Timecode that’s practically perfect in every way
"I didn’t receive a single report of problems with sync in approximately five months of filming – the timecode was spot on"
Peter Welch, DIT – Mary Poppins Returns
With Mary Poppins Returns, Disney brings everybody’s favourite umbrella-travelling nanny back to the big screen 54 years after the first iconic movie was released. With the original movie holding such a special place in so many hearts, the sequel had to be special – you could say, just like Mary Poppins, it had to be practically perfect. In this spirit, our timecode was working hard on the film set of Cherry Tree Lane to make sure sync remained flawless throughout the full 91 days of filming.
The majority of filming for Mary Poppins Returns took place at Shepperton Studios, and central London locations. Some of the larger musical set pieces, such as “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” were shot using six cameras (a mixture of ARRI Alexa SXTs and Alexa Minis), with master timecode being generated from the sound mixer. This was fed from the mixer at 24 frames per second to a Timecode Systems: pulse which transmitted wirelessly over robust, long-range RF to UltraSync ONE units attached to each camera. This enabled the same frame-accurate timecode to be embedded directly into each camera’s metadata.
The system made shooting in sync effortless. The UltraSync ONE is small and lightweight (so no complaints from the camera department), and the accuracy of the technology driving the system meant Timecode was simply set at the beginning of each day, and that was all that was required. There was a lot going on in every scene (both in terms of the music and choreography, and also from a technical point of view) so making sync low maintenance was a huge benefit to the crew.
As the digital imaging technician (DIT) for the movie, Peter Welch worked closely with the director of photography and camera crew to make sure the right data was collected for post-production to transform raw digital footage, into a polished movie as efficiently as possible. Robust and reliable timecode was an important part of this.
“Rushes were sent straight to our dailies lab operated by Sixteen19 working on site at Shepperton at the end of each “split” – one at lunchtime and one at the end of the filing day,” Welch explains. “Once footage was ingested, sound and picture were synced using Timecode Systems’ timecode and promptly sent to the editorial team working on the same floor. The accuracy of camera sync had a huge influence on driving the pace of this process.”
“I had direct and frequent contact with the dailies lab throughout filming – from end of January to June” Welch continues. “I didn’t receive a single report of problems with sync in approximately five months of filming – the timecode was spot on.”
In fact Welch had so much confidence in the system that he used exactly the same solution on Fantastic Beasts, The Crimes of Grindelwald, which started prep the week after he wrapped on Mary Poppins Returns!