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Time Code

Literally, a code containing or relating to timing. Since the early days of audio it has been necessary to synchronize (see WFTD archive synchronization) audio tracks to motion picture. Later, with the advent of video, MIDI, sequencing, and other technologies the necessity for synchronization of these various formats has become a core concern for production studios and engineers. Almost all time codes are used by recording the “code” on the media of two (or more) machines and then, when the machines are operating, the codes are compared by a synchronizing device which can control slave machines to keep them in sync with the master machine. All sorts of different kinds of timing codes have been used over the years to achieve this, but the current standard for most synchronization needs is SMPTE time code which is comprised of an eight-digit number, based on the 24-hour clock, that identifies a specific frame in a tape. Due to this near standardization, and the ubiquitous nature of SMPTE as a time code format, the words “time code” and the acronym “SMPTE” are used almost interchangeably. There are other time code formats, many of which are based on SMPTE, that we will discuss in the future.

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