How to Fix Timestamp Issues on Multi-Camera Shoots - Digital Photography School
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How to Fix Timestamp Issues on Multi-Camera Shoots

Introduction

This tutorial has been transcribed from the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Workshop on DVD, a 14 hour Lightroom 4 A – Z guide with over 130 tutorials for mastering Lightroom from start to finish. The Digital download can be purchased from SLR Lounge while the physical copy is available through Amazon Prime.

Overview

Having multiple shooters at an event is beneficial because it allows the event to be captured at different angles. One shooter might catch something significant that another shooter missed; therefore, it is always good to have an extra pair of eyes while shooting a big event. However, having multiple shooters means multiple cameras and it is important that the timestamps in all the cameras used at the event are synced to one another. This will save you a lot of time in post-production when you have to cull and edit your images because the images from all the shooters will be organized together. You will be able to see the same scene shot at different angles, which can help you select the best image for each particular scene.

But sometimes you might forget to have all the shooters sync up their cameras to one another prior to shooting. Trying to cull a multi-camera shoot with improper timestamp syncing will waste boatloads of time. But luckily, this time sync issue can be quickly fixed in Lightroom 4. This easy tutorial will show you how to correct the timestamps between multiple cameras so that you can have a quicker post-production workflow.

Step 1: Identify the Lead Camera

Bring up the Library filter by hitting “backslash” on your keyboard. Generally, the lead camera will be the one with the most images. However, once in a while, you might have a second shooter who takes more images than the lead shooter. You want to sync all other cameras to the timestamp in the lead camera. It is also important to filter by the Camera Serial Number so same-model cameras will not be grouped together. To select this category, click on the drop-down menu from one of categories in the Library filter and select “Camera Serial Number” as shown below.
Camera Serial Number

Step 2: Identify the Moment to be Used for Synchronization

Select the lead camera as I have done so below. To keep this tutorial simple, we have eliminated all but 23 images from the catalog. Most wedding catalogs will have thousands of images, but we don’t want to spend all our time hunting down images between cameras. So, while we are doing this demonstration with a small sample set of images, the same techniques apply, regardless of the size of the shoot.
Selecting Lead Camera
Find a moment of the day that all shooters will have shot and preferably one that is easily recognizable as well. For example, the first kiss would be an important moment that all cameras should have shot and one that is easily recognizable. As you can see from the image below, I have selected the lead shooter’s shot of the couple’s first kiss. Switch to the Loop View of this image by double-clicking on it or by hitting “E.”
First Kiss

Step 3: Write Down the Timestamp Information

Once in the Loop View, write down what time the shot was taken. The information should be at the top left of the image you have selected. If not, hit “I” until that timestamp is displayed. In my example, the shot was taken at 11:46:09 AM in the lead camera.
Timestamp

Step 4: Identify the Same Moment in the Other Cameras

Go back to the Grid View by hitting “G.” Select your second camera in the Library filter, like I have done so below. Make sure no other filter is turned on so that all your images from any additional cameras appear.
Selecting Second Camera
Select the image shot at the same moment as the one that we selected from our lead camera. Once you have that image selected, hit “Ctrl + A” on your keyboard to select all the images from the second camera. The first image that you selected is highlighted indicating that it is our key image as shown below.
All Images - Second Shooter

Step 5: Edit the Capture Time

Now that we have selected all of the images from our secondary camera with our “moment image” selected as the key image in this selection, we are ready to change the timestamp. To do so, click the “Metadata” menu at the top of the screen (make sure you are in the Library Module) and click on “Edit Capture Time.”
Edit Capture Time
Type in the exact time that you wrote down from the same moment on the lead camera (11:46:09 AM in our example). Make sure you write your timestamp in correctly because this change cannot be undone; it can only be changed again. When you are done, click on “Change All.”
Changing Timestamp
Clicking “Change All” will adjust all images prior to the key moment, as well as after the key moment respectively. To check whether you changed the timestamps correctly, make sure all of your filters are off by selecting “None” next to “Metadata” in the Library filter. If you changed the timestamps correctly, your images should all line up chronologically. As you can see, I now have all my images from both angles lined up in order, as shown below.
Conclusion

Once again, it is always best to sync your timestamps in your camera with all other shooters prior to the event. However, if you forget to do so, use this tutorial to fix your timestamp synchronization in Lightroom.

Learn More with the Lightroom 4 Workshop Collection!

This was a sample tutorial from the Lightroom 4 A to Z DVD which is one of the DVDs in the Lightroom 4 Workshop Collection. A collection of nearly 30 hours of video education teaching everything from Lightroom basics to advanced raw processing techniques.

The LR4 Workshop Collection also includes the critically acclaimed Lightroom 4 Preset System which is designed to enable users to achieve virtually any look and effect within 3-5 simple clicks. From basic color correction, vintage fades, black & white effects, tilt-shift effects, faux HDR, retouching, detail enhancing, and so much more. Click the links above to learn more.

Read more from our Post Production category.

Post Production Pye I hate speaking of myself in the third person, haha. I am a Partner and professional photographer with Lin and Jirsa Los Angeles Wedding Photography, and the Senior Editor for SLR Lounge Photography Tutorials. I am passionate about photography as an art as well as my part as an educator in the industry. Subscribe to our YouTube Channel and feel free to hit me up with questions anytime on Facebook.

  • http://www.garfnet.org.uk mr.goose

    Interesting article and it is certainly one way around the problem. However it assumes that one is using proprietary software, on a proprietary operating system.

    All our computer systems run Linux – mostly Ubuntu – an open source Unix-like operating system. Unix time is based upon UTC and all our systems actually display UTC rather than local time. Furthermore, it is easy to synchronise Unix-based computers automatically with the atomic clock, for free, using NTP (network time protocol). For those not familiar with it, NTP is dead clever, it even handles scheduled leap second adjustments.

    Anyway, we now, we start with a very accurate reference point. Then, just before we start shooting, we simply synchronise all cameras to UTC from the clock displayed on the PC – regardless of geographical location. This means that even allowing for human reaction times and on-board clock drift etc, all cameras are now within a few hundred milliseconds of each other.

    And, since all cameras are set to UTC, it is very easy to adjust time stamps to compensate for local timezones, retrospectively. In fact, most Unix-like computers can be configured to do this automatically.

    Et voila, problem solved and no costs incurred!

    Best wishes, G.

    NB. NTP is also available for Mac and Windows systems, though sadly Microsoft still cannot guarantee that its implementation of NTP for Windows will be more accurate than +/-2 seconds.

  • Dr.bob

    There’s a far easier and more precise way then this and it comes with the extra benefit of geotagging as an extra. It’s called GPS4cam. It’s a geotagging app for iPhone and Adroid. You photograph a QR-code with every camera; inside that code is geotagging information as well as your phone time. Move the images to your computer and let the app do his magic.

  • DougS

    @mr.goose:
    I appreciate your fervent preaching of open source dogmatism, but you might have missed this part of the article: “This tutorial has been transcribed from the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Workshop on DVD,…”
    The article is an advertisement for their Lightroom 4 tutorial course. Also, later in the article, they say “Once again, it is always best to sync your timestamps in your camera with all other shooters prior to the event. However, if you forget to do so, use this tutorial to fix your timestamp synchronization in Lightroom.”
    So, you’re kind of way off base on your whole argument here. The premise is that you are a professional photographer using professional tools to correct a mistake you should have known better than to make in the first place.
    Again, this is simply an advertisement for their tutorial course.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad article, but this falls under one of those “I shouldn’t ever have to do this in the first place” type of tutorials rather than a “I’ll use this every day!”.
    Although, I will probably use it to sync up our next vacation pictures since my wife likes to shoot with her Nikon, and I like to just carry around the Canon S95. Those timestamps tend to always be off a few minutes for some reason.

  • Michel

    Like Mr. goose, I’m a fervent user of free software. Since it is not allways easy to have an exact synchronisation of camera clocks, I shoot my GPS screen showing time before and after the session (hence we can verify that the camera clock is accurate). The exif information, compared to the image give the correction to apply (with exiftool), assuming all images are synchronised within a second. And after that, I use GPSCorrelate to geolocalise all pictures… fast and easy, even with a hundred images

Some older comments

  • Michel

    March 24, 2013 08:03 am

    Like Mr. goose, I'm a fervent user of free software. Since it is not allways easy to have an exact synchronisation of camera clocks, I shoot my GPS screen showing time before and after the session (hence we can verify that the camera clock is accurate). The exif information, compared to the image give the correction to apply (with exiftool), assuming all images are synchronised within a second. And after that, I use GPSCorrelate to geolocalise all pictures... fast and easy, even with a hundred images

  • DougS

    March 22, 2013 06:49 am

    @mr.goose:
    I appreciate your fervent preaching of open source dogmatism, but you might have missed this part of the article: "This tutorial has been transcribed from the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Workshop on DVD,..."
    The article is an advertisement for their Lightroom 4 tutorial course. Also, later in the article, they say "Once again, it is always best to sync your timestamps in your camera with all other shooters prior to the event. However, if you forget to do so, use this tutorial to fix your timestamp synchronization in Lightroom."
    So, you're kind of way off base on your whole argument here. The premise is that you are a professional photographer using professional tools to correct a mistake you should have known better than to make in the first place.
    Again, this is simply an advertisement for their tutorial course.

    Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad article, but this falls under one of those "I shouldn't ever have to do this in the first place" type of tutorials rather than a "I'll use this every day!".
    Although, I will probably use it to sync up our next vacation pictures since my wife likes to shoot with her Nikon, and I like to just carry around the Canon S95. Those timestamps tend to always be off a few minutes for some reason.

  • Dr.bob

    March 18, 2013 09:29 am

    There's a far easier and more precise way then this and it comes with the extra benefit of geotagging as an extra. It's called GPS4cam. It's a geotagging app for iPhone and Adroid. You photograph a QR-code with every camera; inside that code is geotagging information as well as your phone time. Move the images to your computer and let the app do his magic.

  • mr.goose

    March 18, 2013 04:04 am

    Interesting article and it is certainly one way around the problem. However it assumes that one is using proprietary software, on a proprietary operating system.

    All our computer systems run Linux - mostly Ubuntu - an open source Unix-like operating system. Unix time is based upon UTC and all our systems actually display UTC rather than local time. Furthermore, it is easy to synchronise Unix-based computers automatically with the atomic clock, for free, using NTP (network time protocol). For those not familiar with it, NTP is dead clever, it even handles scheduled leap second adjustments.

    Anyway, we now, we start with a very accurate reference point. Then, just before we start shooting, we simply synchronise all cameras to UTC from the clock displayed on the PC - regardless of geographical location. This means that even allowing for human reaction times and on-board clock drift etc, all cameras are now within a few hundred milliseconds of each other.

    And, since all cameras are set to UTC, it is very easy to adjust time stamps to compensate for local timezones, retrospectively. In fact, most Unix-like computers can be configured to do this automatically.

    Et voila, problem solved and no costs incurred!

    Best wishes, G.

    NB. NTP is also available for Mac and Windows systems, though sadly Microsoft still cannot guarantee that its implementation of NTP for Windows will be more accurate than +/-2 seconds.

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