Timecode on Tape

There are several kinds of timecode recorded on videotape, each stored in a different part of the video signal. LTC is stored as an audio signal, whereas VITC is stored in a line of each video frame.

Most timecode readers can automatically switch between LTC and VITC if they are both available. In Final Cut Pro, you can choose this setting in your device control preset: LTC+VITC. If you choose this setting, Final Cut Pro looks at both types of timecode so that accurate timecode can be read no matter what speed the tape is playing (LTC is used for normal and high-speed playback; VITC is used for slow motion and pause).

LTC is most easily read when a deck is in fast-forward, and VITC is most easily read when a deck is in slow motion. Most professional video decks can read both signals and automatically send timecode from the one that’s clearest at any moment. The LTC and VITC signals on most tapes are almost always identical.

Important: Video decks capable of reading both LTC and VITC usually have a switch that lets you select whether a deck outputs one or the other, or both. Unless the VITC and LTC signals on your tape don’t match for some reason, leave this switch set to both.

Unlike DV and professional video formats, analog tape formats don’t always have timecode written onto them. If you’re using S-VHS or Hi-8, you need to make sure that you’re using a device-controllable deck and, if your tapes don’t already have timecode on them, that you post-stripe timecode onto them. For information on how to do this, see the documentation that came with your video deck.