Multiclip Tips for Final Cut Pro

Apple announced the new version of Final Cut Studio today. There are many improvements, but it appears that most fundamental characteristics of multiclips (and their limitations) has not changed. In the video below we show some tricks to get the most out of multiclips.

Along the way we answer some questions that we get asked frequently about PluralEyes, our product that automatically synchronizes clips without the need for timecode.
  1. What if some of the cameras are turned on and off during the shoot? Will that still work?
  2. Can I have an audio-only track? Because I made a separate high-quality audio recording. (This technique is known as dual-system audio)
  3. How do I get multiclips to work? I want to edit while seeing all the cameras at once in a multi-angle display.
The script of the tutorial comes below the video.

For this example we shot a band with three cameras and a separate audio recorder. We've captured the clips and put them all into ProRes 422 at 1280x720 30 fps. They could be a different format, but they all need to be the same for a multiclip.

To start editing we first make a sequence called pluraleyes and arrange the clips onto the timeline. Each camera goes on a separate track and the audio goes on its own track.

We start PluralEyes. (It's a standalone application in the Applications folder.) We press the Sync button. After a minute we've got a sequence with everything in sync. So right away we have the answer to the first two questions: we see that having cameras turned on and off is no problem, and having a separate audio track works just fine.

Multiclips will take a couple of extra steps, but it will be worth it. Final Cut Pro is a bit fussy about multiclips but once you've set them up they work great.

First we notice that PluralEyes says it couldn't make a multiclip because of the audio-only track. But even if it could you wouldn't like the result. Final Cut puts every clip into a separate angle. We have three cameras so you would expect three angles, but Final Cut would give you 17 angles, one for each clip. This is not very useful.

So here's what we do. We're going to export the tracks as separate movies and make a multiclip from those. It's very easy. In the pluraleyes output sequence, make only the first video track visible and mute all the other audio. Option-click is a quick way to do this.

Now ctrl-click on the sequence in the Browser and choose Export > QuickTime Movie. Use the "Current Settings" and make sure the check box for Make Movie Self-Contained is *not* checked. We'll name the movie for the track it came from and click Save.

This makes a QuickTime reference movie. It only takes a few seconds and we don't have to worry about using up disk space because the movie just has references to the original clips and so is much smaller than they are.

Do this for each of the three camera tracks. We could do it with the audio track too, but we have other plans for that. We now import the reference movies back into Final Cut. We're going to put them into a sequence called pluraleyes. We'll reuse the existing sequence with that name. Put them on the tracks they came from and make sure they are all lined up at the beginning of the timeline. That will keep everything in sync.

We now go back to the PluralEyes application and press the Multiclip button. This looks at the clips in the sequence called pluraleyes and makes a multiclip from them, using their positions to determine the timing within the multiclip.

We now have a multiclip with just three angles and all the clips synced up. There will be times when a particular angle is blank when the camera was turned off, which is exactly what you would expect.

We could just start our editing with that multiclip but we're going to do something to make our lives easier. It's nice to have a multiclip, but it's also nice to have a view that shows when the cameras are on or off. Fortunately, we can have both.

Go back to the original synced sequence. We're going to add the multiclip to this sequence. First we make room for its audio by moving our audio-only track down. Option-down-arrow is a handy way to do this. Now we add the multiclip and position it at the beginning of the timeline. The only things we want in our final production are the video from the multiclip and the high-quality audio, so we mute everything else.

Finally we double-click the multiclip to bring it up in the viewer, set the Playhead Sync to Open and start editing. As we play, we can watch the playhead in the timeline to see when the cameras are going to go on or off. That helps us make the decisions as to when to switch cameras.

That may have sounded a little complicated but it's easy after you've done it once. To summarize, we really just did three things:

  1. Sync the clips (using PluralEyes)
  2. Export each video track to a reference movie
  3. Make a multiclip from the reference movies (again using PluralEyes)


Synchronized Montage Serendipity

When R.E.M. released their Accelerate album last year, they posted several clips of the band performing Supernatural Superserious and asked fans to make their own music videos and post them on YouTube. There were some great efforts, but the current collection is a shambles because many have been pulled down or had their audio removed thanks to the overzealous automated copyright infringement police.

I recently got a takedown notice for my submission and promptly objected on the grounds that the copyright owners did in fact give their permission. My video has been restored but the whole incident brought the song to mind again and I thought I'd try something different with the material that R.E.M. made available.

Among the clips there were four that were live acoustic performances. I thought it would be interesting to see if PluralEyes could sync them up. The audio was pretty different, but it worked. This says something both about how robust PluralEyes is and how tight R.E.M. is as a band.

After syncing the clips I applied an ImageFlow montage generator with mostly random parameters. The result is a music video that works, thanks to some technology that gives serendipity a chance.

Update: HD version of the video available on YouTube here.


Citizen Media and the 2010 Olympics

Coverage of the Olympic Games is dominated by the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) contracted rights-holder and accredited major media conglomerates. However some feel there is a role for crowdsourced documentation of both sporting events and the cultural context in which it happens.

This expert panel discusses changes, challenges, and opportunities facing grassroots media makers around the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games.

From Northern Voice 2009.