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  • We’re in the middle of filming documentary, have a big sync problem

  • Seth Thy

    July 18, 2014 at 10:30 am


    It’s really urgent, so I posted this also to Audio Professionals.

    I really need your advice with this audio recording/sync problem.

    We are filming documentary on a busy market. We are using Canon C300 with mic on it and we’re recording audio separately.
    Sometimes, audio guy is very close to the camera and sometimes is 15-20 meters away. We cannot use clapper or even clapping with hands or announcing the shots because it’s to distracting to people we are filming.
    After first day of filming we’ve found out that we have a huge sync problem.
    We tried PluralEyes, but it’s useless. I guess the problem is that audio from camera and audio recorder are too different.
    Now we are thinking of buying Tiny Lockit TC generator and maybe Sync’N’Link for FCP7.
    Does anyone have any experience with that generator or any form of TC syncing?
    Or maybe some other advice? I still need to sync that first day with over 200 shots i have to sync “by ear”.

    Thank you


  • Oki Pienandoro

    July 18, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    I have similar issue with recent production with Canon Camera (We use Mark III).
    The specific problem that we’ve had is we point and shoot, not shooting long take, and we often must to change battery (turn on off)
    We didn’t use any timecode generator (because we have to cover large area) or jam-sync. We think we can manually set the timecode on external audio and camera, then offset in post.

    However, this approach turns out came out very wrong.
    Sometimes the Canon timecode is drifting couple of frames later. But sometimes it can drift more than 20frames, sometimes it even earlier.
    Because the drift is NOT constant, we can’t offset in post.

    On many blog/forum, people use jam-sync / manual sync on static camera (interview, event), long take. So not many people experience this drifting issue. Since all they have to do is sync occasionally.

    Due the nature of our production (documentary like, hundreds of clips) we simply cannot check whether the timecode is sync every time we shoot.

    On my research, this occur on all canon camera because they didn’t use ambient timecode generator thing (i forgot the exact term). Simply put, this problem is occured because the way canon sync timecode internally with their internal clock when the camera is powered back on.

    Also i came across this post (applies to XF Series, C300, C500):
    Excerpt from the post :
    When the camera is turned off, the internal time-of-day clock continues to run. However, there is no power running to the time code generator and it therefore is not running.
    The camera re-establishes time code when turned on again by analyzing the internal clock and comparing where the time code was when the camera was turned off and computes where the time code should be when it is turned back on.
    The catch is that the internal clock is only accurate to the second but not to the frame, so when the time code is re-established it may be off by any number of frames in a second.
    To keep your cameras frame-accurate, you can do any of the following:

    • Leave the camera powered ON.
    • Use Power Save mode (XF cameras) or the equivalent Lens Exchange feature (C500 only). Canon confirmed that power to the TC generator will be maintained. Note that this option doesn’t apply to the C300. It is either ON or OFF; no Lens Exchange mode.
    • Attach a Lockit Box which is a separate time code generator that will override the camera’s time code.
    • Each time the camera is powered back on, re-sync the time code.

    This is turns out is documented in C300 Manual (page 89).
    Here’s the excerpt:

    When an external time code signal is received, the camcorder’s own time code will be synchronized to it and the synchronization will be maintained even if you disconnect the cable from the TIME CODE terminal.
    However, performing any of the following actions while the cable is not connected will cause the synchronization to be disrupted; the correct time code will be restored once you reconnect the cable.
    – Turning the camcorder off/on
    – Changing the operating mode to mode
    – Changing the video configuration
    – Changing the frame rate

    So what can we do ? Because we HAVE to turn the camera off often.
    And most timecode generator is required constant connection (wired). This is simply un-applicable on our cases.

    So there are two options we have in mind next time we want to sync.

    Please keep in mind, i don’t personally test this, i only research this for future production :

    1. Time code buddy (Wifi Method)
    The downsize is this is too pricey on our budget 🙁

    2. DSLR Sync (FM radio method)
    I want to try this since the software is FREE !

    The hardware is just mp3 player with FM transmitter, you can use any the client capable FM receiver (phone, or a really cheap FM receiver)

    Basically what this app do is :

    • Generating the timecode from mp3 files (you have to make a blank mp3 as long as needed).
    • Put the mp3 into the software, and they overwrite that mp3 with timecode info.
    • Playback the mp3 on FM Transmitter
    • Receive mp3 in FM receiver which connected in all your camera & external audio devices
    • After recording, put the clip in the software again to AUTO SYNC !

    There are things to consider though, you have to test the lag etc (just read their forum for more info)

    Personally, if i have the budget, i’d go with timecode buddy since it was not restricted to mp3 runtime (24 hours of mp3 playback continuously ???)

    Sorry for the long post 🙁

    Sorry for the english, not native speaker.

  • Shane Ross

    July 18, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    [Seth Thy] ” We cannot use clapper or even clapping with hands or announcing the shots because it’s to distracting to people we are filming. “

    Sorry…there’s no substitute for slating, or at least clapping. This is video production…they’ll have to get used to the distraction. IF you want to do things right. It’s a simple hand clap…will that distract so much that they can’t do the interview?

    [Seth Thy] “Sync’N’Link for FCP7. “

    If PluralEyes didn’t work, not sure this will either. But you can try…they have a trial version.

    [Seth Thy] “Or maybe some other advice? I still need to sync that first day with over 200 shots i have to sync “by ear”. “

    Going to have to do this by eye and ear…look for times they say P or B or T sounds…the mouth opens just as that sound comes out. or other impacts, like hands hitting mics, door slams…stuff like that.

    And slate. it’s not that distracting. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years…ALL SORTS of documentary and reality production. If you can’t jam sync with your cameras, then you need to slate. People get over the clap or slate pretty soon. Get used to it in fact.

    Little Frog Post
    Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def

  • Michael Gissing

    July 23, 2014 at 1:30 am

    You didn’t say what the external recorder was. I have a Sound Devices 788t and on a recent shoot with the same camera we just set both cameras to free run time of day mode. We didn’t have a cable to jam both devices but when you come to sync the days footage you can just record one really good clap at the start of the day.

    Then take the audio and place all clips in a timeline based on their source timecode. Do the same for the pictures. Select all audio and line up that one good clapper. All the rest of the days clips should sync or worse case be a frame out. Once synced you can sub clip or whatever you want.

    I did two days of filming with the Canon and three days on another shoot with a RED epic and this worked perfectly.If your recorder doesn’t record timecode you probably can’t use this trick.

  • Seth Thy

    July 24, 2014 at 8:31 am

    Thank you all for swift replies, I apologise for not replying sooner, but I was few days without computer and I really suck at writing on iPhone 🙂
    I will reply to each of your posts separately.

    Mac 2×2,4 GHz Quad-Core / OS 10.6.8. / FCP 7.03
    10 GB 1066 MHz DD3
    ATI Radeon HD 5770
    AJA Kona LHi
    Broadcast monitor: JVC TM-H1950CGE

  • Seth Thy

    July 24, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Oki, thank you for taking time to write such a long post. I appreciate your advices very much, I think we will try shooting with this TC generator:

    I will let you know how it works.


  • Seth Thy

    July 24, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Thank you Shane, but unfortunately slate or clapping is not an option. We tried it, but the problem is that we’re shooting different people everyday and by the time they get used to clap we are done with them.

  • Seth Thy

    July 24, 2014 at 8:39 am

    That’s sounds great Michael, I’ll check which sound recorder we use, I think it records TC.

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