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A timecode (alternatively, time code) is a sequence of numeric codes generated at regular intervals by a timing synchronization system. Timecode is used in video production, show control and other applications which require temporal coordination or logging of recording or actions.
Video and film timecode
In video production and filmmaking, SMPTE timecode is used extensively for synchronization, and for logging and identifying material in recorded media. During filmmaking or video production shoot, the camera assistant will typically log the start and end timecodes of shots, and the data generated will be sent on to the editorial department for use in referencing those shots. This shot-logging process was traditionally done by hand using pen and paper, but is now typically done using shot-logging software running on a laptop computer that is connected to the time code generator or the camera itself.
The SMPTE family of timecodes are almost universally used in film, video and audio production, and can be encoded in many different formats, including:
- Linear timecode (LTC), in a separate audio track
- Vertical interval timecode (VITC), in the vertical blanking interval of a video track
- AES-EBU embedded timecode used with digital audio
- Burnt-in timecode, in human-readable form in the video itself
- CTL timecode (control track)
- MIDI timecode
Rewritable consumer timecode is a proprietary consumer video timecode system that is not frame-accurate, and is therefore not used in professional post-production.
Other time code formats
Time codes for purposes other than video and audio production include:
- Inter-range instrumentation group time codes (IRIG) is used for military, government and commercial purposes.
- DTS time code is used to synchronise the optical DTS timecode track from a projector to the CD-based DTS audio tracks.
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Depending on the environment, timecode generators can take various forms.
- Binary-coded decimal
- Clock synchronization
- Global Positioning System
- Jam sync
- Network time protocol
- Time code ambiguity
- Time signal
- Timecode radio stations
- Timestamp, denoting the date/time in data logging
- Trusted timestamping, part of a digital signature