Keeping Time(code)

With the introduction of ATEM Switch Software v8.0, Blackmagic Design added a wide variety of new capabilities to support its top-of-the-line Constellation 8k video switch, as well as some minor updates for previous ATEM switches. One of those minor updates is the ability to set (or reset) an ATEM's internal timecode generator.


You can find this new feature under the 'switcher' pane in the 'capture' tab, as shown on the right hand side of the screen shot below.

ATEM Software Control v8.0.2 with Timecode

Previous to this update, ATEM switchers would generate internal timecode, but you were basically stuck with whatever timecode was being generated, there was no way to change it (unless you were using one of the models that supported an external timecode generator.)


Timecode and ATEM Switchers

Timecode within the ATEM platform is generally pretty straight forward. All current ATEM models have an internal timecode generator which puts timecode on every SDI system output. That way, for example, if you want to attach a few HyperDecks to a couple of your Aux ports to record individual camera ISOs, you can do so and rest easy that each of the recordings will have frame-accurate, synced timecode present, allowing for easy camera sync in post.


In addition, some ATEM models also have XLR ports that support external timecode input and output. This allows you to use a master timecode generator to sync timecode across multiple audio and video devices in your broadcast or live production setup. The current models in Blackmagic's ATEM switcher line that support an external timecode connection are:

  • ATEM 4 M/E Broadcast Switch

  • ATEM 2 M/E Broadcast Switch

  • ATEM 2 M/E Production Switch

If your production setup requires a separate timecode generator to sync timecode throughout your system, you'll need to chose one of these three Blackmagic Design switches.... and no, the new top-of-the-line Constellation 8k switch does not have a timecode connection on the back.


Front and Rear Panel Diagram for the ATEM 4 M/E Broadcast Switch with Timecode input and output. Image courtesy of Blackmagic Design

Timecode Support in Other Products

While this article has primarily focused on timecode support in Blackmagic Design switchers, the company offers a variety of other products with external timecode support. These include:


Timecode In and Out via XLR

  • HyperDeck Extreme 8k

  • HyperDeck Studio Pro

  • UltraStudio Extreme 3

Timecode Output Only via XLR

  • Teranex Mini SDI to HDMI 12G

  • Teranex Mini SDI to Analog 12G

  • Teranex Mini SDI to Audio 12G

  • Teranex Mini Optical to HDMI 12G

Timecode Input Only via XLR

  • Teranex Mini HDMI to SDI 12G

  • Teranex Mini Analog to SDI 12G

  • Teranex Mini Audio to SDI 12G

  • Teranex Mini HDMI to Optical 12G

Timecode Input via SDI

  • URSA Mini 4k

  • URSA Mini Pro

  • URSA Broadcast

Timecode in Action - ATEM and URSA Mini / Broadcast Record Syncing

One of the most common uses of timecode in live production is to ensure that all individual camera recordings (ISOs) have the same frame-accurate timecode so that camera angles can be easily synced in post production. This dramatically speeds-up any post event editing, allowing editors to easily cut between angles, knowing that all the shots are in sync.


While its common to see setups where individual camera signals are routed to their own recording deck, another way to capture camera ISOs is to record directly on-camera. However, without syncing the timecode across cameras, this can become problematic in post production since the timecode won't be in sync on all the cameras.


Within the Blackmagic Design ecosystem, one quick way to sync timecode with the URSA cameras is to perform a jam-sync using the Ref / Timecode SDI input on the camera. To do this, do the following:

  • Connect one end of an SDI cable to either one of your Aux or Program outputs on your ATEM switcher and the other end to the Ref / Timecode input on your USRA Broadcast or Mini camera. If you've already run an SDI cable to your URSA camera for tally, talkback, and camera control, you can disconnect that cable from your SDI In port on the camera and connect it to the Ref / Timecode input.

The Blackmagic URSA cameras automatically detect external timecode coming in and set the camera's timecode accordingly. You'll want to make sure, of course, that the project frame rate on each of your cameras is set to the same frame rate as your ATEM switch, otherwise the timecode won't sync. Per Blackmagic Design, as long as the camera is continuously running, it should hold the timecode sync to within a frame for over 8 hours. However, if you turn off your camera or change frame rates, you'll want to re-jam your timecode.


Once you've jam-synced your timecode, you can disconnect the SDI cable and re-connect it to the SDI input on your URSA camera to re-enable tally, talkback, and camera control from your ATEM.


Conclusion

The basics of timecode generation and management are fairly straight forward on Blackmagic Design's ATEM video switches, and being able to set (or reset) the internal timecode generator via ATEM Software Control is a welcomed new feature. This will help technical directors better manage camera recordings to ensure that they are in sync with not only each other, but the master program recording as well.


Common Questions


1. What type of timecode is supported by ATEM switchers that can receive external timecode?

  • Linear Time Code (LTC) is supported by Blackmagic's switchers.


Have more questions? Log in below and add them in the comments!

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