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I'm interested in doing some multicam shooting of my band's gigs. (This is a personal, not commercial, motivation, so my constraints include budget and cargo space — i.e., minimal equipment bulk. And I need to make shot decisions after the fact since I won't have someone who can switch between shots live.)

So far I've shot simultaneously with two or three consumer/prosumer HD camcorders, each recording to its own MiniDV tape or disk, then bringing all the content into FCP and manually syncing.

This works pretty well, except that the timecode is inconsistent — if I sync all the clips at the beginning of the show, an hour later they'll all be a second or two out of sync. So far I've dealt with this by retiming the clips — after syncing at the beginning, I go to the end and adjust the playback rate for some of the clips by a very small amount (e.g., change one clip to speed 100.01%, another to 99.97%) until they're closely in sync. This is tedious.

I'm wondering if there's a better way. I've seen cameras in the 5,000 – 10,000 USD range which have external timecode inputs. But that's above my price range, and would require a timecode generator and an extra cable running to each camera (which I think would violate my "minimal equipment bulk" constraint).

Are there less-expensive cameras and/or techniques that would work better for this purpose? What should I be looking for?

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More and more cameras are including GPS time sync now that they almost all use them for location information. I am sure you can find a camera at any price range that includes this capability. The GPS should keep your cameras within a few hundred milliseconds of each other.

Take them for a run at Best Buy or a similar store, letting them run for a while to see which keep in sync and which only sync on start-up.

The least expensive option is to put an AC quartz clock with a continuously sweeping hand on stage and occasionally have people "sync" by bringing it into view. :-)

I just looked on B&H for a reasonable camera and found this tip at http://www.bhphotovideo.com/find/newsLetter/Time-Code.jsp

Experienced videographers will "stripe" the video tape with time code prior to their shoots. To prepare the blank tape to be striped, they rewind the blank tape to its very beginning, and with the lens cap on the camera, press Record and record black from the very beginning to the very end of the tape. Striping the tape burns time code to the tape, and this time code will not change when recording your future video footage to that tape. This can alleviate possible time code inconsistencies that can be created by many types of camcorders.

This may be worth a shot with your current gear.

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Thanks. Good idea regarding GPS time sync — I'll investigate that. (However I don't think timecode striping would help with syncing between multiple cameras. It's typically used, I think, if you're going to be recording a bunch of clips on a tape nonsequentially. Timecode striping is analogous to formatting a floppy disk before writing data on it — it just sets up the structure so the deck can find unique locations on the tape.) –  smokris Sep 23 '11 at 2:31
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