October 3, 1997

Fran at Zounds thinks that the sync problem that I turned up on October 1 isn't too severe, and that I should simply follow Rich Cohen's advice and retard the sound track by one frame. She takes the position, which I've heard off and on through post-production, that transfers from digital media to sprocketed media simply don't have the precision that I expected. Still uncertain, I told her to go ahead and make the optical track.

Thinking about what Fran said later that day, I became worried that her company had done a primitive transfer that simply allowed the motors to drift without regulation. This would be a real bummer, after I've invested so much energy making sure that I was using the right technology at every earlier phase of the sound process. That night, hoping to get more information, I called Walter, the alpha techie at Zounds, who works by night. He assured me that the machinery that does the transfer from DAT to mag does in fact make use of the time code on the DAT to regulate the motor that advances the mag track, so that sync should be preserved in theory. But he says that a frame or two of drift is within the specifications for the accuracy of the machine. And such problems are worse in 16mm, he says, because the reels are longer and drift can therefore be more pronounced.

If Walter's statement is true, then editing on video is intrinsically less accurate then editing on film, where there are always sprocket holes to keep everything in sync. Unless some companies have more accurate equipment than Walter's.... Someday I'll have to inquire further about this. The whole world is editing on video these days, so people must be dealing with these issues.

Of course, there's no guarantee that Walter's machine is what make me lose sync. It would take exhaustive and expensive research to go back through the different phases of the process and find where the error crept in. So I'm closing the case on this mystery, and moving on.

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