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Synchronization Basics

As I said, synchronization is the process of keeping two or more audio or visual systems running at the same speed and with the same relationship to each other. Keeping audio in sync with video means playing both together from the same point without either one moving faster or slower than the other. It is crucial to do this with a high degree of accuracy and repeatability, as every single edit and mix move you perform must be matched up with a certain action onscreen.

Two things are necessary for accurate sync. The first is a positional reference, or the “where-in-time.” The second is a playback rate, or “how fast.” I like to use the analogy of cars on a two-lane highway. The positional references are the mile markers on the side of the highway that tell you where on the road you are. The playback rate is the speed of the car, for instance 65mph. If we know what mile marker we’re at and how fast we’re traveling, it’s easy to get another car moving along in sync with our car. Think of the audio as one car and the video as a second car in the next lane. If either car speeds up or slows down, the two cars will no longer be in sync. The drivers of these two cars must be in constant communication with one another in order to maintain the correct speed and position. With Pro Tools and digital audio, this communication is handled in two ways, one for positional information and the other for speed reference.


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