A film written and directed by Mike Figgis. It is something of an experimental film. It was one of the first (the first?) films to be shot using only digital cameras. The experiment is that the screen is divided in to quadrants thus you are able to watch the actions of four characters at the same time. What is even more interesting is that none of the four cameras cut for even a moment throughout the entire 90+ minutes of the film. Your attention is directed to one of the four quadrants by the sound, although sometimes it is more fun to watch one of the quadrants where the sound is turned down. Kind of interesting.

Self-referential, of course; a film about a film, yet it's not film but zeros and ones. Some pretentious crap about avant-garde Russians cutting film into cheese, educating the audience to synthesize the dialectic and lots of pretty women kissing. A dream in four dimensions.

One continuous shot is what it took, and it was the gun which shot out of the movie and stalled my stereo. Synchronicity is what Figgis was looking for, and I'd say it worked. Not a split second before or after, the tape deck feeding from the sound card got shot, reversed, and started again. Bravo!

With a small 't', timecode is a numerical system used in video editing.

SMPTE (pronounced "simpty") timecode, used in conjunction with a videotape's control track, assigns every frame of video on a tape a unique number. Every frame has it's own "name", which is spelled out in hours, minutes, seconds and frames. It looks like this:

01:34:15:29
which is read as "one hour, thirty-four minutes, fifteen seconds and 29 frames".

Timecode counts upward as you are used to time doing, with 60 seconds to the minute and 60 minutes to the hour. There are 30 frames to the second...

Kind of. This is where things get funky.

There are two types of timecode. One is called Non-Drop Frame and the other is called (not surprisingly) Drop Frame. Non-Drop Frame, or NDF timecode, uses the simple 30 frames per second counting system. This was devised because people refer to NTSC video as having a frame rate of 30 frames per second (fps). Unfortunately, it doesn't. It did originally, but it hasn't since color TV was invented.

NTSC video's frame rate is actually 29.97 fps.

As such, if one is using NDF timecode, a discrepancy between the timecode and the actual "absolute time" runtime of the video footage appears, and worsens as time goes on. At a rate of .03 frames per second that adds up pretty quickly, and if you're brodcasting video on television you want to be able to keep track of exactly how long your programs are running.

The Drop Frame timecode system was devised to combat this problem. It's a way of "faking" the timecode to resync it with absolute time. The formula is fairly simple:
All :00 and :01 frames are dropped at each minute rollover, except if the minute ends in a zero.

Voila! You're back in sync with absolute time!

Either system gets the job done, and the one chosen usually depends on the application.

  • If you're editing for release on video or broadcast, you usually use Drop Frame.
  • If you're editing something that has been shot on film and will need to have negative conformed from your cut (i.e. you're going to have a film print made in the end), or will need to do another film-to-tape transfer for an online edit, Non-Drop Frame is used. You get more individual frame "names" out of Non-Drop Frame, and the absolute time is irrelevant.

Timecode is also used to keep track of all the tapes you're using in an edit. The "hour" portion of the timecode is usually preset to be equal to the assigned number of the tape. Of course, you can only do this for 25 tapes (if you use hour 00), but it's helpful.

Film: Timecode
Year: 2000
Rating: 2/5
Summary: An interesting novelty, but not an interesting story.

Timecode is impressive in many ways, but that doesn't matter because the people who made it failed to remember one of the most basic rules of filmmaking: don't tell a simple story in an interesting way; tell an interesting story in a simple way.

It's filmed in just four shots, much like Alfred Hitchcock's Rope appears to be filmed in just one, only you see all four shots simultaneously, constantly watching the point of view of four separate characters. It's impressive that four shots as long as an entire film each were performed without mistakes, without even getting a cameraman in shot when they intersect. At the end of the day, however, I don't watch films to be impressed by the crew who made them. I watch films to be entertained, and in that context, this is nothing more than a mere novelty.

If you're an aspiring director or actor, then maybe this film will interest you - especially as it's self referencing, set in the office of the film company who made it - but I see it as further proof that the screenplay writer is more important than the director when it comes to making a good film. Unless you're really into Hollywood itself, you'd be best off avoiding this one.

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