Last updated

A timecode (alternatively, time code) is a sequence of numeric codes generated at regular intervals by a timing synchronization system. Timecode is used in video production, show control and other applications which require temporal coordination or logging of recording or actions.


Video and film

In video production and filmmaking, SMPTE timecode is used extensively for synchronization, and for logging and identifying material in recorded media. During filmmaking or video production shoot, the camera assistant will typically log the start and end timecodes of shots, and the data generated will be sent on to the editorial department for use in referencing those shots. This shot-logging process was traditionally done by hand using pen and paper, but is now typically done using shot-logging software running on a laptop computer that is connected to the timecode generator or the camera itself.

The SMPTE family of timecodes are almost universally used in film, video and audio production, and can be encoded in many different formats, including:

Keykode, while not a timecode, is used to identify specific film frames in film post-production that uses physical film stock. Keykode data is normally used in conjunction with SMPTE timecode.

Rewritable consumer timecode is a proprietary consumer video timecode system that is not frame-accurate, and is therefore not used in professional post-production.

Other formats

Timecodes for purposes other than video and audio production include:

Timecode generators

Timecode reader/generator with character inserter New voice over booth for NPO.jpg
Timecode reader/generator with character inserter

Depending on the environment, timecode generators can take various forms.

See also

Related Research Articles

Burnt-in timecode

Burnt-in timecode is a human-readable on-screen version of the timecode information for a piece of material superimposed on a video image. BITC is sometimes used in conjunction with "real" machine-readable timecode, but more often used in copies of original material on to a non-broadcast format such as VHS, so that the VHS copies can be traced back to their master tape and the original time codes easily located.


Keykode is an Eastman Kodak Company advancement on edge numbers, which are letters, numbers and symbols placed at regular intervals along the edge of 35 mm and 16 mm film to allow for frame-by-frame specific identification. It was introduced in 1990.

Linear Timecode (LTC) is an encoding of SMPTE timecode data in an audio signal, as defined in SMPTE 12M specification. The audio signal is commonly recorded on a VTR track or other storage media. The bits are encoded using the biphase mark code : a 0 bit has a single transition at the start of the bit period. A 1 bit has two transitions, at the beginning and middle of the period. This encoding is self-clocking. Each frame is terminated by a 'sync word' which has a special predefined sync relationship with any video or film content.

MIDI time code (MTC) embeds the same timing information as standard SMPTE timecode as a series of small 'quarter-frame' MIDI messages. There is no provision for the user bits in the standard MIDI time code messages, and SysEx messages are used to carry this information instead. The quarter-frame messages are transmitted in a sequence of eight messages, thus a complete timecode value is specified every two frames. If the MIDI data stream is running close to capacity, the MTC data may arrive a little behind schedule which has the effect of introducing a small amount of jitter. In order to avoid this it is ideal to use a completely separate MIDI port for MTC data. Larger full-frame messages, which encapsulate a frame worth of timecode in a single message, are used to locate to a time while timecode is not running.

NTSC Analog color television system developed in the United States

The abbreviation NTSC can refer to the National Television System Committee, which developed the analog television color system that was introduced in North America in 1954 and stayed in use until digital conversion. NTSC is also commonly considered to be an abbreviation for the National Television Standards Committee, a subset of the National Television System Committee that was responsible for producing the detailed technical specifications for the transmission standard. It is one of three major analog color television standards, the others being PAL and SECAM.

Vertical Interval Timecode is a form of SMPTE timecode encoded on one scan line in a video signal. These lines are typically inserted into the vertical blanking interval of the video signal.

Genlock is a common technique where the video output of one source is used to synchronize other picture sources together. The aim in video applications is to ensure the coincidence of signals in time at a combining or switching point. When video instruments are synchronized in this way, they are said to be generator-locked, or genlocked.

SMPTE timecode is a set of cooperating standards to label individual frames of video or film with a timecode. The system is defined by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers in the SMPTE 12M specification. SMPTE revised the standard in 2008, turning it into a two-part document: SMPTE 12M-1 and SMPTE 12M-2, including new explanations and clarifications.

AES3 is a standard for the exchange of digital audio signals between professional audio devices. An AES3 signal can carry two channels of PCM audio over several transmission media including balanced lines, unbalanced lines, and optical fiber.

A hard disk recorder (HDR) is a system that uses a high-capacity hard disk to record digital audio or digital video. Hard disk recording systems represent an alternative to reel-to-reel audio tape recording and video tape recorders, and provide non-linear editing capabilities unavailable using tape recorders. Audio HDR systems, which can be standalone or computer-based, are typically combined with provisions for digital mixing and processing of the audio signal to produce a digital audio workstation (DAW).

Clapperboard Device used to aid in the syncing of audio with a moving image

A clapperboard is a device used in filmmaking and video production to assist in synchronizing of picture and sound, and to designate and mark the various scenes and takes as they are filmed and audio-recorded. It is operated by the clapper loader.

Serial digital interface

Serial digital interface (SDI) is a family of digital video interfaces first standardized by SMPTE in 1989. For example, ITU-R BT.656 and SMPTE 259M define digital video interfaces used for broadcast-grade video. A related standard, known as high-definition serial digital interface (HD-SDI), is standardized in SMPTE 292M; this provides a nominal data rate of 1.485 Gbit/s.

Waveform monitor

A waveform monitor is a special type of oscilloscope used in television production applications. It is typically used to measure and display the level, or voltage, of a video signal with respect to time.

Sync sound refers to sound recorded at the time of the filming of movies. It has been widely used in movies since the birth of sound movies.

SMPTE 292 is a digital video transmission line standard published by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). This technical standard is usually referred to as HD-SDI; it is part of a family of standards that define a Serial Digital Interface based on a coaxial cable, intended to be used for transport of uncompressed digital video and audio in a television studio environment.

Control track longitudinal timecode, or CTL timecode, developed by JVC in the early 1990s, is a unique technique for embedding, or striping, reference SMPTE timecode onto a videotape.

The Rewriteable Consumer Timecode is a nearly frame accurate timecode method developed by Sony for 8mm and Hi8 analog tape formats. The RC timecode is written by the video camera directly to analog tape tracks and records the hour, minute, second and frame for each frame of video recorded to tape. Officially, RCTC is accurate to within ±2 to 5 frames. The RC timecode information is written in a separate area of the track so as to not disturb the audio or video information recorded on the tape. The RC timecode was used in conjunction with the datacode to record date, time and frame information directly to the 8mm tape tracks.

Audio-to-video synchronization refers to the relative timing of audio (sound) and video (image) parts during creation, post-production (mixing), transmission, reception and play-back processing. AV synchronization can be an issue in television, videoconferencing, or film.

Articles related to the field of motion pictures include:

In filmmaking and video production, shot logging is the process by which shoot metadata is captured during a film or video shoot. During the shoot, the camera assistant typically logs the start and end timecodes of shots, and the data generated is sent on to the editorial department for use in referencing those shots. At the same time, information such as scene/slate number, camera ID and take is noted. Where there are other technical systems producing metadata, their timecodes and settings are also noted.