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My Premiere Pro multi-cam premier

Sometimes, you get all wet.

Sometimes, you get all wet.

So we did this little shoot.  Three cameras, plus multitrack audio.  Slated most of the takes, like I said…

Here is the workflow we evolved:

  1. Shoot seven takes total of three different pieces by the aerialist team, Charity and Jon.
  2. Ingest –
    • Broadcast wav in multitrack Pro Tools sessions for audio
    • Canon AVCHD files from two Canon Vixia cameras
    • Canon MXF files from the XF 300.
  3. Manually edit any clips that spanned two takes (i.e., where we left the cameras rolling between takes) in order to create usable chunks for Plural Eyes.  Otherwise, with multiple takes using the same backing tracks, it all got messed up.  I used MPEG Streamclip, but it couldn’t edit the native Canon MXF files.  So I had to first use Sorenson Squeeze to transcode to ProRes – I could as well have used Apple Compressor or Adobe Media Encoder, I suppose.
  4. Manually load media into Plural Eyes.
  5. Manually align one or two media clips that Plural Eyes couldn’t handle (most synched fine).
  6. Export from Plural Eyes to Premiere Pro flavored XML.
  7. Ingest a total of seven sequences back into Premiere Pro.
  8. Rearrange tracks to standard order of cameras and audio tracks…
  9. Select all, then “Edit in Audition” to fly the audio tracks out to Adobe Audition.  I couldn’t easily export to ProTools – Premiere couldn’t’ extract the audio from some of the camera files to export separately, I think.  Also, Premiere didn’t send audio track names to Audition – they seemed to go ‘poof.’
  10. Save Multitrack audio mix for each take (sequence) from Audition.
  11. Back in Premiere, the next step is to Nest these synchronized sequences for multicam editing.
    • Before Nesting, though, add color correction to make the cameras match (and cut together nicely).
    • Unfortunately, with this process you need to mix audio down to just two tracks – not exactly conducive to the normal workflow of edit -> lock picture -> only then send out audio for sound mixing.  Hence the extraction of audio tracks first…
    • Also, the Nest command doesn’t behave as I expect.  It opens a dialog, asking you to pick a name for the nested sequence.  But that sequence is the original, but with blank tracks removed.  Then it actually nests the sequence you originally had open…  Sheesh!
  12. Make copies!  Then edit MultiCam…
  13. Finally, mix and fly back in the audio.


Bugs and workarounds editing multi-cam

Multicam editing at Casual Dog Productions, LLC

Multicam editing at Casual Dog Productions, LLC

We recently did a small multicam shoot for some circus artist friends, and were reminded not to cut corners in prep…  Specifically, don’t rely on software to sync your clips for you!  It is worth taking the time to carefully and correctly slate every take.  Editing, and the entire post process, will be so much smoother if you do.

I have shot multi-cam plenty of times.  My last big project was a school musical: three shows, three cameras per show, plus 14 channels of audio direct to disk with ProTools.  There were issues, there are always issues…  But we were careful to slate every single take, so it moved pretty smoothly.

The biggest hassle with that production was moving audio from Avid Pro Tools into Avid Media Composer!  Yes, I know, same company… The history is pretty divergent, Avid having swallowed ProTools’ creator, DigiDesign, some years ago.  It is a pretty recent development that you can even run Pro Tools and Media Composer on the same computer.  But editing on Avid, then exporting the audio to ProTools, then finally finishing with the mix from ProTools is a pretty standard workflow.  What hung me up at first was trying to go from Pro Tools to Media Composer using AAF files (the OMF successor) that just pointed at the actual audio files on disc.  It is supposed to work, but I couldn’t make it…  Once I gave up and embedded the audio in the multitrack AAF file, it went smoothly.

Hey, hard disk space is cheap.

Media Slate really is the premier slating app...

Media Slate really is the premier slating app…

With this shoot, we were using a similar setup.  Fewer mics, but also lighting the performers in a challenging space.  So when we were ready to role, and the updated version of Movie*Slate wasn’t clapping at first, we steamrolled on ahead.  I figured that software, either Adobe Premiere Pro (where we planned to edit) or Red Giant’s Plural Eyes, or maybe even iMovie Pro X (also known as Final Cut Pro X), would handily sync up the various clips and files.  This was true – but at the cost of hours of mucking around that we would have avoided if we had a good slate for every take.

If you don’t know, the slate, classically using a clapper board, is actually a vital part of film production.  Not an affectation at all.  The slate uniquely identifies each and every bit of film, video, or audio in a production, and provides a precise sync mark for lining things up.  It doesn’t matter as much if you are shooting with a single camera.  But with three separate video clips and three or four audio clips for each take…

Plural Eyes can sync clips by matching audio

Plural Eyes can sync clips by matching audio

All of the software I mentioned can now do what Plural Eyes pioneered: sync all these files up by matching the audio.  Automatically.  In theory…  I have had fairly good luck with Premiere Pro and Final Cut X.  But they are both black boxes – they either get it in sync, or fail.  No tweaking.  Plural eyes is a bit more deep and robust, and this project needed that extra help.  In principle, I should have been able to ingest everything into Premiere Pro, then export a sequence to Plural Eyes, finally re-importing the result.  If only…

First, I ran into a version incompatibility: Plural Eyes doesn’t seem able to read Premiere Pro CC projects, only older versions.  I fussed around with that for a while before I gave up. But I could export a Final Cut Pro 7 XML file from Premiere, then bring that into Plural Eyes. Problem solved….

Then, I ran into some bugs in Premiere Pro.  One of the basic features in a modern non-linear editing program (not just Media Composer or Premiere Pro – also iMovie and Windows Movie Maker and such) is making subclips.  For example, we had let our #3 camera run continuously – it was up in the balcony, after all.  So we ingested that entire big clip, then used markers to cut it up into subclips.  Except Premiere Pro had a bad case of gas over this! Instead of exporting the subclips, it kept sending the entire, original clip.  And Plural Eyes was confused by this big wad of material.

The timeline screenshot

The timeline screenshot

What’s a filmmaker to do?  Well, first I wasted a bunch more time.  Eventually, though, I fired up MPEG Streamclip, the fantastic video Swiss Army Knife by Squared 5.   This gem let me manually create and save subclips, dicing up the original video files, which I then sent to Plural Eyes.  In the end, all but one of the takes were perfectly synchronized by Plural Eyes – one clip in one take I had to do by hand.  That is tricky – one of the aerialists is a violinist, and lining up a legato instrument is much harder than something more percussive (like drums or even piano or guitar).  And, it turns out, Plural Eyes isn’t quite as facile as Pro Tools at zooming in on waveforms.

Now all that needs doing is actually editing!

Time remapping: Final Cut beats Avid and Adobe by a couple of lengths


Poster for Sunnyside Environmental School Spring Musical, 2013

It seemed so simple… Just speed up some clips, creating a faux-time-lapse sequence. It would be cute, save some space.

It seemed so simple…

I am editing the DVD (and BluRay) packages for Sunnyside Environmental School’s Spring musical, Video Killed the Fairytale Star. Three performances, each shot with three cameras – plus an 8 or 16 channel ProTools audio recording. And then there is about seven hours of single-camera material from rehearsals.  It is a lot of work – including trying to squeeze the best bits onto a DL DVD.

So I decided to time-compress some bits. Well, Avid Symphony and Boris BCC effects both have time-warp/velocity remapping effects – plus, there is Avid’s traditional clip speed controls. But – no good. They all work for video only.

Fine. I have ProTools HD, with a nice selection of Waves plugins (thanks, @Donny Wright at Super Digital).  I’ll just time-warp (or velocity remap) the video, then change the speed of the audio to match, and voilà…

What Waves Soundshifter only goes up to 400%?  Really?

OK, I’ll try going out to Premiere Pro for that bit, right?  No, wrong – at least I can’t see an easy way.  Probably not too hard in After Effects, but I didn’t go there.

OK, in desperation (well, really in pig-headed stubbornness) I fired up iMovie Pro  (also known as Final Cut Pro X).  I had to work a few things out, but in the end it was very easy to get just what I wanted.  I chopped up the tape into clips that needed retiming and clips that didn’t, applied a 20x speedup, and it was done.  There were only limited choices – 8x, or 20x, but nothing in between.  And no keyframes, so no easing in and out or such.  But a faux time lapse effect – for video and audio – with very little effort.

Bringing ProTools audio into the Avid was harder than it should have been.  I exported an AAF file from Protools, but the Avid would only ingest it if I exported an AAF with embedded media, then imported into Symphony.  I should have been able to export an AAF with links to the actual media, then linked with AMA into the Avid Symphony.  But no matter what I tried, it kept showing up as “media offline.”  Sigh…  It’s only hard disk space.

I am not brave enough to try a two hour multicam show with 14 additional channels of audio in Final Cut, though.  Are you?

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