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usefulness of SMPTE today

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Al Bergstein
usefulness of SMPTE today
on May 2, 2011 at 5:01:03 am

Just contemplating getting a video camera, and the two models include SMTPE or not SMPTE. I've been successfully syncing live music I've shot with board level audio on Edirol for over a year, with sometimes using Pluraleyes. So how useful is SMPTE for the Indy producer? Might I really help myself by moving to a camera with SMPTE ($1k more) and a SD Field recorder with SMPTE, or is this just overkill and something that soundstages need? I know about the historical needs, with Nagras' and film issues. But that was then, this is now. What's now? (G)


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Bill Davis
Re: usefulness of SMPTE today
on May 2, 2011 at 6:06:20 am

I guess it could be argued both ways.

But the thing I'd really miss is being able to do an accurate WINDOW DUB for clients.

Having reliable frame-locked timecode means that when they tell me that they want the music even softer starting at 1:02:30 and back to full at 1:02:32 there's NO room for discussion about the request.

I know that most modern data streams have lots and lots of meta-data attached, and if some replacement that can easily be displayed and used that's NOT traditional SMPTE TC, I'm open to that.

But there's GOT to be a way to ID the stream or stuff starts to breakdown in workgroup or cutter to client communications.

Just sayin'...

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Conner

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Al Bergstein
Re: usefulness of SMPTE today
on May 2, 2011 at 6:30:19 am

I hear you. I seem to get around the issue you mention, by being able to give the client a clip and the time is in the clip play window. I tell them to write it down. While it might be off slightly, there never seems to be a debate. Maybe my clients aren't as sophisticated, which could be true!

while I would love to use TC based video, just saying it adds up to a couple of thousand extra in costs for a feature that I 'might' need?

If I somehow get compelling ocntent and go to broadcast on cable, is there something in the SMPTE that is needed there? Or is it all stripped out by then? If I output to XDCAM for PBS (just an example) is that stuff still needed by them? would they reject it for not being there? Hope this makes sense.


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Bouke Vahl
Re: usefulness of SMPTE today
on May 3, 2011 at 7:56:19 am

You are mising the point.
SMPTE timecode in/out has NOTHING to do with the actual recording.
It can be handy to drive/slave other equipment.

For an indy shooter, TC out on a cam is relative meaningless.
But TC in can be handy. If you have it, you can slave your cam to your audio recorder.
(Having TC / SMPTE out on a BWF recorder is really nice, but also at a price)

But, there are ways around.
I've ran a test with a good sound guy a few days ago.
He has a 6 channel Marantz, without timecode out.

We took an Iphone (Ipod works also) and installed Jumpstart.
Then we took that SMPTE TC signal (mind you, it is just sound) to a camera's channel, and to one of the channels on the Marantz.
(the cam was a DSLR, no TC in of course, but this trick works on any cam)

From there you have several ways to sync.
Avid does it straight from the box with the 'read audio timecode' function.
FCP and others need the files converted. For that i've written a set of tools, found here:

There are several apps, one is to convert the multichannel (poly or mono) files to BWF (based on the SMPTE), another is to read audio TC and convert it to QT tc, and there are two merging apps to create subclips (video + BWF)

This set of tools works with every cam, and is exactly the same as having TC in on a cam.
(At the cost of sacrificing one audio channel of course...)

It can also be used to sync mutliple cams of course...

Now don't be alarmed of the inaccuracy there must be.
Yes, Jumpstart will be inaccurate, but no, it does not matter.
Cam and sound will start rolling about the same time (not more than a few minutes apart).
For that small period of time the accuracy will be way more than enough. And since you ain't got genlock (you need LockIt boxes for that, and TC in as well as genlock on your cam), the accuracy will never be better than +/- 1 frame.
(but this is the same with cams with TC in...)
Besides, Jumpstart is more accurate than an average cam, and having a common clock is to prefer over two free running clocks that are synced in the morning.
(I've seen 50.000 dollar cams drift two seconds over a day...)


smart tools for video pros

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Al Bergstein
Re: usefulness of SMPTE today
on May 3, 2011 at 6:16:13 pm

Sorry, I wasn't implying that the SMPTE was going to get more quality for me out of the camera. You are right though, that there are numerous work arounds for SMPTE today, and you and I have been using some of them.

But I bought the SMPTE & Genlock version because if I ever get to a point of needing it, or get hired into a crew that are using it, it may make the difference of getting the job or not. One job like this out my way and it pays for the add on of the two.

Also, for editing, yes, it makes sense to get the TC in there. I have lately been doing multicamera shoots for concerts, and it would be nice to sync them up, though again, you don't need SMPTE to do that. Jamsync is fine, which I will do now that I have a proper port to use for it.


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