Readable Timecode Window Burns in Compressor

One of my clients does a lot of shooting, and needs rather quick turnaround on timecode window burns. We could set up the DVD recorder, and play out through the Kona card, but that is real time, and occupies an edit suite for the entire time. Final Cut has a timecode reader filter, but it has long render times, again hogging up a suite.

So I turned to Compressor, to see what it could do. It has a timecode generator filter as well, but it is lacking one major thing- readability. There is no built in background, bar, or shadow that ensures it will be readable no matter the background. White text may disappear on a beach shot, for instance, and black text will disappear on dark night shots.

So I figured out how to use the Watermark filter in conjunction with the Timecode generator to give that transparent background.

First, I made a graphic for the watermark, a transparent 720×480 with a simple black bar near the bottom. It should work for 16×9 or 4×3. You can download my .psd here – no use in reinventing the wheel, as it took a bit of tweaking to get it positioned correctly.

To make the preset, open up Compressor, and duplicate the MPEG-2 6.2Mbps 1 Pass preset from the DVD: Fastest Encode 90 minutes folder. Here’s how to do it in Compressor 3.

You can do this with the 120 or 150 minute presets if you want, but I rarely get a tape longer than 90 minutes. The preset is set up fine as is – we want to take a look at the filters tab in the Inspector window.

Turn on the Watermark filter. Hit the “Choose…” button, and choose the tcwb.psd file you downloaded earlier. Change the position to Upper Center, and make sure Scale by is set to 1, and Alpha is set to .5.

Now, turn on the Timecode Generator filter. Set the position to “Lower Right – Title Safe”. Leave the Alpha at 1. Change the Text Color to white. Click “Select Font…” and up the font size to about 50. You can change the font if you wish, but make sure it is readable.

Important note- Compressor applies the first filter in the list, and then moves down the list. You’ll probably need to move the Watermark Filter above the Timecode generator – otherwise, the watermark will be in front of the timecode, and make it hard to read.

Save the preset, and you’re ready to convert away. To make it really easy, set up a droplet. I used Final Cut Server to make a watch folder, so my edit suite is completely free for other work. The only thing left is to burn the DVD.

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