SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

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SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby Solderman » Fri Jan 10, 2014 7:35 am

Wondering how people go about taking a SMPTE stripe or Midi Time Code and converting it to Midi Clock, especially those who do not use a DAW. I am well aware of the difference between time-based and tempo-based sync.

Only two I can come up with are:
  1. The pay version of JJOS for the Akai MPC's, which would require additional SMPTE to MTC conversion, if you wanted to start from audio-tracked sync
  2. The JL Cooper PPS 100, which does actually quite a number of different sync conversions, but they were made in the early 90's and are getting scarce

Seems like the biggest issues faced if it works would be Start position on the correct bar/measure/beat and any additional latencies produced by conversion. If anyone can testify to either of the above two as being reliable or can suggest something else, I'd be very grateful.

If you're wondering why the interest in SMPTE, it's mostly because I want to eliminate jitter in having my PC act as the primary sync source for several external gear items that either use Midi clock or convert Midi clock to pulse clocks or Sync24. Audio-based sync, in conjunction with rock-solidly timed external Midi devices, seems the only logical choice.

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Re: SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby pflosi » Fri Jan 10, 2014 8:12 am

Check Innerclock Systems if you want jitter-free midi / sync24 clocks from the PC :thumbright:
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Re: SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby meatballfulton » Fri Jan 10, 2014 1:58 pm

In my tape days I used a JL Cooper PPS-1 (which preceded the PPS-100). I offered to sell it here a few years ago, got no takers so I gave it away! Since not too many people use tape any more these things are cheap if you can find them.

Anyway, it worked great. After fast forwarding or rewinding the tape, my sequencer would lock to the correct location in about 2 seconds.

As far as MTC to clock, if it's a strictly MIDI conection (i.e. not getting the MTC off a tape stripe) some synths can do this for you...Yamaha Motif for example can do this when the sequencer is set to Song Mode.

Start position: with SMPTE and MTC you have to define where time 0:00 is in the stream in the receiving device. My Motif never had any problem starting up the clock in the right place even after FF and REW. You have to set the tempo manually though, a time stamp has no tempo information.
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Re: SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby Solderman » Fri Jan 10, 2014 9:15 pm

pflosi wrote:Check Innerclock Systems if you want jitter-free midi / sync24 clocks from the PC :thumbright:

The Sync Gen II LE at first looks like it would be great. But it appears to be special order only from Australia, so requires a price inquiry from the manufacturer and likely some ridiculous VAT tax as well as international shipping. The Pro version is way more than I need and costs far too much. Unless they work a contract with a local dealer, no thanks. At least the SMPTE option doesn't require a custom software plugin and a second audio out.
Last edited by Solderman on Fri Jan 10, 2014 9:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby meatballfulton » Fri Jan 10, 2014 9:24 pm

Analogue Haven carries Innerclock.
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Re: SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby Solderman » Fri Jan 10, 2014 9:26 pm

I've no time or patience for boutique sellers and their prices geared towards people who can afford to drop 3 grand on a TR808 with missing knobs, which will only be used for the kick drum and the stupid cowbell. The Sync Gen Pro is $750 from AH. I could probably get a used JL Cooper PPS-100 for less than $150.

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Re: SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby synthroom » Sun Jan 12, 2014 8:30 pm

Another thumbs up for the JL Cooper PPS-1. I used one back in the 90s to sync my Sansui 6-track tape recorder to my Amiga 500. I still have it, just in case, someday.
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Re: SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby madtheory » Mon Jan 13, 2014 9:37 pm

The PPS 100 actually produces a jittery clock that caused serious problems syncing digital gear. When I used it with 3 ADATs and an 02R (back in 1996) and Cubase VST, we striped tape from a file generated by Cubase, then ran the PPS100 from that.

At home I used a PPS100 with an Atari and a four track. Striping from the PPS100. Worked fine. I never worried about jitter. That was a nice tight little setup.

You need the Innerclock, or you need to stop worrying about jitter. :)
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Re: SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby Solderman » Tue Jan 14, 2014 1:04 am

Well, I wish you'd replied sooner because I bought one for $110 shipped. I will report back with my findings in due time. I basically want to run a stripe track in the DAW, output to the PPS-100, which translates to Midi Clocks sent to a few devices. If you're saying this is actually worse than the DAW, then I suppose it's a write-off. Unless I also drag out my 1040st and just use the DAW as a multi-track recorder, I suppose. I don't even know if the Atari still works... :?

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Re: SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby madtheory » Tue Jan 14, 2014 2:45 pm

Not to worry! Instead of striping from the PPS100, drive it with a file generated from this:
http://elteesee.pehrhovey.net/
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Re: SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby Solderman » Sun Jan 19, 2014 4:02 am

Ok, I received the PPS-100 today and after some testing, I can see there is an unavoidable issue with variable frame offsets.

There is a disparity between frame rate used by vst's internal sync and how the PPS-100 calculates Midi clocks from SMPTE frame rate, and this means the converted Midi Clocks begin transmission at Cue Start(punch in) with a varying frame offset that is required to lock with the bpm of the DAW. This offset depends on what starting bar/beat and what bpm you use in your DAW, and varies between -4 and -7. To convert SMPTE to Midi Clock reliably, you're stuck with 24 fps, so that's at least a constant in your project.
You are forced to adjust Cue Start time based on tempo anyway, but one is also forced to adjust frame offset, and you have to keep guessing this value until you nail it every single time you change Cue Start time or bpm!! :-x It's just too bad you can't adjust frame offset while the conversion is running.
What's also annoying is the PPS takes about 2 seconds to reliably start converting SMPTE to Midi clocks from first transmission, so you have to also take this into account for your Cue Start time.

It has so far shown rock solid timing, once you get past these hurdles. Only bummer is the Pulse out cannot be used for clocks to Roland or other 5V pulse clock inputs. There just isn't enough drive from the PPS-100 for it to work.
Sync24 tested good, but you do need to either be mindful of Cue Start time or have a blank pattern if the Roland device isn't meant to start when something else does.

Viewing angle on the display is also pretty limited.

I can see why Innerclock charges an arm and a leg for painless operation. This conversion is more complex than it appears, but more importantly, there is no real competition for the demand they meet, so they can charge whatever they feel like charging.

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Re: SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby pflosi » Sun Jan 19, 2014 9:36 am

Well, the only real alternatives to Innerclock are Expert Sleepers and the SND ACME4. With the former, you only get Sync24 and somehow have to convert it; the latter is even more expensive than the Innerclock.

And then there's this for free: http://www.rv0.be/

But I never could get it to work.

Good read here as well: http://www.adambaby.com/studiotech_sync.html

I'm about to give up and just order the Innerclock... I've also never read a bad review from someone that has actually used it, and I've never seen one for sale second hand - that says something IMO...
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Re: SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby nathanscribe » Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:25 pm

Another problem is the even if you manage to generate a rock-solid and jitter-free clock source, each device that receives it will respond differently. Some devices just aren't very good at processing MIDI, sadly.

Also, I wish Innerclock would spend some of that money on a legible website. It looks like something a 15-year old would make on an Amiga.
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Re: SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby madtheory » Sun Jan 19, 2014 1:05 pm

So you're using the PPS100Q software to program your tempo maps? And what are you using for VST?
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Re: SMPTE/MTC to Midi Clock

Postby pflosi » Sun Jan 19, 2014 4:12 pm

nathanscribe wrote:Another problem is the even if you manage to generate a rock-solid and jitter-free clock source, each device that receives it will respond differently. Some devices just aren't very good at processing MIDI, sadly.


That's true, each device is still subject to its internal jitter. Some machines are notoriously sloppy, such as an OS1 909 for example...

Still, it should get much better than when the master clock is a rubber band to begin with.

Nevertheless, delay / lag on start might still occur, but that is the smallest problem IMO... If it stays solid after an initial lag you can correct it easily in the DAW.
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