Lockit Buddy II And Triton FetHead Phantom

EXTERNAL TIME CODE

Q We’re producing a project using five Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLRs. We’ve already produced several projects utilizing two Canon EOS 5D Mark IIs with a Zoom H4n audio recorder. For this upcoming project, we’ll be recording audio using a Sound Devices 664 audio recorder. The Sound Devices recorder has a built-in time-code generator, and I think that if there were a way to record SMPTE time code with the 5D Mark IIIs, it could save us a lot of time from manually syncing video footage with the audio. Are there any options on the market that will allow the Canon EOS 5D Mark III to record external time code?
Ari R.
Via email

A My first question for you would be to ask which video-editing platform you’re cutting your project on? If you’re editing on Avid or FCP, you’re in luck. Freelance Audiovisual Services has introduced the latest version of the Lockit Buddy, which is designed to do exactly what you’re attempting, but the caveat is that the device has been tested and proven to work only with Avid and Final Cut Pro, so far.

As a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and III user, I agree with your assertion that for shooting with so many cameras, recording time code could save you some significant time in postproduction. I routinely do one- and two-camera shoots with no time code, later syncing the footage from the DSLRs with the audio recorded on a separate audio recorder. But once you move past one or two cameras or onto long-form shooting with multiple takes, syncing with time code would save a lot of time in post. The Lockit Buddy II is a time-code input device for DSLRs and consumer camcorders that accepts standard SMPTE LTC via the built-in BNC connector, and unbalanced line or microphone audio level signal via a 5-pin, mini-XLR (TA5M) connector.

You now also have the option to attach your plug-in power mics directly to the unit via this connector, so you can use your lavalier mics or external camera mics that require powering from the camera. The Lockit Buddy II provides a separate preset attenuation and impedance compensation circuit for both of its line-level inputs (time code and audio) so that any equipment attached is "seeing" the right set of conditions to deliver its signal into, without straining the device’s outputs. In line-level mode, it also cancels out the "plug-in power" being sent back from the camera microphone input to the attached equipment.

As a result, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III is receiving a reliable signal at the level it’s expecting, without the cross-talk associated with sending hot signals down unbalanced connections. Microphone level audio inputs (with or without plug-in power enabled) are unattenuated direct connections to the DSLR’s input. You still need an LTC time-code generator to feed the Lockit Buddy II, but there are several small, 9V battery-powered LTC generators on the market so this isn’t an expensive proposition, either in cost or weight/size.

One limitation of this system for you would be that each camera would require its own Lockit Buddy II and each camera would be tethered to your master time-code generator via a BNC cable. Not a problem if you’re on tripods or a slider, but if you were shooting handheld, you would need to set up an IFB wireless system to transmit the output of the TC generator without being hardwired to the master time-code generator.