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LTC vs. VITC

Defining the Montage
What is a montage?

Contributed by Glen Berry

What is the difference between VITC and LTC Timecode and which one would you advise using?

Actually, if you can get away with it I would use both. There are advantages and disadvantages to either one.

LTC (Longitudinal Time Code) is a continuous signal recorded either on the tape's address track or on an audio track. The higher end formats like D2, Beta SP and 3/4 " have an address track devoted exclusively to Time Code onto which LTC is recorded. On 1/2" tape formats such as VHS and SVHS, there is no separate address track so LTC is recorded onto Channel 1 and appears as a consistent, pulsing tone on a VU meter. An advantage to LTC is that it can be laid down after the fact and changed without damaging the original dub. However, on 1/2" tapes you lose one of your audio tracks which is fine if you only have one mono track of dialogue. Most tape decks have difficulty reading LTC at slow speeds and not at all in freeze frame.

VITC (Vertically Integrated Time Code) is recording on the horizontal position bar between video frames. This means that VITC can only be inserted when the dub or transfer is in progress. One of VITC's faults is that it at times becomes unreadable when searching at high speeds. I was told once that VITC can also bleed into the video frame but I have never heard or seen it happen.

Although I don't know what tape format you are transferring to, if you are creating transfer masters from tape or film I would use matching VITC and LTC assuming that your masters have address tracks. Most labs will do this automatically. I'm assuming that your window burns will be for viewing on a regular VCR. If this is the case, there shouldn't be any TC on your dubs. That is the reason for having the window burn, so that you have the visual matching TC reference numbers without being forced to use a deck that reads TC.

Berry started his career as an editor and post production supervisor, having worked on documentaries for PBS and The Discovery Channel. Berry’s award-winning short fiction, documentary and experimental films have screened at festivals around the world. His first feature film secured a rare worldwide distribution deal and received a limited theatrical release.

The publisher of Film Underground and founder of Northwest Film School, Berry has taught production at Western Washington University and Whatcom Community College. Berry was awarded a Master of Arts in Production and Direction from the National University of Ireland and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Media and Theatre Arts from Montana State University.

Berry’s academic work has been published in scholarly journals as well as trade publications such as MovieMaker Magazine, CyberFilmSchool.com and FilmFestivals.com as well as The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Filmmaking. He is the publisher of Film Underground and has served as an expert source for international newspaper and radio media outlets. Berry twice served as the Director of the Northwest Projections Film Festival and as a panel judge on numerous festivals and competitions.

Glen Berry is the Director of the Northwest Film School where he teaches directing, producing and editing. He has specialized in creative editing and post production techniques with independent film. His interests include the cognitive functions of the mind as it applies to motion picture editing as well as new forms of communications in the visual arts.

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