Paper edits: Timecode for QuickTime movies

Sometimes working on low-budget projects means leaving the initial edit to others. Researchers sometimes already have plans for the footage. Producers might not have the funds for all your editing time.

That means preparing the way for a paper edit. You send the footage to someone else who sends you back an initial edit as a document listing a series of timecodes indicating what footage goes where:
[01:47:22]-Mr. Thomas: "That's when we decided to extend the name of the club using the initials of the new members..." -[01:48:12] " to who the second 'A' was."
[02:12:01]-Mr. Yankson: "I thought it a demotion..." -[02:12:56] "...the Muddy Lawn."

They usually refer to hours minutes and seconds, because the specifics of frames don’t apply to paper edits.

How do they know what timecode to put in their documents?

The simplest option is to use QuickTime player. The time shown in the bottom-left of the window usually shows the number of minutes and seconds counted since the start of the movie:

If you move the mouse over this counter, it changes into a pop-up menu where you can choose to display the source timecode of the movie (the timecode used within Final Cut, Avid or Premiere):


If the person who is doing the paper edit refers to this time, you can use it within your editing software: “Use the third time the guard opens the cell door [from 36:28 until 36:42]”

If you are not sure of whether your collaborator will have access to QuickTime player, or if they require footage in another format, it is better to add timecode to the video itself:

This is known as a “timecode burn”.

The most straightforward way in Final Cut Pro is to use Andy Mees’ Timecode Generator plugin. Before you add it to your timeline, enter a value for duration at least as long as your timeline:

Download it from his page (by clicking the screenshot at the top of the page).

Another option is to use a separate application to add a timecode burn to your movies: QT Sync. It was originally created to fix QuickTime movies whose audio and video are out of sync. It has an option to add timecode to existing movies. This can be useful if a movie takes a long time to render, and you want a version without a timecode burn:

  1. A few commets:

    If you can convince the producer to do it in excel- you can save a serious amount of time.(I think Larry Jordan made a template)

    Also it’s a lot faster to add the timecode using compressor. I just finished as an AE on a show with 100+ tapes and we just tossed the DVCPROHD files in a batch with a Timecode Filter and ran 10 tapes a night.

    This way producer, AP’s, &EP all had h264 QT’s on a server to browse… Might work for some readers.

  2. Alex said:

    I used to use Compressor for timecode burns. QT Sync runs almost twice as fast doing the same thing. Taking a 55 second 1080i50 HDV file and compressing it to a 3200kbs 576p25 H.264 file took 7 min 43 sec in Compressor, 4 min 28 sec in QT Sync.

    If you leave the codec the same, it is a lot faster. Doing a timecode burn on the 1080i50 HDV file took 3 min 4 sec in Compressor, less than 15 sec in QT Sync.

    However, if you are doing this overnight, the time saved makes no difference, and QT Sync doesn’t have any batch or droplet options. It is handy if you have an urgent deadline though.

  3. Interesting! Of course a Paper Cut invcolves more than just annotating QuickTimes; a real Paper Cut assembles a show from verbatim transcripts which often don;t have tmecode. It
    ‘s often a task for an intern or assistant to “mark up” documentary transcripts much as a script super marks up a feature script. This should include timecode annotation to identify every paragraph. One tool for this that I’ve used with some success is Transcriva:

    For logging coded QuickTimes I would recommend Digital Heaven’s MOVIELOGGER- very powerful controls and it exports the timecode to FCP via XML:

    I love paper cuts for reams of docu material!!

  4. Yummy– Didn’t know it was faster. Thanks a million! — On a side note, I assume you have compressor multi-threaded using all your cores- correct?

    I will be looking into QT Sync though.

  5. Alex said:

    These were the times on my MacBook Pro 2.6Ghz Duo with the Compressor transcoder using roughly 130% of the CPU. Probably not the most optimised system, but good enough for me.

  6. Wow – thanks for this – I just added code to a quicktime DV file of a short film I am working on and it took less than a second to process.




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