Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Calculating TV Time.

Calculating TV Time

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 28, 2014)

John works in the TV industry, where timing is done to a resolution finer than a second. Television video must take into account hours, minutes, seconds, and frames. (There are thirty frames per second.) John was wondering if there was a way to handle frames in Excel.

There is no way to handle frames as part of the native time values in Excel. There are, however, a couple of things you can do to work with frames. Perhaps the most obvious suggestion is to keep hours, minutes and seconds as a regular time value, and then put frames in a separate cell. The immediate drawback to this approach is that calculations for the "TV times" are not as easy as they would be if they were represented in a single value.

A way around this is to try to do your own calculations in a macro. Excel goes through an internal process of converting times to decimal values that can be worked with very easily. You could simulate this same conversion process, converting a time value (including frames) to a decimal value. The TV time, in the format 00:29:10:10, could be stored in a cell (where Excel will treat it as a string) and then converted to a value by the macro.

There is a problem here, of course: You cannot convert the time to a true decimal value between 0 and 1 like Excel does for times. The reason has to do with the limits on Excel's significant digits. To arrive at a value, you would divide the hours by 24, the minutes by 1440 (24 * 60), the seconds by 86400 (24 * 60 * 60) and the frames by 2592000 (24 * 60 * 60 * 30). When you start getting into values that small, it exceeds Excel's limits of maintaining everything to fifteen significant digits. Thus, you end up with unavoidable rounding errors on the frames value.

One solution to this problem is to not try to work with decimal values between 0 and 1, but instead work with integers. If you convert the string time into an integer value that represents the number of total frames in the time, then you can easily do math on the resulting value. The following macro will do the conversion of a string in the format already mentioned:

Function Time2Num(Raw) As Long
    Dim FirstColon As Integer
    Dim SecondColon As Integer
    Dim ThirdColon As Integer
    Dim NumHours As Integer
    Dim NumMinutes As Integer
    Dim NumSeconds As Integer
    Dim NumFrames As Integer
    Dim T2D As Long

    Application.Volatile
    
    FirstColon = InStr(Raw, ":")
    SecondColon = InStr(FirstColon + 1, Raw, ":")
    ThirdColon = InStr(SecondColon + 1, Raw, ":")

    NumHours = Val(Mid(Raw, 1, FirstColon - 1))
    NumMinutes = Val(Mid(Raw, FirstColon + 1, SecondColon - 1))
    NumSeconds = Val(Mid(Raw, SecondColon + 1, ThirdColon - 1))
    NumFrames = Val(Mid(Raw, ThirdColon + 1, Len(Raw)))

    T2D = CLng(NumHours)
    T2D = T2D * 60 + NumMinutes
    T2D = T2D * 60 + NumSeconds
    T2D = T2D * 30 + NumFrames

    Time2Num = T2D
End Function

To see how this works, if you have a string such as 37:15:42:06 in cell A4, and you use the formula =Time2Num(A4), the result is the value 4024266, which is the number of frames in 37 hours, 15 minutes, 42 second, and 6 frames. To convert such values back to an understandable time, you can use the following function:

Function Num2Time(Raw) As String
    Dim NumHours As Integer
    Dim NumMinutes As Integer
    Dim NumSeconds As Integer
    Dim NumFrames As Integer
    Dim RemainingTime As Long

    Application.Volatile

    NumHours = Raw \ (CLng(30 * 60) * 60)
    RemainingTime = Raw Mod (CLng(30 * 60) * 60)

    NumMinutes = RemainingTime \ (60 * 30)
    RemainingTime = RemainingTime Mod (60 * 30)

    NumSeconds = RemainingTime \ 30
    RemainingTime = RemainingTime Mod 30

    NumFrames = RemainingTime

    Num2Time = Format(NumHours, "00") & ":" & _
      Format(NumMinutes, "00") & ":" & _
      Format(NumSeconds, "00") & ":" & _
      Format(NumFrames, "00")
End Function

By combining the two functions, you can do some math with the times. For instance, suppose you had the time 00:29:10:10 in cell A4 and the time 00:16:12:23 in cell A5. If you put the following formula in a cell, you can find out the difference between the two times:

=Num2Time(Time2Num(A4)-Time2Num(A5))

The result is 00:12:57:17.

The examples presented here are rudimentary; they don't take into account any error handling or limit checking on the times used. You can either expand on the examples to fit your needs, or you can look to a third-party source. For instance, you can find an explanation (with a sample workbook) for NTSC and PAL times at the following URL:

http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage/timecode_spreadsheet.html

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3100) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Calculating TV Time.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Letters and Numbers in Page Numbers

A common task is to add page numbers to document headers and footers. If you want those page numbers to include more than ...

Discover More

Formatting Line Numbers

Legal documents often use automatic line numbering for their documents. If you want to format those line numbers, you can do ...

Discover More

Creating a Boilerplate Document

If you have several boilerplate documents you need to routinely use in Word, then you should learn how to use templates. They ...

Discover More

Professional Development Guidance! Four world-class developers offer start-to-finish guidance for building powerful, robust, and secure applications with Excel. The authors show how to consistently make the right design decisions and make the most of Excel's powerful features. Check out Professional Excel Development today!

More ExcelTips (menu)

Tombstone Date Math

Doing math with dates is easy in Excel. Doing math with old dates—such as those you routinely encounter in ...

Discover More

Backwards Date Parsing

Enter information into a worksheet, and you come to anticipate (and count on) how Excel will interpret that information and ...

Discover More

Displaying Negative Times

Excel allows you to perform math using times as operands. If you subtract a later time from an earlier time, you should end ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 8Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 7 - 0?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.