Synchronization - MTC - MIDI Time Code

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It is the digital equivalent of the SMPTE, in that it travels from machine to machine without being memorized on a physical support system. The SMPTE code can be converted into MTC in order to synchronize MIDI machines [The Midi Protocol ] with the SMPTE time code.

There are 4 types of messages in MTC's:

  • Full Frame Messages: contains timing messages. Namely:

    hour : minute : second : frame

    It is composed of 4 bytes and for every frame one of these bytes gets sent. For example if we were to send the following frame:

    05 : 12 : 19 : 10

    the following byte-sequence would be sent (the numerical information is contained in the last 5 bits of each byte):

    0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 (hour)

    0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 (minute)

    0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 (second)

    0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 (frame)

    The second and third bits in the first byte specify the number of frames per second, as illustrated in the following table:

    Table 17.2. Binary Codes for the MTC's fps 

    Binary CodeFrames per second (fps)

    The table shows that the example message has an fps value of 25.

  • 1/4 frame message: this message gets sent each quarter of a frame. Four of these messages are inserted in the bit sequence that corresponds to 1 frame. Their function is to constantly provide the reference rhythm.

  • Cueing messages: messages used for automation and for the MIDI Machine Control.

  • User bits: their role is to transport information inserted by the user.


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