The iPod as a timecode slate

By S Simmons. Filed in Editing  |  
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I recently got suckered into a low budget music video. How low budget? The decision was made not to hire an audio person for playback. Without that audio person it meant there would be no audio master made for the song and no timecode slate for syncing later in post. What was the solution? Use an iPod with video and make our own timecode slate!


We dropped the audio into a timeline and then applied a timecode generator to a slug for one version of the song and color bars to another. This was done so we would know what version of the song we were working with at a glance. It was also handy to have the timecode on the iPod video screen in that we put visual cues like chorus, bridge, solo to know where in the song we were.


Timecode is always something to think about as we were shooting in 720p60 and of course the iPod doesn’t support that so sync was a bit off when the clips were brought in. But since the camera recorded the audio playback with the camera mic there was always an audio reference to help with sync. What I did was to first drop in the actual piece of video we put on the iPod into a timeline. It didn’t matter that it needed rendering as I just needed to see the numbers. I assigned the master timecode of the timeline to match. It didn’t really match since we shot at 59.94 but if you were shooting at 29.97 it would match perfectly and you could skip the next step. Then I dropped all the performance takes (there wasn’t too many of them) into a timeline, using the iPod display to get the clip nearly into sync. I then adjusted the clip to get the sync just right and then assigned each of the takes an auxiliary timecode, made a multiclip (I was using Final Cut Pro) grouping via aux timecode and you have a multiclip group with all of your takes. Voila! Instant music video, no timecode slate needed… though I still prefer a professional audio pack with a real timecode slate at if all possible.

14 comments to “The iPod as a timecode slate”

  1. Comment by J. Curtis:

    Great idea! For the average person (with a camera and a 5G ipod, that is) the sync issue would be mostly non-existent.

  2. Comment by priyesh:

    I had the same idea with my psp, but since there is the 30 fps framerate desaster that had been integrated as a bonus from sony, so I never tried it.

  3. Comment by WTL:

    Now, that is really, really clever. I’ll have to give this a shot.

  4. Comment by nl:

    this is a great id.. I’ll use it on my next music video shoot..


  5. Comment by Max:

    That’s a really cool trick!!!

    Will this work on any iPod, or is a video iPod necessary?

    I have an iPod Nano. Will it work on that?

    Thanks in advance!


  6. Comment by Max:

    That’s a really cool trick!!!

    Will this work on any iPod, or is a video iPod necessary?

    I have an iPod Nano. Will it work on that?

    Thanks in advance!


  7. Comment by Neal:

    What about printing SMPTE on one side and the track on the other? Playback would be in mono, but so what.
    Would that jam sync the camera with the incoming TC from the iPod? Would another device be needed?

  8. Comment by videoboy:

    Wow! This is genius! Any ideas for creating a track like this for double-time (60fps) or half-time (15fps) for slow and fast motion, respectively? How can we make the audio play at double time?? Any thoughts? Thanks!!

  9. Comment by Scott Simmons:

    videoboy …. haven’t tried the off-speed stuff but there’s no reason it shouldn’t work that I can think of.

  10. Comment by Scott Simmons:

    Oh and to make the audio play at those speeds just to the speed changes in your edit timeline and apply a pitch-shift filter.

  11. Comment by Matthias:

    You could now do it with the Timecode Slate app for the Iphone:

  12. Comment by S Simmons:

    I see what they are trying to do but I also see a lot of problems. Besides the 1 star rating that says it doesn’t work the point of a timecode slate for a music video is that the timecode needs to match a master source, be it a tape or a digital file. This will not so that timecode on the slate won’t really reference anything. If it keeps perfect time then I suppose all the takes could reference each other but still, it doesn’t have a master.

    Plus the numbers are very small which already poses a problem even when you make the numbers as big as you can on an iPhone. The smaller the timecode the more difficult it is to manage on a shoot.

  13. Comment by S. Reynolds:

    Hi. I direct videos with my brother, and thought your ipod as TC slate was such a good idea, we lovingly copied, and took it a step further by using an iPod Touch with it’s larger display, and attaching it to a real slate, and using wireless transmitters for audio playback. Take a look here: S Simmons – The timecode does reference a master as long as your ipod TC and audio match the TC and audio in your edit timeline. In the edit you just do all your usual syncing and multiclipping with Aux TC etc and it all syncs up fine. Simon.

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