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Old April 16th, 2008, 02:23 PM   #1
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Time code with 35mm SLR still camera?

Can anyone think of a way to do this? I'm fascinated with the idea of shooting documentary footage in natural light with SLR bulk loads and motor drive. Just can't think of a way to sync it with a timecode recorder. Imagine how amazing this would look in HD. It would be a cool arty effect too.
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Old April 16th, 2008, 07:11 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Marco Leavitt View Post
Can anyone think of a way to do this? I'm fascinated with the idea of shooting documentary footage in natural light with SLR bulk loads and motor drive. Just can't think of a way to sync it with a timecode recorder. Imagine how amazing this would look in HD. It would be a cool arty effect too.

Why would you need to? Timelapse can't be sync sound anyway and I don't know of any SLR/drive combinations that can shoot at 24+FPS. 5-7fps is the fastest motor drive I've heard of. The longest bulk load back I've personally seen is Nikon's 250 exposure magazine. Playing back at sound speed, that translates into a whopping 10 second clip. Assuming it could be done, sound recorded in sync to the camera exposures would be played back at 5x the recorded speed and so pitch shifted it would be audible only to dogs. Something's got to give. Either shoot MOS, play it at film speeds and add wild sound to it or record sound to be played at normal speed and sync the sequence of still to it in your editor after the fact, holding each still on-screen for however you like. Either way, shooting in sync is irrelevant. So set your audio recorder to TOD timecode and 'eyeball' the camera's intervalometer clock to the same setting (if it even HAS a TOD clock) and you should be close enough to juxtapose the sound recorded with the event caught on film at approximately the same time.

Or you could get one of these new fangled inventions sold under several brand names - Arriflex, Eclair, Panavision, ... <grin>
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Old April 16th, 2008, 07:43 PM   #3
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Marco,
You can always go back to the tried an true method of a Timecode Slate powered by the Audio recorder. Of course the frame rate won't be 24 frames a second except on the new still camera which does shoot frame rates fast enough for live motion. Head and Tail slates always help.
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Old April 16th, 2008, 08:40 PM   #4
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Marco,
You can always go back to the tried an true method of a Timecode Slate powered by the Audio recorder. Of course the frame rate won't be 24 frames a second except on the new still camera which does shoot frame rates fast enough for live motion. Head and Tail slates always help.
No SLR shoots at frame rates even approaching 24 fps, and the last I checked no SLR has a movie mode. Some digital still cameras have a movie mode that can do 24 fps or more, but they are not SLRs, and this thread specifically mentions SLRs.
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Old April 16th, 2008, 10:51 PM   #5
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actually a few people have tried this with digital SLR's with some interesting effects. there where a few around a couple years ago when canon came out with a fast camera that could shoot continuosly. as for going with the film approach.... you need a real movie camera, not a SLR.
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Old April 17th, 2008, 12:40 AM   #6
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Thanks all, but you're not getting my vision here. I'm not talking about trying to achieve a continual moving image like a film camera can capture, but rather intermittent pictures, and occassional short bursts of 5 to 7 frames per second. It would be an arty effect certainly. Basically, I'm talking about a slide show, but with the pictures changing in time with the audio as they were genuinely snapped by the camera.
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Old April 17th, 2008, 05:22 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Marco Leavitt View Post
Thanks all, but you're not getting my vision here. I'm not talking about trying to achieve a continual moving image like a film camera can capture, but rather intermittent pictures, and occassional short bursts of 5 to 7 frames per second. It would be an arty effect certainly. Basically, I'm talking about a slide show, but with the pictures changing in time with the audio as they were genuinely snapped by the camera.
So real-time location audio juxtaposed with sequences of stills shot at intervals during the audio recording. Sounds sort of like what Ken Burns does, but with location audio instead of, or in addition to, narration and music. Still don't see how timecode would be needed for that ... as long as you know the approximate time within the audio track that the particular still frame was exposed. Final adjustment of the timing of the image transitions would be a manual process during post anyway. If you really needed to know the precise time during the audio track that the image was exposed, use a recorder like one from the SD7xxT series that outputs timecode and send it to reader/display positioned in one corner of your frame (you could crop it out later if desired). But if your camera is able to timestamp the frame, and a number of them can because those large load backs are often marketed with scientific reasearch and forensics in mind and are able flash a timestamp onto the edge of the film, I still think setting the camera's and the recorder's TOD clocks set to the same time and letting them free-run would be as close as you need to be. It might not be as accurate as timecode but I'd expect your audio recorders timecode and the camera back's TOD clock could remain within a second or so of each other.
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Old April 17th, 2008, 05:39 AM   #8
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Using film means having to scan a large number of stills, why not use a digital camera?

I think Canon EOS-1D MkIII can shoot at 10.5 fps as long as memory card is not full, and on a large CF card you can fit maybe over ten thousand HDTV quality stills. The downside of this approach is the wear and tear on the camera which is really not designed for this kind of job, the shutter lasts for only about 200000 frames.
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Old April 17th, 2008, 07:36 AM   #9
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The simplest thing that comes to mind would be to attach a small lav (one of the flat ones perhaps) to the camera so that it picks up the "clack" of the mirror as the exposure is made and record this on one track. The recorder's timecode should be set to time of day continuous run and set to within a second or so of the SLRs. The offset between SLR metadata timestamp and recorder TC is easily determined from the first exposure. Once you know that you should be able to sync the rest quite precicesly. The beginning of each burst should be easy to find to check sync as you go.

If you want to get a little fancier you might think about using the flash contacts on the camera (or radio remoted contacts) to trigger a gate which would pass a burst of 1 - 2 Hz tone to a track on the recorder. You'd probably need a tech/EE buddy to help you set this one up.

Some of the SLRs accept signals from a GPS receiver which will timestamp each frame with Lat, Lon and (of more interest here) UTC. Since the data is received in the NMEA format it is unlikely that the timestamp is to better than a second but circuitry in the camera might interpolate.
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Old April 17th, 2008, 07:52 AM   #10
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Marco, I think I get your vision and it's a cool idea. Basically you want to be able to shoot as many (or as few) frames per second as you want while having them correspond somewhat accurately to the audio that is happening while you're taking pictures. I see two ways to do this, one of them standard, the other more novel.

The first way is to accept a certain amount of inaccuracy. As others have observed here, there isn't really a way to use the normal iterations of time code for this purpose. I think you could probably get pretty close by eyeballing it, especially since most of what you would shoot *because of the lower than normal frame rate) wouldn't need to be that accurately synced.

If you need much greater accuracy, you could record to a three channel recorder, set your microphones to capture the audio of the scene being shot, preferably a little distance from where you'll be shooting and tape a small, lav mic to the body of your SLR. Most digi-SLR's make some noise when shooting. This third channel would record the noise made by the shutter and allow you to syncronize (again by ear somewhat) what slide should go when.
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Old April 17th, 2008, 07:55 AM   #11
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Sorry A.J. It looks like I'm stealing your idea about taping the lav mic to the camera. I actually wrote my reply last night but when I opened my computer this morning there was a screen asking me to enter my user name and password.

Anyhow, something about great minds thinking alike?
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Old April 17th, 2008, 08:40 AM   #12
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No problem. You did think of it first after all. Don't know about the great minds thing. Might be vapors from the Potomac.
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Old April 17th, 2008, 02:55 PM   #13
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Hey, great ideas everybody! I'll keep you all posted on how this works out.
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Old April 17th, 2008, 03:53 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Marco Leavitt View Post
Thanks all, but you're not getting my vision here. I'm not talking about trying to achieve a continual moving image like a film camera can capture, but rather intermittent pictures, and occassional short bursts of 5 to 7 frames per second. It would be an arty effect certainly. Basically, I'm talking about a slide show, but with the pictures changing in time with the audio as they were genuinely snapped by the camera.
For easing the automation what one really needs is to tag timestamps on the audio file. (knowing DSLR's photos are timestamped 1s precision, clock synched from PC's). The use some software tool to synch, but which one.

I'm not sure how would one timestamp the recorded audio. DV tape does it indirectly by timestamping the tape. So maybe one wants to record DV (or HDV) and use its audio, ignore its video.

Then, in a video processing tool (e.g. Microsoft MovieMaker) manually put the audio and the pictures, at same times.

Another possibility is to record the output of a timecode generator (Denecke) to the one channel of a portable audio recorder, but then not sure how to read that.

Very curious how this goes.
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Old April 17th, 2008, 05:28 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Alexandru Petrescu View Post
For easing the automation what one really needs is to tag timestamps on the audio file. (knowing DSLR's photos are timestamped 1s precision, clock synched from PC's). The use some software tool to synch, but which one.

I'm not sure how would one timestamp the recorded audio. DV tape does it indirectly by timestamping the tape. So maybe one wants to record DV (or HDV) and use its audio, ignore its video.

Then, in a video processing tool (e.g. Microsoft MovieMaker) manually put the audio and the pictures, at same times.

Another possibility is to record the output of a timecode generator (Denecke) to the one channel of a portable audio recorder, but then not sure how to read that.

Very curious how this goes.
Timecode capable recorders like the Tascam HDP2 or Sound Device "T" series have an internal timecode generator that will timestamp the start of the recorded sound file. Then the recorder during playback or the NLE on file import takes the timestamp and the sample rate and derives continuous timecode throughout the rest of the file. So recording audio with timecode is a piece of cake, just a matter of using the right recorder, but getting it to match when the stills are exposed is more of an issue.
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