Adding Timecode to a Sequence

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the Sept/Oct, 2007, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]


Darren writes in:

I’m a subscriber to and have been studying your Final Cut Pro training sessions. First, i want to say thank you as I’ve learned a huge amount, so much so that I’m now pursuing a career in digital film editing. Anyway, I’ve come to my first job and I’ve hit a small problem i need to add a timecode slug to the output move that’s going to the client. I’m sure I’ve seen it in the training videos but have searched but cannot find it. its for a music video as need it just so the customer can tell reference which parts need changing. Thank you in advance

Larry replies: We can do this in about six steps:

Timecode 1

1) From the generator menu in the lower-right corner of the Viewer (with the letter A) select Slug.

Timecode 5

2) In the Viewer, set the length of the slug to equal your sequence length. If the length is not long enough, go to Final Cut Pro > User Preferences > Editing tab and set Still/Freeze Duration to the length of your sequence. Then, create a new Slug from the Generators menu (see Step 1).

Timecode 2

3) Edit the slug to the top track of your sequence.

4) Apply Effects > Video filters > Video > Timecode Generator filter. (Note: this is the Generator filter, not the Reader filter. The Reader filter reads the timecode of your source clips in the Timeline.)

Timecode 3

5) Double-click the clip to load it into the Viewer, click the Filters tab and change the Hour Offset to match the starting hour of your sequence (“0” is the default).

Timecode 4

6) Select the slug in the top track of your Timeline and choose Modify > Composite modes > Screen. The timecode is now added to all the clips in your timeline.

7) Output or export. The sequence will need to render, but this process is both simple and fast.

As a side-note: If you need to add timecode to video that’s going onto a DVD, and you have the new Final Cut Studio 2, you can add timecode using the Timecode filter in Compressor, which saves rendering in Final Cut.

UPDATE – 10/4/07

Andreas Kiel and Anders Teigen both sent in the following:

You describe a way to add a TC overlay for a complete sequence. This way is fine, but it could be done easier. Just create a new sequence. edit the “playout” sequence into it and apply the TC Reader to the nested sequence.

Larry replies: This works, too. I like the simplicity of the slug, as it avoids any problems with a nest.


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3 Responses to Adding Timecode to a Sequence

  1. Nick Meyers says:

    in the past i have preferred the overlay method to the nest method,
    but a friend recently tried both and fond the nest method a lot faster.
    i personally have not tested this yet.

    using composite modes to super your BITC would be one of the slowest method, in terms of render/export time.
    a faster method would be to simply CROP the slug down to the BITC area.

    a better method again (i believe) is to NOT use slug, but use the simple TEXT GENERATOR with no text.
    again, i haven’t run any comparative tests on this for quite some time.

    the simplest, fastest way to get the duration of either slug or text generator or ANY generator to be the same as your edit sequence is to hold down OPTION, and grab and drag the sequence duration from the canvas duration window into the viewer’s duration window.

    if your edit sequence has lots of effects, then adding any sort of overlay will force you to re-render them all.
    so, if your sequence is already rendered, then the FASTEST method is to export your rendered sequence as a reference movie
    (always add something to the file name that tells you it is a reference movie)
    bring the exported reference move back into FCP add the TC reader and re-export.


  2. Mark Pigott says:

    Good tutorial.
    One thing I changed. I left the slug with the timecode full 100% opacity.
    And rather cropped the slug to create a small black timecode box on the upper right.

  3. Francisco says:

    First, thank you for all of your great tutorials!

    I’ve tried changing the Still/Freeze duration in User Preferences, but each time I change it to match my sequence length (1 hour and 24 minutes) it changes it back automatically? What am I doing wrong?

    Again, thank you for your help.

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