I’ll be the first to admit that while multi-camera editing tools have been available in Adobe Premiere Pro for quite a while I hadn’t ever touched them until Premiere Pro CS6. I think that may be true for a lot of editors when it comes to a lot of features of Premiere Pro in general. While I had used Premiere Pro on sort of a semi-regular basis since CS4, CS6 has become a regular tool. I finally gave Premiere Pro’s multicam a shot recently … and it’s very nice. It works well, is quite powerful when it comes to setup and adjustment of multicam angles but it's missing a couple of important features that some of its competitors have.
While there’s probably many different ways to use multicam tools no matter which NLE you’re working in one of my determining factors when it comes to how usable (or unusable) an NLE’s multicam is boils down to how easy (or difficult) it is to set up a multicam group and deal with that group once it is created. Final Cut Pro X, for example, is a real joy when it comes to multicam setup as its innovative Angle Editor is simple and powerful. Final Cut Pro 7’s multicam worked but was a total kluge when it came to adding new angles or slipping sync within a group even though it, in theory, had those capabilities. Once you set up an Avid Media Composer multicam group it edits like butter but don’t try to really manipulate that multicam group once it has been created because you can’t.
Enter Premiere Pro CS6 and its idea that when setting up a job for multicam editing it’s all based around a Multi-Camera Source Sequence. I really like this approach as this multicam sequence gives the editor a place to always go back to and get an overview of exactly what they have in a multicam clip. You can think of a PPro multicam sequence kind of like a sync map because that’s really what it is only you’ll see it and use it after a multicam clip is created (though you still might want to create a sync map before creating a mulicam sequence just to get that top down overview of all your angles and how they relate to reach other). If Premiere Pro’s multicam sequence sounds a lot like FCPX’s Angle Editor when we’re done with this discussion then you’re thinking the same thing that I did.
First establish the syncing point
When it comes time to do a multicam edit in any NLE the first thing you have to do is establish common sync points amongst all your clips. This can be done in any number of ways but in a perfect world all angles would have jam synced timecode but that’s a rarity these days. Like other NLEs PPro offers a choice for exactly how to establish sync between multiple clips. Once you’ve done that, say using IN points as the sync point, you select all the clips, right+click with them selected and choose Create Multi-camera Source Sequence:
Then you’ll be presented with the question of exactly how to sync up the clips.
Choose your method of syncing when creating a multicam sequence.
Since an incredibly common method of establishing sync these days is to use a camera’s scratch audio it’s worth noting that PluralEyes works with PPro CS6.
Once a new multicam sequence has been created there’s, surprise surprise, a new sequence in the bin albeit with a slight different icon from all the regular sequences in the project:
The multicam sequence on the left is distinguished by flush look of the little clip icons.
That different looking sequence icon is important (it might be nice if the little clips in the icon were a totally different color) as it behaves very differently when double-clicked or tossed into another timeline.
Loading the multicam sequence
Once that multicam sequence is created a double+click loads the multicam source sequence into the Source monitor instead of opening a timeline like you might expect. That’s fine because what you most likely want to do at this point is edit that sequence into the timeline and go to work. You can edit a Multicamera Source Sequence from the Source monitor just like any other clip.
You can also drag a multicam sequence into a timeline and get a multicam clip as well. That green clip, along with the [MC] bracket, means it’s a multicam clip.
With a multicam clip in the timeline you’re now ready for Premiere Pro’s multicam editing.
How does a multicam clip in the timeline differ from any other clip or nested sequence in the timeline? That’s where the Multicam Monitor comes in.
Premiere Pro’s Multi-camera Monitor is a separate tool and separate window that is the place where you can do just what the name says: monitor a multicam clip in the timeline. It’s also the place where you can do a live multicam switch of the angles. When the Mulitcam Monitor is open and the playhead hits a multicam clip you’ll see a familiar multicam split (that is familiar if you’ve ever edited multicam before) appear. Any time you see one of those in an NLE chances are you can do a live multicam switching of angles and Premiere Pro is no exception.
The PPro Multicam Monitor is a dedicated window to play the clip and do live camera switching.
In PPro that angle switching takes place in the Multi-Camera Monitor. There’s a play button in the Multi-Camera Monitor so to engage in live switching you have to initiate playback from there. There’s also a red Record On/Off Toggle that has to be toggled on to record the switching but as long as you are playing back in the Multi-Camera Monitor window you can make a switch and the record toggle will come on.
There’s a full compliment of keyboard shortcuts that can be used in the Multi-Camera Monitor Panel so be sure and check the keyboard shortcuts if you want to learn those.
The multicam monitor is an all right place to work and functionally it does what it’s supposed to do but it is one more window to open in what can be an already somewhat busy PPro interface. I would prefer to have the option to see and switch the multicam split right in the Source monitor. I suppose one advantage of the stand alone multicam monitor is that it can be moved and resized independent of any window so that is nice. There’s also a setting to Show Preview Monitor (toggled in the flyout menu in the upper right of the window) that adds a full frame in the Multi-Camera Monitor so you don’t even have to look at the Program window when doing a switch.
Adding the preview option to the Multicam Monitor is another way to make and monitor the camera switch all in one window.
You can pretty much work with as many angles as you can have video tracks (instead of the limitation of 4 angles from previous versions) so if you have a ton of them viewing the split in an independent, resizable window could be very helpful. On the other hand, I’m most often dealing with 3 or 4 angles for interviews so that’s where it would be nice to see and switch the split in the Source.
Thankfully the Multi-Camera Monitor window can benefit from PPro’s full screen tilde (`) key feature, meaning that at any point in any window in PPro you can hit the tilde key and take that single window full screen. It’s a very handy thing. When you do that in the Multi-Camera Monitor it makes the camera switching focus front and center and that’s a good way to work. Note that the Multi-Camera Monitor has to be docked into a panel with other windows for the full screen tilde to work. If it’s just floating by itself above all the docked window panels, where it was the first time I opened it, the full screen tilde won’t work.
Using the Multicam Monitor isn’t the only way to switch angles in the timeline though. Once you have a multicam clip on the timeline a right + click will reveal a new submenu option where you can change an angle as well.
Angles can be changed via a submenu right on clips in timeline. This menu is also available at the bottom of the Clip menu.
But there’s one big thing that’s missing when it comes to switching angles in the PPro timeline … more on that in a bit.
When it comes to audio in a multicam clips PPro offers an Audio Follows Video toggle in the Multi-Camera Monitor window. This will be familiar if you’re coming from other NLEs because most offer something similar. When that option is enabled switching angles in the Multi-Camera Monitor will switch both the audio and the video. I rarely ever use this as I always use one audio track from the main camera or an external audio recorder. I can’t remember the last time I needed to do a lot of switching of audio angles.