Who needs frame counts? We need microsecond timestamps

In most use cases, SMPTE LTC is used by NLEs, cameras and audio recorders to write timestamps into files metadata. For those use cases, timestamps can be more precisely obtained from a new GNSS based timecode, introduced here.

This site proposes a cheaper and better mouse trap: a novel syncing method and apparatus that focuses on time of day timestamps (starting and ending) rather than frame count. It gives instructions for building a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) open source and open hardware dongle + software combo to:

  • sync camera video with sound from a dedicated audio recorder
  • sync multiple camera takes and show them aligned on your timeline

Audio syncing and merging is done in post with the accompanying software before importing into your video editor (though the syncing track can be kept alongside for further use).

Simpler, cheaper, faster : pick three

Yes, other well established solutions exist but this one is 5x cheaper: 45$ for each synced device VS 225$. And it is simpler on many aspects:

  • no jam sync necessary: it’s GNSS based
  • no frame rate to set: it’s frame rate agnostic
  • syncing at both ends: automated audio drift correction

Power up, plug, shoot, sync in post.

TicTacSync: syncing for the DIY adventurous

This is a cheap hardware/software combo to aid in automatically syncing audio and video you’re shooting. The post-production software can sync multicam too. It will appeal to videographers who have encountered some limitations of their editing software “waveform analysis syncing” and should also interest scientists who need to timestamp data recordings within sub-millisecond precision.

Want to sync dual-system sound without breaking the bank? Doing multicam? Multisound? Need clock drift correction? tictacsync does it all!

  • TicTacCode is a new audio timing track format to timestamp both the start and the end of a recording. It is not SMPTE LTC and does not identifies individual frames (hence by design it is frame rate agnostic).

  • TicTacSync (note the case) is the hardware dongle generating TicTacCode. It fetches UTC time from GNSS signals. You need one for each recording device if your use case is syncing media files. Low cost, less than 45 USD, it is assembled from off the shelve components . Here’s a sample BOM on Adafruit store. photo

  • For syncing media files, tictacsync is the post-production CLI program that processes recordings shot with TicTacSync dongles, see repo. This program does the syncing before putting your clips into your NLE of choice (see demo on the left). As an added bonus it does time stretching to correct excessive clock drift between your devices, if any (see code).

Make it, don’t buy it

This won’t be a commercial product (not from me anyway). I’m sharing information and code to build your own devices: some assembly required. The post processing software is CLI only… I reckon a lot of videographers don’t know how to pip install modules or download external dependencies and tools (ffmpeg, sox, python, the Arduino IDE, etc…) so If someone want to code a GUI application and wrap dependencies into an installer for users with near-zero IT knowledge, go ahead!

Flashed Sale

For the inexperienced, flashing the SAMD21 board is the most adventurous task so I’m willing to do this part for you: a pre-flashed (and tested) board is available on Tindie.

Soon I’ll offer hand assembled prototypes too… hoping the project get some traction. Maybe some Shenzhen hacker will be pleased by the idea and whip up a one board PCB, driving the cost down even more.