Troubleshooting Timecode Errors

Preventing Timecode Errors

The easiest way to prevent timecode errors while capturing footage in Final Cut Pro is to plan ahead. The most common timecode errors happen due to breaks in the timecode that is being written to your miniDV tape. This happens when you interrupt continuous recording. Interruptions can happen when you review a scene in playback mode, when you remove a tape in between shooting, or even sometimes from losing battery power while shooting.

The most effective yet time consuming way to make sure that your tape does not have timecode breaks is to "stripe" your tape. To do this insert a new tape, leave the cap on the camera and press record. Let the camera run until the tape is finished. This creates timecode for the duration of the tape and will prevent any kind of breaks due to the interruptions that were outlined above. It can be argued that this diminishes the quality by recording to the tape twice, but as long as you start each project with a new tape it will not be noticeable. This method is recommended.

If you don't have the time to stripe a tape or don't feel like it is necessary you can use the "Pause/Record" method. To do this insert a new tape and use record pause (press the record button to record and press it again to pause) in between scenes and takes instead of stopping the camera. Do not switch the camera from "Camera" mode to "VCR" mode. If you do need to switch the camera to "VCR" mode to review a take or if need to turn off the camera, remove the tape for any reason, or if the battery dies make sure to rewind the tape at least five seconds before the last scene ends. This makes sure that the timecodes overlap and there will be no break. This method is not recommended, but if you are very careful you will not have timecode breaks.

The other common timecode error is that Final Cut Pro does not have enough pre-roll or post-roll timecode to capture the in or out point that you have designated. If you follow the steps above and don't have timecode breaks the only time that this will happen is at the beginning of the tape or at the very end of the tape. A pre-roll or post-roll error happens when you are trying to capture footage that is within a few seconds of the beginning of the tape, the end of the tape, or a timecode break and the deck does not have enough time to get up to speed before capturing. It is a best practice to record 30 seconds of throw away footage on any new tape and to stop recording 30 seconds before the very end of the tape. These are the areas of the tape that have the most dropouts and it will prevent any pre-roll or post-roll timecode errors. It is also a good idea to leave more headroom and tailroom than you anticipate needing at the beginning and ending of each shot to make sure that you have enough footage to work with.

Working Around Timecode Errors

If you are not able to prevent timecode errors by following the advice above there are still ways to capture your media. If the computer reports that it was unable to locate timecode during a batch capture that means that you have a timecode break or multiple breaks. To verify that you have a timecode break check the timecode in the log and capture window. If it goes back to 00:00:00 at any time that means that there is a break in that location. If there are one or two breaks in the entire tape you can still do a batch capture. Manually rewind the tape until the playhead is located before the break and click "Batch". This will capture all of the clips on that side of the break. Now Manually fast forward until the playhead is past the break and click "Batch" again. This will capture all of the clips on that side of the break.

If there are more than a few breaks it may not be worth it to use the method above. In that case use the "Capture Now" button to capture the media as you watch it. This is the worst option, but it will get your media onto the computer. Capture Now takes longer and if you lose your media that is saved to the computer you will need to recapture manually instead of popping in your source tape and choosing "Batch" to reconnect.

Pre-roll and Post-roll errors can be solved by moving your in or out point a few seconds away from the beginning or the end of the tape or from a timecode break. This will give Final Cut Pro and the miniDV deck plenty of time to get up to speed before capturing the clip.

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