Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Arri Time Code

>Anyone used Arri's SMPTE Time Code lately on their SR-III's ? Any strong opinions either way versus Aaton Code ?

>Last time I used Time Code Sync was with an Aaton XTR in '94, and it worked very well since the 1st AC and the Sound Mixer were anal about Jamming Time Code.

>Also, is there still much resistance in Post/Telecine in Auto-Synching with this Technology? It'd be good to hear personal experiences on this. Seems like it gives more telecine time to actually timing the picture. It's also useful for filming incognito and not have to clap a slate ALL the time.

Mark DP
Los Angeles, California


>I think far more post houses can handle Aatoncode than can handle Arri's code.

Jeff Kreines


>I had the first SR3 timecoded camera in Australia - having for a long time in the eighties tried to get an SR to actually work with code. It was only because of the Super 16 revolution that we swung back to AATONs in the late eighties - because they actually worked trouble free on Super 16 and with them came this wonderful timecode on film system called AatonCode.

>I've used AatonCode now extensively for 6 years and I can honestly say its better than sliced bread - I will not shoot sound without it. We've now converted both our Arri35BL cameras to AatonCode as well.

>AatonCode is definately the world standard in timecode on film.
It's available on all AATON SUPER 16 XTR cameras, many PANAVISION cameras, converted ARRI35BL and MOVIECAM cameras.

On 16mm AatonCode has major advantages over ArriCode, these are :


* AatonCode is a large rugged code 10 times bigger than ArriCode
* AatonCode is NOT susceptable to scratching dirt and damage like ArriCode is.
* AatonCode is laid down on the film safely between the sprocket holes on 16mm, along side with the Kodak Keycode. ArriCode sits on the thin working edge of the SUPER 16mm frame, where all the rollers run right over the top of it eventually wearing it out.
* AatonCode is recorded in the camera gate to ensure a fixed and locked code position to the picture. ArriCode is recorded in the magazine and is at the mercy of variations in loop size despite electronic correction. This will potentially mean they may be variations in sync at gate checks and apparently circuitry to monitor this.
* AatonCode has both machine readable and eye readable code. ArriCode is only machine readable.
* AatonCode carries with it a pile of usefull information including :
- SMPTE timecode at camera selectable speed.
- the date
- the camera number
- the magazine ID
- the production number
ArriCode only carries the time and userbits.


* AatonCode is not nearly as sensitive as ArriCode to exposure variations - AatonCode is very kind here with heeps of latitude.
* AatonCode exposure variations can be compensated for on KeyLink's exposure control - ArriCode has no control.
* AatonCode is very easy to use as a system - ArriCode to work needs to use AATON's operational system, ie the ORIGIN C+ MasterClock.
* AatonCode users can be confident that code is being recorded because they can see it work at any gate check - ArriCode you just have to hope its working because you cannot see it working.
* AatonCode generates a comrehensive database that can be integrated with ScriptLink - ArriCode cannot carry the same amount of info.
* AatonCode integrates completely into the AATON KEYLINK post system, ArriCode's post system consists of a reader head and a black box with a light on it - there is no ARRI system - you have to use AATON's
* AatonCode's reader head does NOT touch the film - The ArriCode reader head is a series of rollers that potentially can damage the film and alter the stability of the telecine.
* AatonCode is totally reliable enabling slate free operation - We reccommend that ArriCode users always use slates as back up.
* AatonCode is very very fast to use.

>Every major post house here in Australia and New Zealand now has AatonCode reading with AATON's Keylink.

>Many of our long forms shows all sync with AatonCode in telecine and record straight to AVID despite the DAT machines being a little slow at chasing.
After Easter however this and pre roll will be a thing of the past as we will start getting the new AATON INSTASYNC system for KeyLink and INDAW - so the sound is there on the flash frame without waiting. No more colourists buggerising around with sound when they should be looking after your pictures!

>If you want an electronically generated slate on the first few frames of a shot you can use AATON's VIRTUAL SLATE, generated on KeyLink

>You can get more info on it if you're interested off AATON's web site.

John Bowring
Lemac Film & Video, Australia


>Check with Steve Vananda at Foto Kem (818) 846-3101. Baywatch Nights was shot with Arri 16SR III's and used Arri timecode-on-film extensively. They were ramming so much film through the Arri TC equipped telecine room that I couldn't get the work transferred I was doing with Arri TC on my 535!

>Bill Bennett


>AatonCode is definately the world standard in timecode on film.
>It's available on all AATON SUPER 16 XTR cameras, many PANAVISION cameras, >converted ARRI35BL and MOVIECAM cameras.

>So how expensive is it to put into my antique 35BL1? (And why can't you put it in a 16BL?)

Jeff "too curious" Kreines


>We did our AatonCode upgrades for our 35BLs a while ago with other upgrades but I think the AatonCode part all up cost around 10K.

>And as much as I love the old 16BL too Jeff, even if it were possible to Aatonize, I think its better left on the mantle piece as a reminder of what caused your bad back.

>John Bowring
Lemac Film & Video, Australia


>So how expensive is it to put into my antique 35BL1? (And why can't you put it in a >{Word Deleted due to sensitivity to Geoff} .

I've heard tell, that there isn't enough room in the SR to put the LED's in the Gate area, or anywhere on the aperture plate, due to the reg pin and the rest of the movement. I have no confirmation on this rumor.

>Steven Gladstone


>The method used in the Arri-SR III is quite fascinating, in that there's a little "range finder" that determines where the loop is so that it writes accurately to the film (look at the base of the camera where the bottom loop would be...there's a little window on the bottom of the Mag, if I remember correctly).

>Mark


>In response to John Bowring's extended "rant" re Arri's TC-on-film system vs. Aaton's:

>I have been successfully utilizing Arri TC on Film with my 535A for 5 years and 435's for 2 years. Oh yes, that's the 35mm version.

>Baywatch Nights ran thousands and thousands of feet of 16mm Arri TC-on-film over the course of several seasons.

>I doubt they would have continued using the system for years if it "didn't work."

>Bill Bennett


>Mark Doering-Powell writes:

>The never manufactured Vinten-Coutant camera was going to use a series of punches to permanently punch the timecode into the film. Then it could be read by mechanical contact switches, rather than optically. Only problem was, the punches they used required a continuous source of compressed air, so the cameraperson had to wear two cans of DUST OFF on their belt, and have a little hose to the camera. While workable, concern for the ozone layer killed off the project.

>I think that keeping it simple (like Aaton does) means far fewer problems in the future. "Fascinating" isn't as good as "simple," IMHO.

>Jeff "Rube Goldberg Lives! In Munich!" Kreines


>Jeff's clever posts are always good ones.

>I've never had the good fortune of actually using the Time Code on an Arri-SR-III (althought the cameras themselves are solid). Like I said in one of my last posts, last time I did TC, was Aaton XTR's, and it performed flawlessly.

>I am leaning towards the Aaton XTR for TC work, but am still considering the SR-II's & LTR's otherwise - somebody has to, why not the productions with the least money: THIS ONE !

>I'll pick simple over fascinating, but it's still impressive that the fascinating SR-III TC method actually works reliably...it just never seemed to have caught on very well, not to mention that Aaton has been at the TC thing a bit longer.

>Mark


John Bowring :

>I've used AatonCode now extensively for 6 years and I can honestly say its better >than sliced bread -

--jp, I reckon this post must surely have paid back your sponsorship of CML many times over! Don't you?

>Shangara Singh.


>Ah, so I do not check for 3 days, and all hell breaks loose. Following is a bunch of answers to some of the questioons and claims made here regarding Arri TC. I have split it up into speparate emails to address specific previous posts.

>Anyone used Arri's SMPTE Time Code lately on their SR-III's ?

>Feel free to call me (773 252 8003) with further questions about Arri TC.

>Arri TC is very popular in Europe, where a lot of TV is shot in Super 16 with SR-3's and Arri TC. The rate of adoption is a little slower in the US.

>TC is currently used for concert footage and for synching audio in post. In a concert situation it is one of the simplest way to sync all the cameras.
In post, the process of Synching audio is sped up by using TC, often to the point where the audio is transferred simultaneously with the image, thus saving one step.

>I was recently involved in a documentary on the Rolling Stones (they gave a "secret" concert here in Chicago in a small night club before their big performance), and both the night club (chaos) and the actual big performance (even more choas) was shot with SR-3s using Arri TC.

>People are pondering further uses of TC, the most popular one being the idea of making a rough edits from the video assist tape, and then transferring only selected parts of the negative to video. Big savings in time (editing can be done earlier than previously) and in money (you do not have to transfer everything, just what you determined is useful in your rough edit) could be achieved. This has actually been tried by some courageous pioneers (Jon Fauer being one of them), and is being very actively investigated by at least one big US production company (I cannot tell you their name, but the force is with them,...), and is always a fun subject to breach on any party (Say, what is 23.976 fps for?).

>The question of Aaton vs. Arri TC is not really a question any more, since the Aaton Keylink (a wonderful complete post solution JP has given us) can also process Arri TC. Believe it or not, in this regard the French and the German technology are actually working together. So which TC system to use should not really influence your decision of what camera to use.

>The tricky question with TC is always: does the post house know how to use it? Unfortunately, too few post houses carry either the Arri TC reader head or the Aaton keylink system, but there are slowly more and more. If you have a shoot involving Arri TC, and the post house of choice does not havean Arri TC reader head, call me, and I will see what I can arrange. As always, and especially with something as inherently complex as TC, shoot tests and let the tests go through the whole production and post production process to make sure everyone is on the same page.

>Marc Shipman-Mueller, Technical Representative
Arriflex Corporation; 1646 N. Oakley Ave, Suite #2, Chicago, IL 60647-5319, USA


A minor correction :

>Arri publishes a nifty brochure which you can get from ARRI's TC guru
>Russ Gunther, Manager of Technical

Russ does not work for Arri anymore. I have been declared responsible for TC now. Call me with any questions (773 252 8003) or send email
(msmueller@arri.com).

>Marc Shipman-Mueller, Technical Representative
Arriflex Corporation; 1646 N. Oakley Ave, Suite #2, Chicago, IL 60647-5319, USA


>I think the big question is this, how does it hold up since it is recorded inthe mag? It >is my understandig that there needs to be a sensor to measure the loop so that it is >frame accurate (In 16mm)?

>Recording the TC in the mag works very reliably.

>The position of the TC in the 16SR 3 is determined by a sensor in the camera that looks through a small window in the bottom of the magazine and measures the loop size with an infrared beam. The film will not record this particular wavelength, by the way. This sensor ensures that the distance between image and TC is constant on the film. Contrary to popular opinion this is not very complicated technology, nor has it been the cause of any problems I know of. It is simply one of those things that works and that you forget about.

>The recording intensity is set via a TCS (Timecode sensitivity) number on the magazine. This is almost like ASA, but not quiet, since the LED is only one color (orange), and ASA gives the senitivity for white light. Setting a special senitivity number for each film stock ensures that the LED is exposing the TC barcode at exactly the proper intensity. A table of TCS numbers is distributed with all literature we give out (Quick Guides, manual, etc), and is also available in the web (http://www.arri.com) in the Technical Information pages.

>Marc Shipman-Mueller, Technical Representative
Arriflex Corporation; 1646 N. Oakley Ave, Suite #2, Chicago, IL 60647-5319, USA


>AatonCode is definately the world standard in timecode on film. It's available on all >AATON SUPER 16 XTR cameras, many PANAVISION cameras, converted >ARRI35BL and MOVIECAM cameras.

>If you measure what is the world standard by how many cameras are in circulation, Arri's implementation of the SMPTE TC is the world standard.
We have sold many more Arri cameras than there are Panavision cameras out there (by a ridiculously large factor, simply because we sell and they rent), and all our new cameras are TC capable. The difference is that the Aaton cameras are bought by very vocal (like Jeff "me vocal, no way"Kreines :-) ) individual owners (this is what they were designed for in the first place. The cameras, not the owners. ), and our cameras are sold to rental houses who spent most of their time renting the cameras. In addition, very few Panavision or Moviecam cameras are actually equipped with the AatonCode system, whereas EVERY new generation Arri camera has TC built in.

>On 16mm AatonCode has major advantages over ArriCode, these are:

>Again I disagree. Plus, this discussion is adademic. What counts in the end is if there is proper TC coming out of the system in post, and that works fine for both systems. But, since I was never one to shy away from a useless academic discussion (just ask my wife), lets look at your claims point by point.

>* AatonCode is a large rugged code 10 times bigger than ArriCode
>* AatonCode is NOT susceptable to scratching dirt and damage like ArriCode is.

>This may have been a factor decades ago when the TC reading equippment was not as accurate as it is now, but is irrelevant nowadays. As any information on negative film, both are susceptible to scratches and dirt.
Both systems have algorithms in the reading process that validate the data and make sure that you are getting proper TC, even IF there are scratches
and dirt.

>* AatonCode is laid down on the film safely between the sprocket holes on 16mm, >along side with the Kodak Keycode. ArriCode sits on the thin working edge of the >SUPER 16mm frame, where all the rollers run right over the top of it eventually >wearing it out.

>Both systems have advantages and disadvantages. The Aaton system keeps a very close physical connection between the image and the TC number, but there is the danger of having something else but the light from the lens expose your film in the gate. The Arri system records the TC in the magazine, where we can control the light much better (I am not saying this is the reason this approach was adopted, but it is one of the results). To "wear out" the Arri barcode on the film you would have to run the negative so many times through your telecine, that this becomes a mute point.

>* AatonCode is recorded in the camera gate to ensure a fixed and locked code >position to the picture. ArriCode is recorded in the magazine and is at the mercy of >variations in loop size despite electronic correction. This will potentially mean they >may be variations in sync at gate checks and apparently circuitry to monitor this.

>The 16SR 3 has an infrared sensor that measures the loop length and then records the TC on film so that the offset between TC and image is always constant. This sytem is there so that the offset stays constant between gate checks and magazinesl.

>Also: Because of delays in the signal paths of any telecine suite, there is always an offset between the TC and the image signals that the telecine operator will have to deal with, disreagrding of where the code is recorded physically on film. I believe this offset can be adjusted very nicely in the Aaton Keylink system, by the way.

>* AatonCode has both machine readable and eye readable code. ArriCode is only >machine readable.

>True. This is an advantage when testing the TC system. It does not matter so much in telecine, since there the TC will be read by a machine for both systems.

>* AatonCode carries with it a pile of usefull information including:
> - SMPTE timecode at camera selectable speed.
> - the date
> - the camera number
> - the magazine ID
> - the production number
> ArriCode only carries the time and userbits.

>Even though there is some information that can be encoded in the Aatoncode that cannot be directly encoded in standard SMPTE TC, the following information CAN be found in SMPTE TC:

>- Timecode at camera selectable speeds
- the date (if placed in userbits)
- the camera number (if placed in userbits

>We have decided to stick with the standard SMPTE TC for Arri cameras to remain compatible with the rest of the world. As indicated above, you can certainly write the date and the camera number in the userbits of SMPTE TC, which leaves only the magazine ID and the production number. And here we have, I believe, also a better mouse trap: the Laptop Camera Controller can record the TC in and out times for every take automatically in a camera report. These cameras reports can contain other automatically recorded information (TC in, TC out, userbits, fps, shutter angle, feet per take, total footage run, frame in, frame out, time of day, name of speed/exposure program run ) and some manually entered information ( including: scene, take, MOS, INT/EXT, notes, filtes, etc).

>* AatonCode is not nearly as sensitive as ArriCode to exposure variations - >AatonCode is very kind here with heeps of latitude.

>* AatonCode exposure variations can be compensated for on KeyLink's exposure >control - ArriCode has no control.

>I just talked with a tech at Abel Cinetech in NY (Aaton rental house/dealer) and he said that even though the Aaton sytstem has lots of theoretical exposure latitude, he tries to discourage people from being too lax about it. The reason is that when your TC exposure is off, other problems that did not affect the validity of the TC data before can become critical. He said that even though the Aaton system is listed as having 2 - 3 stops of latitude, he recommends staying within 1.5 stops. The Arri system is listed as having 2 stops latitude. This does not sound like such a big difference to me.

>* AatonCode is very easy to use as a system - ArriCode to work needs to use >AATON's operational system, ie the ORIGIN C+ MasterClock.

>Au contraire. The Aaton system will ONLY work with the Origin C+ MasterClock, whereas the Arri system will work with ANY TC device that uses standard SMPTE TC, including the OriginC+ MasterClock. This is a great advantage - any DAT, Nagra, GPS system, you name it with a TC in or out can work with the Arri cameras. All you need is a cable to connect the two. The Aaton system is dependant on the OriginC+ Masterclock to translate standard SMPTE TC into the Aaton proprietary format. If you forget your OriginC+, you cannot do TC with anAaton camera. Since standard SMPTE TC is used widely in television and the scientific community, there is a wealth of SMPTE TC gadgets out there. I was just last week talking with a gentleman who is interfacing a 435 to a GPS system. Turns out that Horita has a GPS data to SMPTE TC converter box. But that is another story.

>* AatonCode users can be confident that code is being recorded because they can >see it work at any gate check - ArriCode you just have to hope its working because >you cannot see it working.

>It is true that you can see the LEDs on Aaton cameras and not on Arri cameras. This gives the AC on the set some peace of mind. But I think this issue would be mis-represented if I did not point out that this only shows you that SOMETHING is being recorded on film. As anyone knows who has worked with TC, it is far more important to know that the correct data is being recorded. The only way to verify that is by shooting tests and running it through the full production and post-production chain, which is something I would recommend to anyone who is planning on shooting TC, disregarding the camera's manufacturer.

>* AatonCode generates a comrehensive database that can be integrated with >ScriptLink - ArriCode cannot carry the same amount of info.

>Not true. See LCC notes above. More information about the LCC can be found at http://www.arri.com, in the subsidiaries/Arriflex Corporation pages.

>* AatonCode integrates completely into the AATON KEYLINK post system, ArriCode's >post system consists of a reader head and a black box with a light on it - there is no >ARRI system - you have to use AATON's

>True. And the Aaton system works also with Arri SMPTE TC, so you can have the best of both worlds.

>* AatonCode's reader head does NOT touch the film - The ArriCode reader head is a >series of rollers that potentially can damage the film and alter the stability of the >telecine.

>I have worked with various telecine houses here in the US, and am in constant contact with my collegues in Europe. We are not aware of any problems that have occured because of the extra rollers in the film path.

>* AatonCode is very very fast to use.

>Well, since the Arri cameras can work with any SMPTE TC system, including the OriginC+ MasterClock, we can be at least as fast as the Aaton system, n'est pas?

>Marc Shipman-Mueller, Technical Representative
Arriflex Corporation; 1646 N. Oakley Ave, Suite #2, Chicago, IL 60647-5319, USA


>I've heard tell, that there isn't enough room in the SR to put the LED's in the Gate >area, or anywhere on the aperture plate, due to the reg pin and the rest of the >movement. I have no confirmation on this rumor.

>I do not know if there is or is not enough room in the SR3. Arri/SMPTE Timecode was introduce with the 535A anyway, a while before the introduction of the SR 3.

>The reason the Arri/SMPTE TC is not recorded in the gate area is as follows: We decided to implement the SMPTE recommended standard for TC on film. This standard specifies a linear barcode on the film. Recording a linear barcode is very difficult in the gate area, since there the film moves intermittently. It is much easier to do in a place where the film moves in a linear fashion, like in the magazine (16SR 3) or before the top loop (535A, 535B, 435). The Arri/SMPTE barcode is recorded by an LED that blinks on and off at certain intervals. This is fairly straight forward technology. The Aaton TC matrix is recorded in a different fashion, since it is recorded in the gate area, and since it is one symbol for each block of data, rather than a continuous barcode. I do not think that one system is inherently superior to the other, they are just different approaches to the same problem.

>Marc Shipman-Mueller, Technical Representative
Arriflex Corporation; 1646 N. Oakley Ave, Suite #2, Chicago, IL 60647-5319, USA


>Marc Shipman-Mueller writes:

> (like Jeff "me vocal, no way"

>Moi? Vocal? Non!

>You must have mistaken me for John Snopes.

>Jeff "I'll shut up now" Kreines


Just a bit of history :


In fact there is room in the SR gate for a TC recording LED and indeed that is where the LED was originally placed in both the SR1 and SR2 cameras.


The SR1 cameras could use a system which consisted of four lights , which could record the old EBU time code.


When the SMPTE TC system was adopted, the LED was again placed in the gate area. The problem, as Mark points out, is that the transport of the film here is intermittent, with associated acceleration and deceleration of the film which needed to be compensated for with regards the speed of the flashing LED and it's intensity, in order to control exposure. This was achieved, but only via the use of a complicated processor which had to be housed in a separate, very expensive, and not very small box, which had to be mounted on the side of the camera. Only a limited number of these boxes were produced by Arri, and most of them were used in the UK. The whole system at that time was designed to be used as part of a package called VAFE (Video Assisted Film Editing) - novel huh? A great idea but somewhat reminiscent of the old gag about the wonderful wrist watch which did everything but needed a sack barrow to carry the batteries !


The advent of the new generation Arri cameras provided the possibilty for recording the TC at a site where the film travelled at a constant speed. The actual code used however remained the same SMPTE as used in the SR2 and BL4.

Alan Piper
Panavision Cine-Europe

P.S
You can easily check if the SR3 TC LED if 'working' - mag on camera, no film, open the small lens carrier in the film take-up side of the mag.


Poke a small piece of paper into the open slot and run the camera. You can see the red light flashing, or not as the case may be.