Lead from Ted Simonides, GoPro Director of Developer Partnerships

Paul Scurrell and his team at Timecode Systems have worked closely with the GoPro Developer Program team to build on the innovation of their SyncBac PRO for HERO4 and release the SyncBac PRO for HERO6 Black shortly after GoPro’s introduction of that camera.  The new SyncBac PRO will allow production companies to take advantage of important new features of HERO6 Black such as advanced image stabilization, new video resolutions like 4K60 and 1080p240 for enhanced slow-motion playback.

Making It Easier to Deal with Reality

By Paul Scurrell, CEO of Timecode Systems Limited

Gold Rush, Big Brother, The Real Housewives, The Island with Bear Grylls; from survival shows to fly-on-the-wall hospital programs, forget celebrities, it’s ‘normal’ people we want to see on our televisions nowadays. In fact, our obsession with people-watching is so ingrained in popular culture, that one of the most popular programmes broadcasting at the moment in the UK is Gogglebox, a show where we watch other people watching television.

The appeal of these shows is their ability to bring drama, comedy, or romance into people's homes – and the audience is looking for complete authenticity. As the appetite for unscripted, reality television has grown, a more voyeuristic style of filming has become popular in the professional world of television production. There is little flexibility to stop, rewind and repeat the action, so making a great show depends on the ability to capture every enraged outburst, slip of the tongue, revolted glance and teary exchange. This has led to the rise of the POV shot, with GoPros mounted on everything, everyone and in every nook or cranny to ensure each angle is covered and nothing is missed.

This creates huge volumes of footage that then has to be heavily edited into the story the show's producers think will result in the best entertainment value for viewers. And here lays the challenge – searching, logging and editing the vast quantities of footage delivered to postproduction. In the professional world, timecode is used to ease this process. Timecode is an important form of production metadata. By assigning each frame recorded a specific timecode, editors are able to find a particular frame across multiple camera and audio sources by referencing this number. If each camera and audio device on a shoot is running timecode, this allows all sources to be synced and the data can then easily be dropped into the edit timeline and automatically aligned. 

However, since GoPro cameras are built for the consumer first and foremost, the HERO line of cameras doesn’t support timecode out of the box. If footage is not timecoded, the edit becomes a particularly laborious task. Days can be spent manually searching and lining up each shot to sync with each other and with any separately recorded audio.

Let’s consider this in the context of Gold Rush. Gold Rush follows a cast of miners as they race through the Yukon territory in Canada and Colorado in the USA seeking gold. With four or five GoPro cameras mounted on each vehicle, and others scattered around the three main mining sites, around 2,000 memory cards’ worth of content is generated from these GoPro cameras alone during one season of filming. This equates to approximately 5,000 hours of footage that needs to be searched, logged, and synchronized. Without timecode, this is a time-consuming task that can add several extra days to the postproduction process for each individual episode.

Content Floater

On location with SyncBac PRO mounted to HERO4 camera.

Close work with GoPro through the GoPro Developer Program has allowed us to develop SyncBac PRO. By enabling the GoPro camera to generate its own frame-accurate timecode, the SyncBac PRO creates the capability to timecode sync multiple GoPro cameras wirelessly over long-range RF. And if GoPros are being used as part of a wider professional multicamera shoot, such as in Gold Rush, SyncBac PRO also allows GoPro cameras to timecode sync with long-lens and other more traditional main cameras and audio devices using Timecode Systems products. At the end of a shoot, the edit team receives SD cards with frame-accurate timecode embedded into the MP4 file. The impact of this is huge. For example, since adopting SyncBac PRO when filming season eight of Gold Rush, the need to align content manually has been eliminated, delivering significant time and cost savings for the show.

From our conversations with edit teams from the reality genre of program-making, time savings of around 85 percent are being achieved in postproduction as a result of using SyncBac PRO on GoPro cameras. But it's not just editors who appreciate the benefits that synchronization offers. The creative freedom SyncBac PRO allows on set means everyone from the camera operators to the artists in front of the camera feel the benefits.

Going back to Gold Rush as an example; before adopting the SyncBac PRO solution, the crew would visually timecode-slate GoPro cameras to create a sync marker for the edit team. This was a disruptive manual process, and when there was a lot going on, it was simply impossible to stop the action and ask the miners to wait while they got a clapperboard out to slate five GoPros. As a result, the most exciting content was often non-timecoded and therefore the hardest to find and synchronize. Using SyncBac PRO has had a massive impact on the whole production team of Gold Rush, from the minicam operators setting up the GoPros, to the assistant producers scouring through the footage logging shots for key storylines, to the DITs pre-synchronizing content ahead of sending on to postproduction to edit. With sync taken care of, they all have more time to devote to developing the content and using the footage more creatively.

Building on the success of the SyncBac PRO for GoPro HERO4 cameras, Timecode Systems has worked closely with GoPro to develop a new SyncBac PRO for GoPro HERO6 Black. This solution is now available to pre-order and estimated to be shipping mid-December 2017.