Capturing Footage with Timecode Breaks

The Final Cut Pro timecode break-detection features let you easily and cleanly capture entire source tapes without inadvertently introducing timecode errors.

The Importance of Avoiding Timecode Breaks

As you log your footage, it’s important to avoid timecode breaks in your clips. A timecode break is any jump in the continuous flow of timecode numbers. There are two kinds of timecode breaks:

  • Ordered timecode break: This is a nearly imperceptible gap in the timecode track of your tape which interrupts the continuous flow of timecode but doesn’t reset the timecode to 00:00:00:00. Ordered timecode breaks can result from turning the camcorder off and on in the middle of a tape, or from rewinding the tape to review a section and then pausing at the end of the last recorded shot.
  • Reset timecode break: This kind of break results in the timecode track being reset to the default timecode value. For many DV-format camcorders, this value is 00:00:00:00. A reset timecode break can happen as a result of a tape being cued slightly past the end of the last recorded shot before being recorded onto further, or by partially recording over the beginning or middle of a previously recorded tape.

Note: There are also timecode gaps, when long gaps are detected with no timecode at all.

Since most timecode breaks happen between the end of one shot and the beginning of another, they’re pretty easy to avoid if you log your footage one clip at a time. Still, if Final Cut Pro captures a clip with either type of timecode break, the timecode that Final Cut Pro captures and writes to that clip’s source file on disk will be incorrect from the point of the break forward. Since the timecode is incorrect, you will be unable to use that clip with any Final Cut Pro function that requires accurate timecode, such as batch capturing, media management with the Media Manager, or EDL export.

Capturing Footage Past Timecode Hour 23

When you capture footage that spans timecode hour 23 and timecode hour 00, Final Cut Pro handles this timecode transition as a timecode break. If you choose the Make New Clip option from the “On timecode break” pop-up menu in the General tab of the User Preferences window, Final Cut Pro creates two clips. The Media Start timecode of the second clip begins shortly after the pre-roll time specified in the Editing tab of the User Preferences window has passed. This provides sufficient pre-roll time for the VTR to recapture the clip later while avoiding the timecode break.

How to Avoid Capturing Clips with Timecode Breaks

The “On timecode break” pop-up menu in the General tab of the User Preferences window gives you several ways to avoid capturing clips with timecode breaks. It’s important to set this option to suit the way you intend to capture your clips. You have several options:

  • Make New Clip: This is the default option. Video that’s already been captured before the break in timecode is saved as a single media file, with its Out point set to the frame occurring immediately before the timecode break. Final Cut Pro then automatically continues capturing video after the dropped timecode frame as a second media file. When this option is selected, clips captured after timecode breaks are named with the original name and the number of the clip. For example, if the first captured clip’s name is “Cats Playing,” the second clip’s name is set to “Cats Playing-1.”

    This is a good option to choose if you are capturing an entire tape. For example, suppose you are capturing the entire contents of a 60-minute tape that has four timecode breaks. Instead of restarting the capture every time a timecode break is detected, Final Cut Pro captures all media from the tape as five clips, skipping over each timecode break and ensuring that the timecode of all captured media is frame-accurate.

  • Abort Capture: If you choose this option, Final Cut Pro stops capture immediately after a break is detected. All media captured before the timecode break has frame-accurate timecode and is preserved. The resulting media file is saved and its representative clip is placed in the Browser.
  • Warn After Capture: If this option is selected, timecode breaks are reported after capture and the media file with the timecode break is preserved. It is unwise to use such a clip unless you have no choice, because timecode breaks result in incorrect timecode from the timecode break forward, and will make it difficult to accurately recapture your media.

Using the Make New Clip Option

When you choose Make New Clip from the “On timecode break” pop-up menu in the User Preferences window, ordered and reset timecode breaks and timecode gaps are handled in different ways. The pre-roll and post-roll values in the current device control preset also affect how the In and Out points of the resulting clips are determined.

Ordered Timecode Breaks

When an ordered timecode break occurs, the video that’s already been captured is saved in the logging bin in the Browser as a single clip, with its Out point at the frame occurring immediately prior to the discontinuous timecode. Final Cut Pro then continues to capture video after the timecode break to a second media file.

The In point of this second media file is calculated by adding the pre-roll duration to the frame occurring immediately after the dropped timecode frame. The pre-roll duration is taken into account so that if you ever try to recapture the clip, there is enough acceptable video footage before the In point to allow for VTR pre-roll.

Clips captured after timecode breaks are named by combining the original name and the number of the clip. For example, if the first captured clip’s name is “Cats Playing,” the second clip’s name is set to “Cats Playing-1,” then “Cats Playing-2,” and so on.

Figure. Diagram showing a timecode break.

If a timecode break occurs during the pre-roll period (before the clip’s specified In point), Final Cut Pro moves the In point later to accommodate the currently specified pre-roll duration from the timecode break point to the new In point. For example, when a timecode break occurs within the default pre-roll duration of 3 seconds, the In point is moved later:

Figure. Diagram showing an In point moved when a timecode break occurs within the default pre-roll duration of 3 secconds.

Each time a timecode break occurs, Final Cut Pro continues to move the In point later until there is enough continuous timecode to accommodate the In point in addition to the duration of the pre-roll. This ensures that you will be able to recapture the clip again later.

Reset Timecode Breaks

Reset timecode breaks are handled differently. Since a reset timecode break results in the timecode at the point of the break being reset to 00:00:00:00, the reel name is incremented along with the clip name. This makes later media management much easier. The reel number identifies which part of a tape a particular group of clips came from. For example, if a tape with the reel name 004 is captured and a reset timecode break occurs, the reel name for all clips captured after the timecode break is incremented with an uppercase letter, in this case 004-B. If another reset timecode break occurs, the reel number is incremented to 004-C, and so on.

Figure. Diagram showing the reel number incremented after a timecode break.

Timecode Gaps

When long gaps are detected with no timecode at all, Final Cut Pro stops capturing, saving the media before the timecode gap as a single media file with its Out point set at the last frame before the gap. If you performed a Capture Now operation, Final Cut Pro continues playing through to the end of the tape, searching for more recorded video. If more video is found, the reel name is incremented—as with a reset timecode break—and capture continues.

Figure. Diagram showing that a reel name is incremented after a time code break and gap.

Note: If you’re experiencing excessive timecode breaks and don’t know why, try cleaning your camcorder or deck’s video heads. For more suggestions about how to find the causes of timecode breaks and dropped frames during capture, see Solving Problems.