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Choosing the Timecode Display Format

Atop the Timeline is the time ruler, which has a control a_icon.jpg that lets you determine how time is displayed. For most producers, the choice comes down to the top two options in the drop-down menu grey_a_icon.jpg, Drop-Frame Timecode and Non Drop-Frame Timecode. Which should you use?


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a_icon.jpg Your choices for timecode display format (when timecode, rather than audio time units, is selected).

The short answer is that if you’re producing a video that has to precisely match a particular time—like a program that’s exactly an hour long, or a 30-second commercial—use drop-frame timecode. If you don’t care that your 10-minute video actually takes .6 seconds longer, then use Non Drop-Frame Timecode or whichever timecode was used by your source format.

Here’s why: Interestingly, the timecode on tape has nothing to do with time. Rather, the timecodes mark specific frames in the video, which occur at 29.97 frames per second, or every 1/29.97 of a second. Which means that 30 frames of 29.97 video actually takes 29.97/30 of a second, which is pretty close to a second, but not quite. Over time, the differences add up. For example, at 1:00:00:00 (one hour of video), the actual time that has elapsed is 60 minutes and 3.6 seconds, a difference insufficient to bother anyone who’s not broadcasting on a regular schedule, but worth paying attention to if your production demands more precision.

To correct this, drop-frame timecode skips ahead two frames every minute except for every tenth minute. No frames are actually dropped, but at minute one, for example, the timecode will jump from 00;00;59;29 to 00;01;00;02. In non drop-frame timecode, the progression is from 00:00:59:29 to 00:01:00:00. So if you need your hour-long video to be exactly an hour, use drop-frame timecode. If you don’t, follow the timecode of the source footage.

And yes, sharp-eyed readers, drop-frame timecode is shown with semicolons (;) separating the digital pairs, whereas non drop-frame timecode uses colons (:).

To choose a timecode display format

  1. Hover your pointer over the timecode in either the Timeline or the Program Monitor, and your pointer will change to a hand with two black arrows. Do not click b_icon.jpg.

    b_icon.jpg Hover your pointer over the timecode. Do not click.

  2. Right-click, and the timecode display options will appear grey_a_icon.jpg.
  3. Choose the desired timecode display format.

    Premiere Pro changes the time ruler display.

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