OK, if you follow me on twitter (twitter.com/comebackshane) then you might have seen me vent my frustration from time to time about getting stock footage masters without matching timecode.

Here’s what happens.  You are editing a show and need to use some stock footage.  So you contact various news agencies or stock footage houses and they provide you with a DVD with window burn timecode (visible timecode you can see on the picture), or a QT file with the same.  You convert this footage, import it, and if you are SMART, you change the reel name to be something you can track to a log of footage you should have (a vault database or spreadsheet the producer holds onto), and you change the timecode to match what you see on the screen.  So that when you media manage, or decompose, you can simply recapture this from the master tapes.

If you weren’t smart enough to do that, don’t worry, you still have the visible timecode to refer to.  You just use that code to find the footage on the new tape, capture that, and manually replace it.  No problem.

Unless the news agency or stock footage house sends you a tape that has brand new timecode, which is something that happens WAY TOO much lately.  What is SUPPOSED to happen is that you get a tape with the footage, with 5-10 second handles, and the timecode matches each clip.  So the timecode won’t be continuous on the tape.  One clip might be 1:03:44:00, then the next one is 3:56:18:42, then another at 10:34:15:00, then another at…you get the idea.  You can then capture all these separate clips, and then find them easily when you replace the footage.

But no, recently I’m getting tapes that contain 5 to 20 clips, and the timecode on the tape is continuous, and new.  It doesn’t refer to ANY clip timecode.  What does this mean?  This means that you now have to spend a long time searching for the footage and eye-matching it into the cut.  And if they happen to send something like a full dub of the footage (say of a court case in which you use 25 clips, but all within a 2 hour timespan) on two tapes, and the timecode on the tapes DOES NOT match the source that they gave you.  That means that you have to watch the footage to find at least one clip.  Then you can figure out the offset and search for the rest.

Say that the original clip had a timecode of 3:45:13:00, but you found it on the tape at 00:34:14:00.  OK, the next clip on your list is 3:54:20:00.  So about 9 min and 7 seconds from the last one.  So add that to the 34:14:00 and you can look for the clip at 43:21:00 and you might be close.  But still, how hard is it to just send a tape with matching code?  I worked in a dub room, I know how easy this is.  Put a little effort into this guys.  After all, we did just shell out $30/second for this footage.

Oh, and when you are sent footage on digibeta, from something shot like 2 years ago…it’d better look good.  I recently got a tape that was horrible and muddy.  It looked like a dub from a DVD, or something off air from my SD home satellite dish reception.  Turns out I was close.  It was a satellite feed alright.  From London to NY.  HORRIBLE.  How they thought we’d accept that as a master, especially when I need to upconvert it to 1080i HD, is beyond me.  We complained, they made a new dub in London, and overnighted it to us right away.  Something they should have done to begin with.