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#1 Jim Simon

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 10:22 AM

From a Wikipedia page...

"Sync-sound cameras are able to both maintain a constant speed (usually crystal lock) and run quietly enough not to be heard by the sound recordist."

Now, I noticed there's a company that will modify sound Super 8 cameras for crystal sync recording. I'm confused by this. It seems to me that any sound camera would need to be crystal locked by default right out of the factory. The same would apply to any and all sound projectors. Otherwise, if you don't have both camera and projector locked, playback pitch would vary.

So why would any modifications be needed for a sound camera, like the Canon 1014 XL-S for instance? How can you manufacture a sound camera without crystal locked frame rate? Especially your top-of-the-line model? That's a little like building a DV camera that won't record at precisely 29.97 fps. It makes no sense.

Amy I missing something here?
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#2 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 11:44 AM

Sound Super-8 cameras used sound film so the audio was directly recorded onto the film at the time of filming. A difference in filming speed from standard crystal sync speed basically became a non-issue because of sound film (film with a recordable magnetic audio track). Some super-8 double system sound methods involved actually having the super-8 camera sending out one pulse per frame and that pulse would be sent via a cable to an audio recorder. The pulse would control the speed of the recorder, clever but strange, and more trouble than just incorporating crystal sync but a much less expensive method for achieving double system sound.
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#3 Jim Simon

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 12:02 PM

A difference in filming speed from standard crystal sync speed basically became a non-issue because of sound film (film with a recordable magnetic audio track).


I don't agree. Having sound locked to picture is only half the issue. Because unless the camera manufacturer could guarantee that all sound projectors would play at the exact same speed as their non crystal-synced camera, there would be a difference in pitch for audio playback. Thus the seeming absolute requirement that all sound cameras and projectors would require precise frame rates.

Did manufacturers actually miss this fairly obvious concept?

Assuming they did, what are users' experiences recording synced sound with a good camera - Canon 1014, Nizo 6080, etc. Was crystal sync modification (which ain't cheap) really necessary for accurate post-production?

Edited by Jim Simon, 12 April 2007 - 12:07 PM.

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#4 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 01:55 PM

What about audiocassettes, they pretty much ruled for a over a decade and every major label released their recordings on audiocassettes, which exhibit the exact same issues that you bring up.
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#5 Jim Simon

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 02:56 PM

Audio cassette playback variations were pretty small - only a few hundredths of a percent.

If non-crystal sound cameras also exhibit such small variations in frame rate, I won't worry much about it. With a 2.5 minute shooting limitation per cart (24fps), there's not enough time for things to go out of sync.

I guess the next part of this question is to learn from other users their experience shooting sound with a top flight sound camera without the crystal sync modification. Please share.
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#6 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 03:13 PM

I don't agree. Having sound locked to picture is only half the issue. Because unless the camera manufacturer could guarantee that all sound projectors would play at the exact same speed as their non crystal-synced camera, there would be a difference in pitch for audio playback. Thus the seeming absolute requirement that all sound cameras and projectors would require precise frame rates.

Did manufacturers actually miss this fairly obvious concept?


No they didn't miss anything, many audio divices from the old analogue days, records, various tape formats did not run at constant speed. they were kind of close. The thing is, there is a built in margin of error because we humans are just not sensitive to a certain range of pitch shifting, speeding up slowing down. So the cameras and projectors just need to be within that fairly good range of error and we will never know the difference, as long as the changes are not too sudden.

On single system sound the picture and audio were married in camera so if the projector speeds up and slows down a bit, we just can't see it, since the chainges are typically fairly small and picture and sound are changing at the same rate.

Assuming they did, what are users' experiences recording synced sound with a good camera - Canon 1014, Nizo 6080, etc. Was crystal sync modification (which ain't cheap) really necessary for accurate post-production?


What us humans are very sensitive to is how lips look when people are speaking. Even average film goers can start to see a loss of sync if its 2 - 3 frames off. A really good sound person can see 1/2 a frame or even 1/4 of a frame (at least that's what they will tell you.)

These days all digital audio IS constant speed, so if your record sound to a DAT and flim on a super 8 camera, in post you will be speeding up and slowing down picture to match audio. All non-sync cameras will drift. If the drift is in one direction and of a fairly constant rate, syncing in post is not too bat but it may take some effort, head and tail slates are important. If your camera speeds up AND slows down across a take then syncing is a mess and it will take a long time, if you can do it at all.

I have a Beaulieu 5008s and when I shot sync sound with it, it held sync for over a minute in some scenes. But, as they say your results may vary.


Audio cassette playback variations were pretty small - only a few hundredths of a percent.


Where did you hear that? My experience is that the speeds differ greatly from player to player, far more that hundredths of a percent. Maybe under 10% but higher than 1% for sure.
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#7 Jim Simon

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 04:03 PM

Where did you hear that?


From Wikipedia.

"A typical modern cassette recorder may have a wow and flutter specification of 0.08%"

This seems pretty consistent with cassette deck specs I recall reading back in the day.

And thanks for sharing your experience with the 5008. Anyone else care to chime in?
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#8 ryan_bennett

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 04:07 PM

Just curious, which super 8 cams are the ones that are sound sync (double system) or have a pulse? Definitely interesting in getting one.
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#9 Clive Tobin

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 06:50 PM

... "A typical modern cassette recorder may have a wow and flutter specification of 0.08%"...


You are confused. A wow and flutter spec is not the same thing as speed error. Wow and flutter is rapid deviation from the average speed. The cassette deck or super-8 sound camera is often off-speed by a percent or more, with the wow and flutter on top of that. Many 16mm sound projectors run a couple of percent fast at the start of a large reel and wind up about correct at the end.

Unless the listener has perfect pitch, an overall speed error needs to be about 5% before it becomes glaringly obvious.
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#10 Antonio Bunt

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 06:53 PM

To me limited knowledge, there are no crystal sync Super 8 cameras per se. I read somewhere that the one that have flash synchro can be connected to devides that keep the camera in sync. Who knows? I own the Elmo 1012 with a crystal sync attachment by The Film Group. The funny thing is that I have never used the sync sound features of my camera.
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#11 Hal Smith

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 07:06 PM

So why would any modifications be needed for a sound camera, like the Canon 1014 XL-S for instance? How can you manufacture a sound camera without crystal locked frame rate? Especially your top-of-the-line model? That's a little like building a DV camera that won't record at precisely 29.97 fps. It makes no sense.

I have a Nizo factory service manual with some third party documentation for a crystal sync adapter for a 4056/6056. If you know an electronics type who knows how to prototype equipment you could DIY.
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#12 Bernhard Zitz

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 07:17 PM

I have a Nizo factory service manual with some third party documentation for a crystal sync adapter for a 4056/6056. If you know an electronics type who knows how to prototype equipment you could DIY.


Do you have this on your computer? would be very nice to share...
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#13 Hal Smith

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 07:21 PM

Do you have this on your computer? would be very nice to share...

Not yet, I'll scan it when I get a chance and see how it comes out.
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#14 Jim Simon

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 07:38 PM

You are confused. A wow and flutter spec is not the same thing as speed error. Wow and flutter is rapid deviation from the average speed.


Actually, Flutter is the rapid deviation, Wow is defined as "Slow variation in the pitch of a sound reproduction resulting from variations in the speed of the recording or reproducing equipment." So .08% speed deviation for a cassette ain't that bad. More than 1% for a camera sucks.

Can anyone share their experience recording sound without a crystal synced camera? Just trying to get an idea if I should budget for the mod, or if I might possibly get away without.
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#15 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 13 April 2007 - 12:28 AM

Actually, Flutter is the rapid deviation, Wow is defined as "Slow variation in the pitch of a sound reproduction resulting from variations in the speed of the recording or reproducing equipment." So .08% speed deviation for a cassette ain't that bad. More than 1% for a camera sucks.

Can anyone share their experience recording sound without a crystal synced camera? Just trying to get an idea if I should budget for the mod, or if I might possibly get away without.



I synced up Canon Scoopic 16mm footage that had been transferred to video. Once I knew which way the footage was drifting, I found I could double the time the footage stayed in sync by letting the sync drift into perfect sync, then out. I found that to be much better than syncing up the clapboard perfectly and then the footage was almost out by the first line of dialogue.

Sync would hold from anywhere from 7-10 seconds on the low end, to as much as 45 seconds to 1 minute.
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#16 Jim Simon

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Posted 13 April 2007 - 11:30 AM

Thanks Alessandro.

Anyone else try recording sound using a high end Super 8 without crystal sync modification? How'd it go?
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#17 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 13 April 2007 - 11:31 AM

Can anyone share their experience recording sound without a crystal synced camera? Just trying to get an idea if I should budget for the mod, or if I might possibly get away without.


As I mentioned I've had some success shooting without a sync camera. I had never shot wild sync prior to doing so with my 5008, I was fairly pleased with the results of wild sync but its not for everyone. After making this decision, I think the decision to shoot non-sync has three elements:

1) What kind of shooter are you, long takes or short takes? The more takes you have over 30sec in duration the more sense it makes to get the better camera.

2) Production issues: Will you have a crew (an A.C.) and be shooting in an environment that will allow you to get head and tail slates for every shot? The more run and gun you are the more sense a crystal camera makes.

3) Post: What will post production look like for you? Do you have lots of time and a sound editor who does not mind syncing challenges? Or are you short on time / need results quickly? The tighter your post schedule the more sense a crystal camera makes.

Frankly, the investment in a crystal controlled camera is not that great. $900 on the low end $2,000 on the high end.

My feeling is that if you are shooting a real project, the investment of say $1,000 up front to shoot on a crystal controlled camera is completely worth it if it means fewer headaches in post.

Also keep in mind that the majority of super 8 cameras are pretty loud for sync work so if you are shooting interiors, consider having a barney made. this will cost a few hundred dollars but not having to be constantly evaluating every shot for camera noise on set, and later trying to remove it in post, is again going to be worth it.

Of course its all about choices right? Many folks choose to shoot with a non-sync camera because they would rather invest their time in post production, than their money in pre-production.

anyway, best of luck.
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#18 Jim Simon

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Posted 13 April 2007 - 01:55 PM

Frankly, the investment in a crystal controlled camera is not that great. $900 on the low end $2,000 on the high end.


The Film Group will do it for $500, and I thought that was excessive. For $2,000 I could probably go with 16mm.

Thanks for sharing, though.

Anyone else?
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#19 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 13 April 2007 - 02:52 PM

Another option is if to find a digital frame speed counter that tells you what you the exact film rate you were filming at for each take. I've been very happey with a digital frame counter but I don't own one that actually records the frames per second.
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#20 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 13 April 2007 - 02:57 PM

The Film Group will do it for $500, and I thought that was excessive. For $2,000 I could probably go with 16mm.


A good way to consider the costs is:

- Camera such as canon 1014XLs from ebay: $450 - $700

-Servicing the camera(cleaning, lube) : $200 - $300

-Crystal conversion: $500

-Sound Barney: $200 - $300

So that's about $1350 on the low side to do the job correctly. Plenty of people will say you don't need a barney, or to have your camera serviced but every corner we cut can come back to haunt us later.


Being able to have a camera converted for $500 is not at all excessive. Its very difficult if not impossible to find a *reliable* sync 16mm camera (with necesary additions) for $2000. If your shoot is short you can certainly find a rental for a o.k. package for that amount.
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