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RE: Tail Slates and Timecode

Dominic Case wrote

 >> If crews can't manage a head slate they should forced to attend a
telecine session to see the consequences. (or consider the Bowring-Aaton
solution). <<

Or telecine operators should attend locations to see the consequences of
not being able to use a tail slate.   Its usually used for two reasons, 
the first being when the action starts with little warning and the camera
crew have to shoot first then slate later.   The second is when the
cameraman has a difficult start to a shot and putting a slate on would
disturb his set-up.   Not using a tail slate could either mean missing
vital action,  or causing time wasting and excess film usage.    It is a
practical solution to an operational problem.

And timecode is not the great panacea that everyone seems to think.   It is
a sync system which has no inherent belt and braces if used in the
way recommended by the equipment suppliers.   Try sorting out a shoot when
the timecode has not worked for some reason.    There's usually
inadequate documentation from the camera crew,  and little form of
identification on the film itself.    If you're lucky,  the recordist has
provided idents which describe the shots.

My company normally handles about 20,000 to 30,000 16mm feet of film
per night/day and we have experience of every form of sync system known to
man.    We use hard disk recorders to do the work after a single pass
telecine operation.     When we hit a timecode shoot,  we have to build in
our own belt and braces to minimise problems if they occur.    If the
timecode works well,  then the sync slates are dealt with very quickly, 
but we still have to go back and dig out all the wild tracks and run-ons
and present the material in a tidy way to the cutting rooms.   If the
timecode doesn't work then we have to lip-sync or action sync all the
material affected.   On average we find that timecode shoots take about the
same time as shoots using more traditional methods to sync,  and can take
considerably longer :-(.   It all depends on what your cutting rooms will
put up with - the ones I work with like it in accurate sync,  with wild
tracks and run-ons sorted out and logged.

And producers prefer it too.    The last thing they want is time wasted in
an NLE cutting room correcting sync problems and digging through great
tracts of unlogged sound looking for wild tracks.

Lest you think I'm a Luddite,  I was involved with some of the first
16mm timecode in camera work in 1979 with Aaton equipment because it was an
answer to several of the shooting problems my film unit was having at the
time.   I still think timecode is a necessary tool for film shooting but it
must be treated with some care and attention.    The trait of selling the
system on the basis of "forget all about the sound - let timecode sort it
all out in a corner of your telecine suite" is a dangerous one since
sorting out post-production sound problems can be an expensive process.

How would you feel if I suggested that telecine transfers should be a
matter of just pressing a button and letting the machine do it all itself
with little human intervention - or maybe that's what Jeanne-Pierre is
working towards :-).

All the best

Jim Guthrie.
Sprockets & Bytes,
Bristol/Denham.  UK.

  E-mail from: Jim Guthrie, 28-Apr-1997

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