Most cost overruns occur in the telecine suite because of incorrect numbers on
the time-code slate – in other words, the numbers that are photographed on the
slate do not match the expected audio. The iXML MetaSlate will eliminate
this problem from ever happening again by automating the placement of a sync
point wirelessly into the metadata of each take. The technology is already supported by Final Cut Pro. In future articles, we'll detail how to build your own or contact Gotham for a quote on a custom built iXML METASlate.
Traditional “film” syncing (where rushes are synced on film) works because both
the picture and sound are “marked” with a common, synchronous event – the sound
records the slap of the sticks when they snap shut and the camera photographs
the sticks closing. The separate media (audio mag stock and film work print) are
then lined up so that the two events are synchronized.
As electronic editing evolved, the introduction of the
so-called “smart slate” allowed the audio time code to be displayed at the
beginning of each shot. The telecine operator types the time-code numbers that
they read off the photographed time code slate, and locks the audio recorder to
that specific frame of picture.
When everything works together, this method is extremely
efficient – unfortunately, because the slate must be precisely jam synced to the
audio recorder, it has several potential pitfalls:
slate’s time code can drift from the audio time code, due to either faulty
time-base crystals or user error.
- The slate
can be inadvertently reset, and consequently will have a constant offset from
the audio recorder’s time-code.
on the slate can be blurry, overexposed or otherwise unreadable.
problems occur, additional expenses incurred in the telecine room grow
exponentially – and quickly become an untenable situation for all parties
involved, including the post facility.
The solution proposed here eliminates the ambiguity of the
time-code displayed on the smart slate by ignoring it. Instead, we
store the time that the sticks were closed within the metadata of each take.
The time information is stored as a relative value – it is the number of samples
from the beginning of the file. Thus, all ambiguity about frame rates, sample
rates and time-code drifts and offsets are eliminated.
Taking advantage of the new slating method requires a
minimal investment on behalf of the end user, and the process of slating remains
The sound mixer’s current slates are retrofitted with a
“flash” type radio transmitter that transmits a single “pulse” when the sticks
are closed. The receiver triggers the audio recorder when activated by the
The recorder stores the sync-point information within the
iXML <SYNC POINT LIST> object. This information is them parsed by the downstream
playback devices – be they Fostex 824 recorders, Aaton InDaw workstations, Avid
or Final Cut NLEs or Pro-Tools DAWs.
The system is modular and scalable –multiple slates can be
identified separately if needed (e.g. for “A” camera, “B” camera, etc.),
and any slate or recorder can be retrofitted with nominal difficulty. The actual
processing of the trigger will be slightly different for each recorder – in
general those recorders that have a keyboard interface or GPI I/O will be able
to be retrofitted quite easily.
Currently, Gallery Software’s MetaCorder is the only audio
recorder that is embedding iXML sync points. Obviously, for this to be
successful, we need other field recorders to support embedding, and we also need
Fostex and Aaton to parse (and allow quick access to) the embedded data.
Looking farther into the future, we envision a kind of “set area network”
where the camera, slate, script supervisor’s notes and the audio recorder are
all linked wirelessly so that metadata is entered (and corrected) only once.