Tentacle Sync Review and User Experience

Abramo Peghini’s Tentacle Sync Review.

tentacle sync review thumbnail

Abramo Peghini reviews the Tentacle Sync box.

 A lot of people playing along at home will know that not only am I a producer, sound person, occasional editor, sometimes production manager and always caterer at Pickford Media (along with anything else that generally needs doing!).

I’m also a production sound mixer, sound recordist and boom op. I do that freelance in the film industry, so I work in film, TV and corporate videos. Today I’m going to be talking about something that I bought primarily for that side of my business, but also for Pickford Media. It’s turned out incredibly handy.

And it’s the Tentacle Sync box.

abramo peghini: producer and sound engineer

It’s a great little lock box. It’s very light, very small, about the size of a box of matches, about that heavy as well, and just a super versatile little tool.

So, a quick rundown for the people who don’t know:

LTC, or longitudinal time code, is sort of like the tracks that the train of production runs across. It keeps everything locked in place and together. So when you record a file on a audio recorder, the very start of the file will be stamped with the time of day (a timecode). On the video camera when you hit record it also stamps the time of day on the front of that file. You then bring all of the files into post-production. If you’ve locked them together so they’re in sync, the editor sees them, puts them together, all the clips are there, and they’re all synced up ready to go. It stops you having to go there and manually sync the clap of the slate, so you don’t need to hand sync and that can just be used as a backup. So it’s a great little system.

I mainly got this timecode box in particular because of a few really unique features that helped me with a lot of the work I was doing at the time. I was doing a lot of work with people using say the Canon C100 or a lot of the DSLRs that don’t have a timecode input. Timecode inputs are generally for pretty high end cameras.

So what this does is out of a really common connector, it’s just the 3.5mm jack connector, it outputs timecode onto an audio track.

tentacle sync 3.5mm jack connector

So we use it on our C100, as well as some of our DSLRs, and some of my other clients’ cameras and it’s got a little tiny microphone in there. It’s a scratch track which will output to the other side of the track on your stereo recorder. We use it on the C100: we just plug it straight in, then you go into the really excellent Tentacle Sync software, dump all the files in there at the end of the day, and it syncs them all up. We just have them syncing on the trolley as we pack up and you’re all done.

It’s just so handy to have. I use it across all jobs, whether I’m working with a 60D or a 5D on content that needs that, all the way up to when I’m working with your ARRI Alexas, your Amiras, your REDs, so really expensive cameras. It does it all.

A few little setbacks is it doesn’t have a locking socket. I’d really, really like a locking connector on these, I really wish that the update that they just brought out had that. I think that’s really lacking. I don’t really trust anyone who’s operator a camera to not accidentally pull a cable out for something that’s for audio and I can’t be there all the time because I’m busy with my job. So that’s one thing.

And it doesn’t have a few really high end features like Gen Lock, but I think most people reading this aren’t going to, and those who do have a workaround.

The really high points are the size and the weight.

It’s so small, it’s about the size of a matchbox, it’s about that light as well. I came across from using the Ambient Lock Its which are about three or four times the size, they’re much heavier. A bit more feature-rich but most days it doesn’t matter if I’m working on a C100 or if I’m working on an ARRI Alexa, this does the job really well.

It’s super durable, it’s been dropped heaps of times, still going strong.

I reckon you could probably hit it with a truck and it’d be fine the next day. And excellent battery life out of it. I know a few people are a bit iffy because it’s got an internal battery that you recharge over USB, but I’ve had no problem with this. Apparently you can change the battery when it does eventually die, it is a semi-servicable part, so that’s good. I recharge it every night when I’m on a longer running production, but I can, at a push, get nearly three days out of this. 

A few little downsides to it:

To change any of the settings you’ve got to either use the program on your computer or the app on your phone. This is good but I always find that I have to reset my phone to get it to read it at the start of the day. I don’t know what this is but it’s something to do with the microphone output on the iPhones. It’s not the biggest hassle in the world, I know that’s what I need to do now.

Also, you’ve got the 3.5mm jack connector. I would really, really like this socket to be lockable. I don’t trust any equipment of mine when I’m not directly using it and this is always a cameraperson using it. They don’t want to know about it. That’s why they love it, because it’s so light, but it’s easy to pop a cable out and then you could be stuffed for the rest of the day. But really that would be my only two real concerns about it because it’s rock solid.

tentacle sync accessory pack

It comes with this really cool accessory back. I’ve got a bunch of cables that go out to different kinds of cameras because of course every single camera has to have a different input! It’s also got a great hook part of the hook and loop on the bottom. It’s incredibly strong. I’ve had a lot of trouble getting this off cameras at the end of the day, which is good! At least I know it’s going to be on there all day.

tentacle sync hook and loop

There’s a few other alternatives come out on the market now, these have been very popular. You’ve got Timecode Buddy who have come out with their small one, Ambient has their new small one. As for features, a few of them have different features, but I wouldn’t say more. It would be nice if we saw this being about to support Gen Lock, but that’s more higher end stuff and not what you’d use for a lot of DSLR and run and gun kind of gigs.

Tentacle Sync have just updated it at NAB. They showed their new one which is a bit thinner, it’s a bit more rounded, it looks a bit sleeker and it has bluetooth control.

So if you need to control multiple at the same time, I don’t really do many gigs where I have big multiple cameras but you know, if you have to run four or five cameras, you have four or five boxes on them and you want to control them all at the same time, that’s going to be great for you. Or if you’re doing anything with a lot of GoPros, anything like that; I know a few people use these to sync up the GoPros with the LTC on an audio track, so it would be very handy if you’re doing that. I know a lot of reality people are having to wrangle 15 GoPros at the end of the day. RIP!

I highly recommend these, definitely check them out.

I’ll definitely be checking out the the series two update to see what that’s like. To be honest, I don’t really see me moving over to a different kind of lock box any time soon. I’m pretty deep money-wise into cables for this little guy, but I will be picking up a few more of them.

Hopefully that’s been helpful, if anyone wants to know anything more about them you can go onto Tentacle Sync’s website. I highly, highly recommend them for anyone. Even if you’re just shooting on a DSLR or maybe you’re a Youtube producer or you’re a vlogger, I would still really recommend one of these and a double system over running any sound to your camera.

Take it from a soundie, we don’t want you to just hire more gear off us! We do actually want it to sound much, much better, and there’s no camera on earth that has good sounding audio circuits!

If you have any questions put them in the comments below. We’ll keep you in the loop and we’ll see you on set!

pickford media tentacle sync review

Abramo Peghini

Abramo Peghini is a freelance sound recordist and Pickford Media's Production Manager. He has extensive experience working in broadcast media and has mastered the art of replacing sleep with caffeine on long production days.