These Are The Breaks

I got a call today from a friend who was recapturing footage into her Premiere Pro project that had gone offline. She was capturing from tapes that had timecode breaks, and was trying to figure out why some the clips that she was recapturing didn’t grab the right footage from tape. Oh, the footage was there alright, but it was taking the wrong frames from the wrong part of the tape and what gives?

Well, this is one of those “Wacky Workflow Bloopers” that keep people like me employed (hey, there’s gotta be problems in order to make solutions, no?). Seriously, if you edit video you’ll find yourself in her shoes eventually (if you haven’t already) unless you heed some simple advice. So here’s the situation — as I mentioned, the tapes had timecode breaks, meaning that the timecode had reset to “00;00;00;00” at a certain point (or points) in the tape. This usually happens when a cameraperson rewinds to view a shot and winds up rolling past the last shot frame so that the record head is over blank tape. This causes the camcorder to start the timecode from zero again.

Now here’s why this is a problem — when you capture a clip into Premiere Pro, data such as the tape name and in/out timecode are attached to that clip. This makes it so that if the media (i.e. vlideo and audo that’s on your editing system’s hard drive) goes offline (i.e. is deleted or moved from the drive) you can recapture the media from the original source tapes in a time saving batch process. So, for example, Premiere Pro knows that clip “X” is located on the tape called “Exterior Shots” from timecode 00;03;30;14 to 00;03;45;11. But what if there is more than one place on the tape that has those timecodes due to a timecode break? Well, you have to manually go to each of the instances of that timecode on the tape, and try and figure out which one makes sense based on the context of the name of the clip and where a logical in/out point would be. If you need to do this for a lot of clips, then not only do you have your work cut out for you, but you’re also going to have to do a lot of shuttling back and forth on your tape and that can really wear it out (or even break if if you’re using the notoriously light-gauge Mini DV format).

So, to avoid this scenario (which I experienced myself when editing “Monkey And The Rooster” some years ago) what you should do when capturing footage into Premiere Pro from a tape that has timecode breaks is to give each section of timecode it’s own tape name. For example, you can call the first section “Exterior Shots A”, the Second “Exterior Shots B” and so on — and make a note on the tape label or slip one in the box explaining this as a courtesy to whoever might need to recapture the footage down the line.

By the way, this friend I referred to earlier didn’t want to be mentioned in this blog — I always like to plug talented friends here, but last time I spoke to her she said “I don’t wanna see my name in that freaking blog, I don’t want people Googling me and reading about me and there are certain people that I don’t need to find out where I’m working so just keep me out of it.” That, delivered in a single breath — thus I was instantaneously (and involuntarily) transported back to New York City.

3 Responses to These Are The Breaks

  1. andy beach says:

    Yeah this used to plague me constantly as well. It was particularly annoying on a documentary i was cutting for a friend in 2000 and her mini DV camera (can’t remember what model) kept starting new time code with every take! I searched through her manual and was eventually able to find a setting that stopped this, but by then the damage was done – a good 20 tapes with no piece of TC longer than about 7 minutes or so. Luckily, I was new to dv and was used to this problem in the betasp and digibeta world and rather than just dealing with it or trying a workaround, i set out to find a deck that would allow me to restripe the TC. I spent a long weeked with 2 fresh cases of tapes and a DVcam deck (great model, but can’t remember the number) that allowed me to clone the tape but would lay down frech time code over the whole thing.I wish restriping had come over as a more common feature form the broadcast world – it particularly seems suited to the consumer/prosumer cameras of today that don’t pickup and maintain time code as easily as those sturdy broadcast formats (i’m talking about you panasonic MII – i miss ya buddy).

  2. David Aldrich says:

    I wonder if you could clear up a question for me. I am a novice camcorder user and recently ejected the mini-DV tape from my Sony HC22 before finishing the tape. So how do I continue using the tape without making a timecode break? I have heard that I can do this by moving frame by frame toward the end of the tape (in ‘Record preview’?) and stopping before the end of recorded frames. The Camcorder should then pick up the timecode and continue it. However, someone said on a newsgroup that this will not work. Can you clarify this for me please?

  3. Bob Donlon says:

    Yeah, that’s pretty much it — roll your tape to the very end of your last recorded shot and when you start recording it should continue the timecode from the previous shot. Depending on your particular model (I’m not familiar with the Sony HC22) you may need to roll a bit further back.Hope this helps . . .-bob