What Is SMPTE Timecode?
SMPTE timecode is a standard for labeling frames of video or film. The standard was developed and defined by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (hence the name SMPTE) and allows for accurate editing, synchronization, and identification of media. SMPTE timecode appears as hour:minute:second:frame (for example, one hour would be written as 01:00:00:00). The frame rate is derived directly from the data of the recorded medium: in other words, the frame rate is inherent to the media, and can differ for film vs. digital, video vs. audio, and color vs. black and white.
Frame rate is important for SMPTE timecode because it dictates how many frames per second (fps) appear in the media. The final part of the SMPTE timecode reflects the frame number; this number can only go as high as the frame rate. For instance, if your frame rate is 29.97 fps, the timecode after hh:mm:01:29 would be hh:mm:02:00. The following chart reflects the frame rate standards developed by SMPTE (as well as the European standards developed by the European Broadcasting Union, EBU):
|SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers)|
|29.97 fps||NDF||Color||60Hz||Non-Real Time|
|29.97 fps||DF||Color||60Hz||Real Time|
|30 fps||NDF||Black & White||60Hz||Real Time|
|59.94 fps||NDF||Color HD||60Hz||Non-Real Time|
|59.94 fps||DF||Color HD||60Hz||Real Time|
|60 fps||NDF||Color HD||60Hz||Real Time|
|EBU (European Broadcasting Union)|
|25 fps||NDF||Color||50Hz||Real Time|
|50 fps||NDF||Color HD||50Hz||Real Time|
|24 fps||NDF||Color||N/A||Real Time|
|23.98 fps||NDF||Color HD||60Hz||Non-Real Time|
A slower frame rate creates more of a jump between frames, and allows the eye to interpret action and motion more than it can with higher frame rates.