30 Final Cut Pro X Multicam Webinar Questions Answered

A bunch of questions we didn't have time to answer after the recent FCPX Multicam webinar
Scott Simmons
By Scott Simmons 05.29.12


A couple of weeks ago I hosted a webinar with Moviola Filmmaking Webinars centered on multicam editing in Final Cut Pro X. These webinars are free to attend and available after for purchase on-demand. There’s always a ton of questions we don’t have time to answer so I thought I’d try and answer 30 of them here in a blog post.

1) What about many takes from (2) camera shoot. How do you sync multiple takes?

As discussed in the webinar, the easiest way is to use FCPX’s audio synchronization and let it “listen” to your camera’s scratch audio and perform sync automatically. You can also use timecode for more exact sync provided your cameras can accept jam synced timecode. Placing the first marker in a clip on a common sync point can help FCPX as well.

Final Cut Pro X’s built-in audio sync is a great thing.

2) Can you use the timecode to sync in FCPX?

Yes. When looking at the sync options dialog box after choosing Make Mulitcam Clip select timecode for Angle Synchronization.

Timecode is a syncing option if you’re lucky enough to have matching timecode jam synced to the camera angles.

3) Is it better to record audio on all cameras as well as a audio recorder? Or is it enough just to record audio in camera?

The answer depends on your camera. Many broadcast cameras including things like a Sony F3 or Panasonic HVX200 can accept balanced or high quality audio that is perfect as your main audio source. It’s very convenient as that audio is tied to picture so there is less data to wrangle both on hard drives and in the NLE. But if you’re shooting DSLRs then it’s best to use an external audio recorder as their audio record capabilities aren’t really designed for dedicated audio.

A popular audio recorder like the Zoom H4n is only $300. I’ve probably seen more DSLR double system audio come in off of that recorder than any other.

4) Does FCP X allow the angle viewer to be displayed separately on a second monitor?

It does but not all by itself. If you choose Window > Show Viewer on Second Display then when you open the Angle Viewer you’ll be seeing it on the second display. Personally I love to work with a second display especially with an interface like Final Cut Pro X that can become very crowded. I know in a world of iMacs and Macbook Pro laptops being primary edit machines many don’t use a second display. But IMHO it’s worth picking up even a cheap computer monitor just to give the interface more real estate.

5) Can you flatten a multicam edit out after you are done similar to fcp7?

No, this option to Collapse Multiclips (or “commit” multicam edits as it’s called in Avid Media Composer) for all of the multicam edits in a timeline isn’t an option in FCPX. This probably isn’t too big of an issue when working only in FCPX as it doesn’t seem to require a bit of extra processing horsepower for mulitcam clips that FCP7 did. But where this might come in handy is if you’re sending an XML out of FCPX to another application. My bet is this feature might get added back if we start to see problems with multicam edits moving to something like Autodesk Smoke or DaVinci Resolve.

6) Do you know if there is a way to make the playhead loop when you try different options in an audio effect? I can’t seem to make it loop when I fiddle with an echo or a reverb or an eq-setting.

Try this: turn on Loop playback with command+L. Then select a portion of the timeline you want to actually hear while adjusting and select that with the Range Selection tool. Then use the Playback > Play Selection (key: /) option and that should only play what’s in that range selection and loop it.

One of FCPX’s cool features is the ability to adjust parameters and edits while playback continues and this is a good example of how this should work. But what I’ve noticed is that it will loop fine in the timeline but when I start working in the Inspector that FCPX seems to forget the range selected and play past the range.

7) I have 2 sony nx5 cameras. When I try to multicam clips from them FCP X puts the clips on the same track instead of syncing them.

Hmmmm …. I doubt that it has anything to do with the camera type but that is odd behavior. What I would try to do is open the multicam clip in the Angle Editor, add a new angle, drag one of the camera angles down to the new angle and have FCPX sync them again.

8) Would Jam-Syncing the cameras make it easier to do multi-cam edit?

Jam-syncing would make it easier, faster (and possibly more accurate) to sync the camera angles though editing would remain the same. If jam-syncing is an option with your cameras the by all means do it as it adding one more level of metadata to clips and is a very accurate way to sync. Plus it’s nearly instant as FCPX doesn’t have to “listen to” and process the audio data.

9) What’s the most cameras you ever worked with in a multi-cam edit project?

Probably the Audio Adrenaline Alive DVD. It was a big outdoor festival with something like 26 cameras. A crazy show to edit. For music videos you routinely have 20, 40, 60 takes of a song so some type of multicam clips grouping comes in very handy. One music video I cut last year had over 80 total takes.

10) How important is it to slate in a multicam shoot?

When you have a feature like the audio sync options in FCPX or the syncing tool of PluralEyes then it’s probably less important as you can use the camera scratch audio to sync. But as an editor I like to see a slate that claps if at all possible as it provides an extra option for syncing as that’s the most noticeable and easy to find common sync point. Add to that the fact that actual information that can be helpful to the editor can actually be written on the slate then it becomes even more useful. I’ve often dreamed of software that could automatically detect and mark a camera slate. If FCPX can detect faces and shot composition then why not? Highlight Hunter is a tool that can detect when you place your hand over the camera lens so a slate detection can’t be too hard now can it?

11) What is your approach to preparing clips recorded on multi-audio tracks (and perhaps multi-cam, as well) when your sync reference is a hand slate and you prefer to edit with one video and one audio track while having the ability to switch video and audio within the edit.

If the reference is a hand slate then that should give you an easy sync point for both video and audio. In FCPX I would place a marker on that sync point and have FCPX sync use First Marker on the Angle for sync. I like to arrange audio only angles at the bottom of the Angle Editor just for organization. Then it’s just a matter of choosing the right audio during the edit. The FCPX Angle Viewer makes it fast and easy to choose between audio or video cuts and switches. I hope I understood what you were asking in that question.

You can switch audio only either in the Angle Viewer or in the timeline. In the above image there’s 3 audio angles and tow video angles.

12) It seems from what Scott is showing is that PluralEyes is doing a better sync than FCP X or is it that it’s better in high volume situations such as music whereas FCP X can handle spoken audio?

It’s hard to say why PluralEyes fared better when syncing on some of the examples showed. My guess is that it just has better algorithms when it comes to achieving this particular task of syncing audio. PluralEyes has many years of development and does get better and faster with each new version . I have had very good luck with PluralEyes over the years syncing in some tough situations, particularly involving music videos when a single camera angle might be overwhelmed by a single instrument like a drum.

That isn’t to say that FCPX’s audio sync doesn’t work as it works quite well and probably will work fine in many situations. PluralEyes is always just a $149 download away if you need it. The upcoming PluralEyes 3.0 will take syncing to a new level with its own dedicated syncing interface.

13) Have you used premiere, and what do you think of using it in multi-cam editing?

I just recently had a chance to use Premiere Pro CS6’s multicam editing. It works quite well and is similar to FCPX in several ways. PPro doesn’t have automatic audio syncing but asks for IN/OUT points, markers or timecode for syncing.

When you create a multicam sequence Premiere Pro CS6 actually creates a timeline with each clips in sync on its own video track. This is similar to the FCPX angle editor in that you can add effects and filters and that will be reflected in the multicam clip you edit in the timeline. There’s also a dedicated multicam monitor for viewing and switching angles which work okay but isn’t perfect.

That said Final Cut Pro X’s multicam editing is, IMHO, the best implementation of this feature that I’ve ever seen in an NLE.

14) Is it true angles can also be assigned automatically by FCP based on camera type and serial number?

FCPX does have an option for ordering the angles based on the camera name. I haven’t seen any examples where a name is automatically assigned for a particular camera but I have read that in the case of something like an iPhone FCPX will use the iPhone’s serial number to assign some of the metadata. I haven’t found this to be the case with my iPhone 4.

The best practice is to use FCPX’s ability to assign a metadata field to multiple clips and give your cameras name and/or angle metadata before syncing. Then you can tell FCPX to use that in the angle assembly.

FCPX can use metadata to automatically arrange the angles when it creates a multicam clip.

Assign camera names and camera angles in the Inspector for more options when arranging angles during sync.

15) I just did a 3-cam shoot with 4 mics. I had two mics on each of two of the three cams with scratch audio on the third cam. How do I best edit my 4 audio channels? Can I break all those audio channels out in the angle editor to be edited independently?

Once you create your multicam clip and edit that into the timeline you’ll have the option to monitor and edit any of the audio tracks you want by right+click on the clip in the timeline or choosing to switch only audio in the Angle Viewer.

Unfortunately I don’t see any way to break those channels out in the Angle Editor as the options for Detach Audio and Break Apart Clips items is grayed out in the Angle Editor. Exporting the audio by itself might be the work around as you could then easily sync the newly exported audio back to picture once it was reimported.

Options to detach audio from video isn’t selectable in the FCPX Angle Editor. These don’t work either when you have a Multicam Clip edited into the timeline.

Next up: Why questions 16 to 30 of course.

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