Recently I got involvedin a very interesting project. Because of all of the legal issues and “politics” behind it all, I can’t give you a lot of details behind it, although before I was asked to hold off on discussing it I did give more details on the “Digital Convergence” podcast I am co-host with Carl Olson, so you can go hear more about it there. However, the pure tech of it, I can talk about all I want.
We had sent a small skeletal crew to LA to shoot a music video for a band based down there. The song is AMAZING!!!, Great vibe, cool band, tons of energy, and, in the spirit of American Bandstand, “Its got a great beat, easy to dance to”… (OK, I’m dating myself).
As for the production, Peter Dippery, the producer, wanted a pure performance piece… just 6 guys in, as Paul Koblik, the director put it, “A black hole where crazy shit happens”. We shot the piece in a blacked out rehearsal space with just a small arri light kit and a few kinoflow lights and one big backlight, and by “big” I mean something like a 2K… (Ok… a SMALL backlight). That was it.
We had 2 5D Mark II’s and the piece was shot by Tom Spingola of San Francisco and Julian Lassuer of LA, Julian is best known for his work with Shane Hurlbut. We use Tom for a ton of stuff and Both guys are VERY talented. Paul, the director decided to just crank up the track and let it rip and had the band play along and sing, full voice, for 10 passes of the song. 2 cameras, 10 passes, 20 angles, for the most part, the full duration of the song.
Ok… How am I going to cut this? No timecode, 20 angles… hmmm.
Well… I’ve never been a fan of the multi cam tool in FCP Classic, Multi cam in PPro can do 4 angles… and I just hate Avid, I don’t know what they offer.
Just one day before the shoot, Apple released the 10.0.3 update to FCPX and one of the big features was a new 64 track multi cam tool. Really??? 64 tracks?
Its important to know that this music video is part of a larger project that will be cut in FCP classic. We use a whole bevy of freelance editors and they are happy working there so we have not put the hammer down to MAKE people change so we are staying put for now. That being said I had already taken the footage and converted it to ProRes.
At first I decided to just give it a go with 6 angles. So I randomly selected a few shots and experimented with making a Multi Cam clip in FCPX. After selecting a few angles you right click on one and select “Create New Multicam Clip” from the drop down. This is where FCPX gets really interesting.
In FCP Classic, I think you were given the choice of syncing from the timecode, (out of luck there), the first frame of the clip, unlikely, or the last frame, thats an interesting way to do it. But in FCPX you get another choice… “Can you just see what you can do??” Or as Apple puts it, Sync with Audio. Basically FCPX has a pluralize function for multi cam built in.
So I tried it. I was still on a FW800 drive and FCPX made the multi cam clip in about 20 seconds with 6 angles in it and then I dragged that clip into a blank timeline… er… PROJECT in FCPX-land. When you turn on the multi viewer it gets really cool. You get to choose between 2 up, 4 up, 9 up and 16 up views. You then hit play and lay your hand on the number keys of your keyboard and pretend you are sitting in the truck out back and start hitting the buttons as if it is the program bus.
Decidedly with 6 ProRes streams playing off a Lacie FW800 drive it didn’t play too well, BUT… and this is the most important thing… the audio played smooth and EVERY cut I made happened ON THE BEAT that I cut on. Meaning, when I was done cutting the 3 minute song, and played it back… the cuts were on the down beats that I cut on. That was awesome and more importantly… the 6 shots were in sync, PERFECTLY.
I then decided to move the project from the FW800 drive to one of our suites that has a Promise Pegasus 12GB Thunderbolt RAID in it. Here is where I got to test the re-linking features of FCPX. I copied over my project folder with my assets, (I had chosen to leave the clips in place and not copy them into the Events Folder in FCPX, I’m not gonna get into that here). The next time I open FCPX on the new machine it didn’t find the clips… although it DID FIND SOME of them, curious. I worked for several minutes to try to make everything re-link, it was NOT elegant and it did NOT work well but I was able to just drag a folder full of clips to the appropriate Keyword Bin in FCPX, one Folder/Bin at a time and then the clips did reappear in the app.
On the Promise RAID I decided to just go for it, I created one multi cam clip with all 20 angles I had. When you have more then the 16 camera angles available in the multi cam viewer the app creates ‘pages of views’, so I had 16 angles on one page and 4 more on the second page.
The Promise RAID despite its crazy data handling capabilities still couldn’t keep up with 20 streams of ProRes files but again it DID keep the audio smooth and the cuts did happen were I cut them. What I decided to do was to concentrate on the best 9 angles.
Here is a trick, once you have your multi cam clip made, double click on it, You’ll get a new view on the lower half of your screen that will allow you to prioritize the clips. Drag the best 8 or 9 to the top of the page and then just use the 9 up view and cut that first. You can always go back and replace shots with the other angles… and the Promise RAID performed better with only a 9 up working. Also learn “Command-Shift-7” you’ll be using this a LOT as you replace shots. The timeline won’t play back smooth unless you are in the viewer only mode, so play till you want to change a shot, then “Command-Shift-7” and turn on the multi viewer, select from the available shots, replace it, then “Command-Shift-7” to turn off the multi viewer and move on.
I worked for 2 LONG days on it, but not because I was staring at Render bars but because I was having so much fun I didn’t want to leave. Paul actually joined me for much of the edit and was pushing me out of my seat and wanted to ‘drive’. Almost immediately the technology just evaporated in front of us and we were completely immersed in the performance and what the band was doing and not the EDIT and what our fingers were doing. That, I may say is probably the most significant observation. IT WAS FUN!!
To make a long story short… the piece turned out great. The angles cut like butter. Peter brought us a great client, Paul did a great job directing, Tom and Julian captured some wonderful angles and it was a pleasure to cut.
When all the ‘politics’ and legal stuff get taken care of, I’ll be able to tell you more about the client and most importantly the band… I can’t wait to go see these guys live. Oh and, I’ll embed the video when I’m allowed. Later.