What is the Best Timecode Generator?
Choosing the Best Timecode Generator
One of the most iconic images that we all associate with movie production is the clapper board. Things have come a long way since then, with almost all video now recorded on digital cameras. Yet, the reasons for using clapper boards with times and other data written on them still remain. Syncing audio and video tracks is an essential part of the film, television, and recording industry.
Being able to search for certain events in a recording is also an essential feature editors use during post-production.
What are Timecodes, and What are Timecode Generators?
In 1967, EECO invented the modern timecode, which rapidly took its place in recording facilities everywhere. The industry soon settled on the SMPTE 12M (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) timecode standard. LTC is the most common iteration of timecode. Usually LTC is created as a .wav file, with its own audio channel for your other equipment to listen on.
What do Timecode Generators do?
Timecode generators produce a signal, usually an audio track, that marks out certain events in recorded footage. These signals can be a regular pulse like a metronome, common where there are a lot of people speaking, or for busy events. They can also mark out things like the beginning and end of interview questions, or other events.
Editors can then use the codes to edit out unwanted footage, search for certain events in large recordings, and more. Transcribers use timecodes to pinpoint events like the start of speeches or interview questions.
Choosing the Best Timecode Generator
To pick out the best timecode generator for your requirements, you need to look at a few key points first.
- What is your budget?
- How often will you need to use a timecode generator? Is it for occasional use, or are you recording almost every day?
- How portable does it need to be? Will you leave the timecode generator in a studio, or will it be attached to a camera, or even installed in your mobile phone?
- Do you need any other features? Timecode generators come with a whole slew of extra features, some more essential than others. A more fully featured model may end up saving you money on other studio equipment.
- Who will be using it? A professional audio technician, or a freelance journalist with other things on their mind?
The Best Hardware Timecode Generators
Generally speaking, if you’re rocking a multi-camera set up for whatever reason, you probably need at least a couple of these timecode boxes to help you keep everything in sync.
Timecode Systems UltraSync One ($299 for one)
Great for syncing multiple cameras, the UltraSync One offers Genlock and World Clock features, as well as LTC timecoding. It offers BLINK network sync, and offers jam or slave to an external source as well.
With a 25 hour battery life, it has enough features to hold its own in most professional shooting situations, while the screen on the front offers easy access to essential information. Available in packs of one, two, and three, along with all necessary cables and accessories.
Tentacle Sync E ($525 for two)
The Tentacle Sync E is a pocket-sized timecode generator with a Bluetooth-powered smartphone interface. The complete set, with the necessary cables, two Tentacle Sync E timecode generators, and all the accessories you need weighs in at $525. For that price you get two boxes that can be attached directly to a huge range of cameras, from a DSLR to an Arri Alexa.
With great battery life (35 hours), USB C fast charging, and a tiny size (38x50x15mm), The Sync E is highly portable, and the smartphone based interface is great for syncing multiple cameras.
Denecke JB-1 Syncbox Timecode Generator ($266 for one)
The Denecke JB-1 Syncbox Timecode Generator is a timecode reader/generator that also jam syncs/cross jams. Another tiny form factor timecode generator box, the battery this time lasts up to a whopping 150 hours.
It weighs in at just 2 ounces, and uses a bi-directional BNC connector to link it to other equipment. If it’s battery life you’re after, this is the one to go for.
Best Software Timecode Generators
Software and online timecode generators take on a multitude of forms, from mobile phone apps, to websites that will produce a simple timecode signal on a regular beat.
This is a very basic website that produces a simple LTC timecode .wav file for you to use. That’s pretty much it – there are a few adjustments you can make, but it’s a very basic but free service.
TCode by Ice House Productions ($98)
Ice House Productions offer SMPTE timecode software for use with Mac, Windows, and even Linux. If you need a software based solution with a few more bells and whistles then this could be your answer.
Designed to let you replace a hardware option with a computer in most use cases, it’s a great option if you have the necessary IT know-how.
LibLTC (Free, Open Source)
A free, open-source implementation of an LTC timecode generator, great for Linux users with a lot of IT know how. Forms the basis of many of the mobile apps that produce timecode.
LTC Timecode Generator for Android (Free version, Pro costs $14)
The only Android timecode generator, so I’ll list it here. If you want an Android app that generates timecode then this is your only option. That said, it’s relatively well rated, and it’s cheaper than a dedicated hardware option.
MovieSlate® 8 for iOS ($29.99 in the iTunes Store)
A timecode generator for iOS devices, that also works as a movie slate/clapperboard. Very highly rated by industry experts, it’s a good option if you want a relatively keenly priced non-free option, and already have the Apple device needed to power it.
Using Rev’s Time Stamping Function to Record Timecodes
To produce a series of timestamps using Rev’s Transcription Editor, just follow these simple instructions. simply select the “Timestamping” option from your order page, after you’ve uploaded your footage.
Your project will then come back to you when it’s done, and you can access the editor by clicking the “view & edit transcript” button in your email. Each paragraph will already be marked with a timestamp, and you have the option to edit the existing timestamps or add new ones.
The entire process is very simple, and is completely integrated with the rest of the editing process. Once complete, you can download your project, and if necessary any other professionals that need to work with your footage can make use of the timestamps you’ve added using their own timecode software or hardware.
Do you Really Need a Separate Timecode Generator?
This is, of course, the big question. Lots of software and services already have the option to add timecode built in, including movie industry standard Final Cut Pro, and Rev’s Transcription Editor, which allows you to add time stamps both automatically and manually (for a small fee).
If you don’t need to add time stamps regularly, or only really need to use them with work that goes through Rev’s Transcription Editor, then why bother with anything extra? As long as the software you already use lets you add extra time stamps to mark out certain events, and doesn’t cost too much, then you can avoid a steep learning curve that many of the separate timecode generators come with.
Often, like with Rev’s Transcription Editor, the time stamps inserted by your existing software can be read by industry-standard timecode readers, making them just as useful to industry professionals who have access to your footage or recordings afterwards.
Timecodes and timestamps are a great way to mark out specific points in a recording. They’re useful for editors in post-production, and for professionals working remotely to have a way to pinpoint which parts of the recording they’re talking about.
While there are lots of hardware and software options for timecode generation, often it’s easier to use the options that are already built in to the software and services you’re currently using. Rev’s Transcript Editor is one of these options. If you use the Transcript Editor, you can add timestamps that are compatible with industry standards, and make things easier for any professionals that need to edit the footage after you’ve finished checking your transcription.
Why not try it out next time you use Rev, and see how it can improve your post-production workflow.
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