History of Timecode in Film and TV Industries

Those of you who think timecode is for knowing when's lunchtime on set, should watch this video. Those who know what timecode is, may not know how it was developed and should also watch this video. It's an exceptional piece by Filmmaker IQ.

Once again John Hess presents a topic with a script that contains brilliantly structured information that helps you not only understand what timecode is, but also how it works on technical level. As a bonus he also shows examples of how to use one of the timecode devices: NanoLockit.

The history of timecode did not begin with the problem of synchronizing audio and video, but was first introduced as a very basic marking tool to aid the process of cutting films. Later it morphed until it became the SMPTE timecode standard we use today in most of the audio and video recording devices. If you haven't used timecode before, you may have never needed it or never knew how it could have sped up your video editing workflow. All your recording devices (cameras and audio recorders) can be fed with an external timecode signal that is ticking precisely at the same rate. Later in post you can align the video footage and audio files perfectly based on the time markers provided by the timecode device during filming. In an older article we have written about the most common devices found in a professional cinema camera rig. The timecode signal-feeding gadget is one of them.

If you enjoyed that video, head over to Filmmaker IQ's YouTube channel for more great content.

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3 Comments

For the Time Code experts out there:
Can I get TC out of a Zoom F8n into 2 different Atomos Ninja Vs without buying those separate dongles or Atomos X Sync module?
I was thinking I can somehow send the audio from Sub out or Main out into one of the 8 audio tracks on the Ninja V. Kind of how the dongles send it to an audio track on a DSLR.
Edit: P.S. No LTC Timecode in Premiere; another reason to dump them for Resolve.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

That's a good question. Although I don't know the answer, I know that the time code is built into the audio which makes sense to send it as a track to the recording monitor. However, I'm not sure if it sends just the waveform or the whole file including the time code. You can make a test and see if there's time code information in the auto information received by the Ninja.

If that doesn't help, try third party apps that can somehow convert the audio files to the format Premiere supports.

Rod Kestel's picture

Having done a little bit of video editting, the real insight here is the insane amount of work required in the old film days.