Timecode in Final Cut Pro

In video editing, a timecode is a special signal that is recorded with your video that provides a unique identifier for every frame on a videotape by creating a timestamp in hours, minutes, seconds and frames. The timecode of a video uses the following format: 01:23:45:28 (hours: minutes: seconds: frames).

The timecode was invented in the late 1960s in order to give editors the ability to use computer video editing systems that can find specific frames and also record editing decisions that can be performed over and over again. In 1967, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recognized several electronic timecode formats. However, the format shown above has since become the standard for timecodes in video.

Timecodes and Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro uses the video timecode for synchronization between audio and video clip items. It also uses timecode is to create project interchange objects (such as Edit Decision Lists). Additionally, Final Cut Pro uses the timecode for recapturing clips from tape or other media. Whenever you play clips in Final Cut Pro, the program displays the timecode of the media and also uses the timecode to allow you to navigate in your clips and sequences.

Displaying the Timecode in Final Cut Pro

In Final Cut Pro, a clip's timecode is displayed by default, and the program reads the timecode from the timecode track on the tape or media. Final Cut Pro stores timecodes in media files and not directly on the clip. This timecode is often referred to as the source timecode because it is the same value as the timecode on the original source tape. If the display source timecode is being displayed, you are viewing the timecode that comes directly from the timecode track on the media files or tape.

Timecode Display Options in Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro offers many display options for timecodes. However, not all of the display options will be available for all frame rates. Nevertheless, the program supports the following timecode display options:

  • Non-Drop Frame: The counter of the timecode updates at a consistent rate without skipping or dropping numbers in the count. The non-drop frame timecode display is available for all frame rates supported by the program.
  • Drop Frame: With this display type, frame 0 and 1 are skipped during the very first second of every minute of footage. The exception to this is when the minute number is exactly the advisable by 10. Final Cut Pro does not display dropped numbers as they have been dropped and are not located on your media or tape. This type of display is only available for frame rates of 29.97fps or NTSC media files.
  • Frames: When timecodes are displayed this way, an absolute frame rate count is displayed rather than hours, minutes, seconds and frames. This this option is available for any frame rate.
  • 60 @ 30: This display option shows 60 fps video with a 30 fps timecode. You can use this option to display timecode for 60fps formats, such as 720p60, using a more familiar 30fps timecode. This option will allow you to match the timecode display on many VTR's that support 60fps formats. Each timecode number represents two video frames, and the second frame is indicated by an asterisk (*). Final Cut Pro only allows this option with 60 and 59.94 frames per second high definition files.
  • Feet + Frames: This option displays the timecode in terms of film feet and frames and uses the default film standard assigned in Project Properties. You can change the current film standard in your project by going to Project Properties and selecting an option from the Default Film Standard pop-up menu.
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