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Are you looking for a smart solution to sync your camera with a sound recorder? The Tentacle Sync E is the latest model from the German company of the same name, and it might be the solution to your problems.
These days the market is full of very accessible, very capable small cameras to choose from. While these cameras deliver beautiful cinematic images, many of these cameras offer very limited audio capabilities: the built-in preamps are noisy, the A/D conversion chips aren’t that good and adjusting the settings is somewhat rudimentary. Manufacturers concentrate all their efforts on delivering the best possible image quality, while audio is degraded to a necessary but annoying side note.
The best solution to this dilemma lies in the separate recording of image and sound. This means that, in addition to the camera, a dedicated external audio recorder enters the equation. These devices offer far better audio quality, but this setup causes another problem altogether: syncronization.
For everything to match up, you have to sync your devices – whether that’s a camera with an external audio recorder, two or more cameras, or even all of it. It’s always a matter of perfect timing and frame accuracy between devices when you avoid problems in post-production. Unfortunately, only higher-end audio recorders come with a dedicated timecode generator built in. The solution? Another device to manage the syncing for us. Meet the new Tentacle Sync E, an upgraded and improved version of the original Tentacle Sync device.
This new version sports an updated design but is still very lightweight and tiny. It measures just 38 x 50 x 15 mm and weights only 30 g (1 oz). While the old version needed to be set up with a computer, this new Tentacle Sync E has Bluetooth built-in, meaning you now can set up, control and monitor your whole wireless timecode system via a smartphone app for iOS or Android.
The Tentacle Sync E plugs into your camera’s microphone input, thus disabling your camera’s built-in microphone. The device itself has its own on-board microphone for recording scratch audio, which will be recorded to one of the two channels of the stereo signal. For this purpose, the audio quality has improved considerably from the original Tentacle. The remaining audio channel will carry the timecode signal for syncronization. Very neat!
The built-in battery is replaceable, will power the device for up to 35 hours of continuous use and is rechargeable via USB-C. (UPDATE: The company will soon be offering a replacement battery kit for both the original and Sync E models. However, you will need to work with these Tentacles for a few years before you need to replace the battery.) The device features a locking “tentacle clamp” to firmly secure jacks in the 3.5mm output socket.
Once you have connected all your the Tentacle units via Bluetooth, you can name each device from within the app. In addition, you can use the included rubber straps to color code all of your Tentacles on set. Each Tentacle Sync E can act as a master clock for all the other Tentacles, or you can jam-sync them to any external timecode source. Once everything is set up, you can use your phone to check battery levels, timecode accuracy and settings.
Tentacle clamps, rubber straps and velcro pads for mounting.
Once your shooting day wraps, all you need is to do is load all the recorded files to the supplied Tentacle Sync Studio software. All clips will be synced automatically and you can export a XML or AAF file for further editing in your favorite NLE. Unfortunately, the software is only available for MacOS, although Windows users can resort to an included Tentacle Sync app that reads and converts audio timecode to a file. You can then use your NLE to sync all the recorded clips.
The Tentacle Sync E is pretty feature-rich for such a tiny device. It’s good to see that the guys behind it are working hard in order to push the limits and improve their already very popular original Tentacle.
The Tentacle Sync E can be purchased as a single unit or as a set of two. Each device comes bundled with Tentacle Sync Studio.
Are you using timecode generators in your workflow? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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Olaf von Voss is a freelance cameraman who is in business for well over a decade. He is living in Berlin, Germany but has traveled the world as well while shooting mostly documentaries.