Final Cut Pro: How To Avoid Duplicate Timecode Numbers on a Single Tape

A duplicate timecode on a tape can be a nightmare when trying to edit video footage. When working with video footage from a tape, Final Cut Pro assumes that timecode numbers always increase as the tape progresses. However, if the camcorder is turned off and on again, there is always the possibility that the timecode counter will be reset to zero. This is especially a problem when working with consumer oriented DV camcorders. When it comes to logging, capturing or managing media, a tape with a duplicate timecode number in multiple locations can make editing tasks very difficult.

If you are asked to capture media from timecode 00:00:00:00 to timecode 00:01:00:00 on a tape in a project, you would probably assume that you would need to capture the very first minute on the tape. However, if the camcorder was turned off and then back on at some point during a shoot, the camcorder's timecode counter may have been reset at a point somewhere in the middle of the tape. Therefore, the tape would have two occurrences of timecode 00:00:00:00.  Needless to say, this can make things very difficult at best. So, here is a handy guide on how to avoid multiple occurrences of the same timecode on the same tape.

What You Will Need

  • A DV camcorder

Step 1: Black the Tape

At the beginning of every tape you use in your DV camcorder, you should always pre-record a video signal. The best way to do this is record a black signal by switching your camcorder to record while the lens cap is still on and the microphone is disconnected. Professionals use a DV deck and an internal black generator to create this prerecorded video signal; however, the lens cap trick works just fine.

Step 2: Create Dubs of Your Tapes

You should dub your tapes in order to copy the video and audio information from the footage, but not the timecode. Then, you can use your dubbed tapes as your new source tapes and capture video footage from them. This will eliminate the possibility of a duplicate timecode in the vast majority of cases.

Step 3: Pay Attention during Production

Most DV camcorders will attempt to create a continuous timecode by quickly reading the last timecode number that was written to the tape. This process is referred to as jam syncing the timecode. However, if your camcorder is not able to find a timecode on the tape, the camcorder resets the timecode counter to zero.

While most DV camcorders do a fairly good job of locating the last timecode marker on a tape, many camcorders have a problem finding the marker when it has been switched off and then back on. If you do power your camera off, you should rewind the tape a second or two so that the camcorder can jam sync the timecode already written on the tape whenever you start recording the video again. Generally speaking, this method will remedy most timecode problems. The only drawback is that you always need to remember to rewind the tape if the camera is switched off.

(Tip - To make jam syncing footage easier, you should record a few seconds past the end of each shot. If your camcorder is powered off and on again, you can safely rewind a few seconds without worrying about destroying previous footage.)

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