Use Bluetooth to Sync Audio with the Tentacle Sync E

Credit: Tentacle
The New Sync E from Tentacle adds Bluetooth, keeping dual system audio-aligned for mirrorless and DSLR filmmakers.

This article was written by guest author Travis Devin.

The Tentacle Sync E is an independent timecode generator, often used to send Timecode or Audio Timecode to a recording source. It's useful for writing the same timecode to all recording mediums on set, providing an easier syncing process in post-production.

Tentacle Sync E (left), Tentacle Sync (center), and 9V battery (right) for size comparison.Credit: Travis Devin

Why would you need a product like this? Here’s the deal: many digital cinema cameras already record timecode. You can always jam them once every couple of hours and hope for the best.

However, in my experience as a location sound mixer, the clocks in these cameras tend to be inaccurate and drift over time (or lose sync when the camera is powered down for battery changes). Many location sound professionals use what we a call a “lockbox” to act as an independent timecode generator that constantly sends TC (timecode) to the camera.

For many years, these solutions were bulky and added weight to the camera. A system of these independent lockboxes were expensive, with some systems costing upward of $1,000. Additionally, many filmmakers and content creators added a second camera to their setup via DSLR. These cameras rarely support timecode.

That’s where the Tentacle comes in. In addition to sending regular timecode, it seamlessly sends audio timecode and a “scratch track” to the camera through its internal microphone. This audio timecode can be decoded with many modern NLEs or Tentacle Sync, providing you with its own software to decode the audio LTC and print timecode to your footage.

The benefit to you as a filmmaker is that you can have two independent timecode generators (and the software) to sync your footage for only $520, a fraction of the price of many more complicated systems. These lock boxes are also easy to use. Adding them to my own workflow in 2017 was a breeze.

 

The Tentacle Sync E

The Tentacle Sync E is the successor to the popular Tentacle Sync, which I added to my own workflow as a location sound mixer. They offer an arguably sleeker design and improvements to the Tentacle. Oh, and they offer Bluetooth functionality through the app supported on Android and iOS!

The Tentacle Sync E is slightly thinner than the original tentacle, yet wider by a few millimeters. Both units are close to the size of a 9V battery and yet weigh less than one. They have an integral hooked Velcro patch on the backside that can be used to secure the using to a camera with adhesive Velcro. Some creativity and a zip-tie can work in a pinch too.

There is one external control in the form of a power button. On the Tentacle Sync E, this has been upgraded to a slide-and-hold style as opposed to the recessed button on the original. This could result in a decreased chance of the button accidentally being pressed. I have never had this happen with either the original model or the Tentacle Sync E.

One complaint about the original model was the output connection. Tentacle sync sends TC and audio to camera via a 1/8” TRS connection. This is not a locking connection and can easily be pulled out. The Tentacle Sync E has a workaround for this in the form of a sliding plastic piece that fits over a right angle TRS and prevents it from being pulled out. It’s a creative idea that might give some users peace of mind, but I suspect this small plastic piece will get lost or broken easily.

I have yet to experience a time where the connection on my original tentacle comes unplugged. However, I certainly suspect that it may present an issue for certain users. Tentacle says that they have upgraded the reference microphone on Tentacle Sync E. After comparing it to the original, I determined that it is slightly less noisy and less muffled.

Ultimately, this is a reference microphone and should never be used as a primary audio recording source. You should never use a microphone mounted on the camera as your primary audio recording source.

Original Tentacle At WorkCredit: Travis Devin

Key Feature Upgrade: Bluetooth

The most impactful upgrade is the addition of Bluetooth support. Changing the settings on your Tentacle Sync was done by app either on your phone or computer. Connecting by phone was easy enough but it required connection through a USB adapter that wasn’t always easy to use. Bluetooth connectivity is a plus and after a week of testing, I determined that it was easier to set up than with the USB OTG connection.

You can also now sync multiple tentacles through the Bluetooth app. The app allows you to monitor any Tentacle Sync E units that you have in range of the Bluetooth and it even gives you a warning if one becomes disconnected. I was originally skeptical about how Bluetooth functionality would improve the user experience, but after a few weeks of use, it grew on me. I’ll miss having this added functionality after returning these review units.

Credit: Travis Devin

Software

Lastly, there is the Tentacle studio computer application. This software will allow you to decode Audio LTC-to-timecode printed to your footage. It works seamlessly.

However, I suspect that some professionals will be wary of this application and will prefer to decode the Audio LTC in their NLE of choice. I do have a few complaints about this software. One, you need to have a tentacle plugged into your computer acting as a license key. It is a comprehensive software that you receive automatically when you purchase a tentacle.

Two, Tentacle studio only currently works on OSX. There is a different version available for Windows platforms, but it lacks some additional functionality provided by the Tentacle Studio application. As a Windows user, I find this disappointing. There is a growing community of professionals using custom-built PC workstations and It would behoove Tentacle to make the Tentacle Studio fully available on Windows and OSX. Need I remind you that the company already has the cell phone application working on iOS and Android.

In Conclusion

After using the new Tentacle Sync E for a few weeks, I determined that it was a more than adequate upgrade. I’m not entirely sold on the redesigned shape, but it does not inhibit the functionality in any way. The upgraded microphone sounds marginally better. The Bluetooth functionality is a welcome addition to this product line and makes using multiple Tentacles much easier. If you are looking for a better way to sync footage with externally recorded audio, the Tentacle Sync E is a great option.

Even if you are shooting all MOS, this is a great way to sync timecode between multiple cameras! It is relatively affordable for many productions and will save you from any headaches in post-production. All in all, it’s a solid and dependable product at an affordable price and it comes hghly recommended. 

Available now.

Tech Specs:

  • Timecode Generator Units
  • Sync Software Included (macOS)
  • Bluetooth Control via iOS or Android App
  • Locking 3.5mm Cable Clamp
  • 23.98/24/25/29.97/30 fps TC Rates
  • Master Clock & Jam-Sync Modes
  • 3.5mm Mic Jack & USB Type-C Port
  • Built-In Battery Runs up to 35 Hours
  • < 1 Frame/Day Drift Rate
  • Built-In Mic for Reference Sound

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1 Comment

It is really a pity that there is not a windows version of their software.

March 31, 2019 at 12:25PM, Edited March 31, 12:25PM

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