting TC / Reel names into DSLR MOV’s…. and having lived thru the problems I’ll take any and all metadata I can have to make life simpler.

Benny Christensen wrote:

I am pretty old school about this myself.

I have been burned enough times by software not wanting to relink a clip that I want enough info in the clip name to be able to find it and manually replace it if necessary.

I always convert my footage to ProRes and I always rename the clips to make sure that the clip names make sense and are sequential.

If the clips all start at zero, I change the TC so that the code advances up the clips.

I would rather put in the time upfront than pull my hair out later.

David Baud concluded:

TC or not TC? I really think it depends on the kind of project you are working on. But what I can tell you is that on many jobs I work on, TCs help you to work faster and not second guessing if you got the right clips or not.

I just recently completed a feature film documentary (90’) that was shot with 12 different cameras including POV cameras (GoPro or similar), DSLRs and higher end digital cameras such as the RED Epic and the F55. Shot over a year we had close to 18TB of footage. Having unique real names and TC for clips are critical in order to work on different systems and share your work progress with people who are located in different countries. We had a few instances with some of the consumer cameras where the TC started at 0h00 for two cameras that were used on the same shoot on the same day at different time: because our workflow involved offline/online editing, with conforming phase, the only way we could caught up the misplaced shot, was comparing with our reference offline movie output. And then it took a while to figure out that two clips located in two different folders had the same metadata!

So I don’t see usage of timecode disappearing anytime soon in my world. In the contrary I think more metadata we are able to acquire in the first place, more efficient will be our work in post production.”

– – –

Larry adds: Video projects today are including more and more media. Keeping track of it is becoming increasingly complex, at the same time that editing software keeps trying to make managing media “easier.”

I agree with this thread that spending time upfront getting your media organized pays dividends as the deadline nears and you need to get your project output.

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