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Old May 20th, 2008, 03:17 PM   #1
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Problem Syncing Timecode on Canon XL2

Hello,

I recently purchased two Canon XL2 cameras specifically to be able to sync the video recordings.

I am using the timecode feature (making sure the frame setting = 'drop' and 'free run'). I'm using one of the remote controls to simultaneously set both cameras. They initially set together but within a half hour (even less!) they are off sync.

I am taping to miniDV and to a PC (stopping and starting numerous times). I also have noticed that sometimes the cameras automatically shut off if too much time has elapsed. However, the timecode keeps running so I don't believe any of this is the problem.

Any advice is greatly appreciated! None of the previous posts seem to have a solution but I'm hoping someone now has one. Being able to sync the two videos via time is essential to this project (and why I bought these cameras).

Thanks!
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Old May 20th, 2008, 08:11 PM   #2
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Hello Michelle,

I do not know about syncing two XL2 cameras with a remote controls. I can only imagin logistically being kind of difficult. I would beleive that distance between the cameras being important.

I always sync my cameras in post production. The idea is to start filming and only stop when the break arrive or something else. Assuming you are filming a show with one break it would then mean you only to sinc twice (i.e part one and and part two).

In order to falicitate syncnhronisation with my video editing software I try to have both camera to start filming onto something which is very noticable. As an example, in an arena I would have both camera pointing onto the clock.

The automatic shut off, I can only think this due to the fact your filming on tape and use the pause bottom on your cameras. You only have a certain time before automatic shut off.

I find time being very valuable. I always start filming the first part of a show with a 83 minutes tape on each cameras. I then only do one start and one stop. At the end it would required one synchronisation with the two tapes. This is really saving on time. DV tapes are not that expensive, there is then no reason for doing numerous start and stop.

You mentioned filming on a PC. If this is the case one less reason to worry about start and stop. Make sure your disk are in good shape (almost empty, defragmented...) and start filming. Then your tape are only there as backup.

I hope it helps.

My comments are made assuming you are fliming somekind of a show. If this not the case, what I wrote may not help. More information about your filming context would help understanding you difficulties.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 08:02 AM   #3
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Michelle,
That's about the amount of drift you would expect to see with this type of gear. How far off is it? When people use free run, it's to get the footage from multiple cameras reasonably in sync with each other. You still have to manually sync individual clips by using the audio wave forms as a visual reference. I'm also curious on how you're recording. If you record both cameras to MiniDV (as opposed to the PC), do they stay in sync better? I'm betting they will. Recording to two separate devices would seem like it would give you the most drift.
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Old May 29th, 2008, 09:31 AM   #4
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Hi Michelle,

Unfortunately, I don't have any resolvement to your issue, but am experiencing the same scenario as you, so will also be watching this thread for possible solutions (if any).

I have three XL2's that I will be shooting some footage with in a couple of weeks and because I want to multi-cam edit, having all three cameras in sync without any additional external equipment will save me a lot of fixing time in post. I use the same method as yourself by setting all three cameras at the same time with one remote control (i.e. all cameras together with the remote control and cameras set to #1). They all start of in sync perfectly, but after approx 4 hours, one of the cameras loses 1 second. The other two cameras are perfectly sync'd still.

Seems to me that this will be due to the camera's internal circuitry and may only be able to be fixed by having the time code generator re-calibrated by Canon. I will be sending this particular camera in for for Canon to look at this particular issue, as it is an important feature to me. The whole idea of time code sync is obviously to have all camera's in sync which is a function Canon claims to have on the XL2's. If they drift, then what's the point of having this function internally (unless their aim is to only ensure sync over short periods of time)?

Again, there must be an oscillator clock internal to the camera that needs tweaking by Canon I suspect. I can't believe they would offer this function to perfectly sync cameras if they can drift a lot? Out of the three cameras I have, two stay perfectly in sync even after one week, whereas the third camera loses 1 second after a few hours, so from the other two remaining in sync, it shows it is possible to achieve, and would think having it re-calibrated at Canon may be the answer.

I'll contact Canon and see if this is possible, or whether drift (even over short periods of time) is what they expect from these cameras.

If I get an answer, I'll post it.

Good luck with your shoot Michelle.
Regards,
Allan
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Old May 29th, 2008, 10:58 AM   #5
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Allan,
Only 1 second of drift after four hours? These cameras were not designed to be more time stable than that. I don't think your XL2 is malfunctioning at all. What about using an external generator to send genuine timecode to one of the audio tracks of each of the cameras? I think that's the only way your going to be able to get the precision you're looking for.
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Old May 29th, 2008, 11:05 AM   #6
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Update

Just spoke with a very nice and helpful person at Canon technical support.

Here's my understanding from talking with the tech support person:

Providing the cameras are set the same (i.e. Frame = drop and free run etc), the cameras should stay in sync, although there may be some drift over long periods of time and if the cameras are seperated into different temperature environments after sync'ing them (e.g. one outside and one indoors etc), which is considered normal. However in my instance with one of my cameras (and especially with Michelle's which loses sync after half an hour), this is not considered usual and suggested mine be sent for re-calibration when I have it serviced (or sooner depending on how urgent it is to me).

As I suspected for my issue with the cameras settings being equal, I need to have mine looked at when I send it in for it's annual service.

Marco's previous response mentioned "reasonable sync" which I would agree with, and could live with a 1 second a day drift. I suppose it depends on how an individual defines reasonable? For myself, 1 second every four hours is not reasonable for me to have to re-sync. 1 second a day I could cope with though and re-sync first thing before a shoot.

Thanks for bringing the topic up Michelle. It's made me look at it more in depth rather than just accept it :-)

Regards,
Allan
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Old May 29th, 2008, 11:10 AM   #7
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Well Allan, I won't pretend to know better than Canon tech support. It's just that the general rule of thumb I've always operated under is that non-crystal sync devices can't be counted on to stay in sync with each other past 20 minutes or so.
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Old May 29th, 2008, 11:17 AM   #8
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Hi Marco,

Maybe it's just my expectations for accuracy :-)

I don't really want to use more external equipment but as you say also, if I'm looking for that type of precision, may be the best way to go? It will be interesting to see what they say at canon when I get it serviced and have them take a look at the time code function based on what the tech support person said earlier and my other two cameras still running in sync after one week (maybe just a fluke).

Whatever the outcome, it's good to know what to expect from your equipment to get the best out of it :-)

Regards,
Allan
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Old June 1st, 2008, 06:58 PM   #9
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Thanks to everyone for their replies. Allan - after you have your camera serviced, please let me know if that solves the syncing problem. From everything I've read, it seems like drift is expected. Although even a slight drift for me is not acceptable as I need to sync events occurring at two different locations down to the exact millisecond.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 03:19 PM   #10
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Problem Syncing Timecode on Canon XL2

As others have expressed sync issues between multiple XL2 cameras, we lose sync between cameras. After using the remote control to sync more than one camera, the cameras time sync stays okay for an hour or more of recording...if we don't turn one off or let it go into standby mode.

Without fail, whichever cameras goes into standby will be off by as much as a second when powered back up. Canon says as long as the "watch battery" is still good, it should keep the timecode setting.

It's just not the right camera for this kind of thing. External time sync is not available in the XL2. Have to just get used to syncing in post, like some have suggested. Big hint: Don't stop recording on any camera once you start, unless you have to change tapes.
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