Having video evidence from multiple cameras for an investigation becomes more common as each day passes. With multiple camera views and/or videos from different sources, aligning those videos into a multi-track timeline can be the most thorough and powerful way to interrogate and digest the material, both from an investigative standpoint as well as from a demonstrative point of view.
Avid Media Composer
Media Composer allows us to set a custom timecode for our timeline/sequence, and it allows us to overlay the custom timecode as visual information using an effect. Below is a multi-track video alignment timeline, showing a custom timecode for the sequence and custom track names.
Set Custom Timecode for a Media Composer Sequence
Right-click on the timeline/sequence monitor and select “Sequence Report”.
In the sequence report window, shown to the left, you can enter a custom Starting timecode (TC).
Simply enter the starting timecode and click “Apply Changes”.
Remember, this timecode is HH:MM:SS:Frames, the latter based off of your project’s frame rate.
Overlay Timecode on a Media Composer Sequence
To display your timecode on the video, you can use the Timecode Burn-In effect found in the Generator effect category. This effect can also be used to display frame numbers, clip names, custom text and other information.
In a multitrack alignment, I typically create a new video track on top of all the other tracks and drop the Timecode Burn-In effect onto this new track; this way, the timecode is always on the top layer/track and only needs to be setup once. I then typically rename the track “Timecode”; right-click on the track name and choose “Rename”.
The settings for the Timecode Burn-In effect are fairly self-explanatory. You can customize the position, font-size, font color, and background. You can also use the “Text” option to include any custom text that you’d like displayed as well, such as the date.
Regardless of the Non-Linear Editor (NLE) used, different frame rates, fractional frame rates, different raster sizes, Variable Frame Rate (VFR) material, motion activated recordings and a multitude of other variables can make aligning multiple video files challenging, especially when we need accuracy down to the second or millisecond. Proper hardware, software and training in forensic multimedia processing are critical, IMHO, when it comes to video alignments for forensic interpretation.