PluralEyes for Avid
Marrying Avid, a 5D Mark II and a ZOOM H4N
By Steve Hullfish | June 20, 2011
PluralEyes has really made a name for itself with editors as the DSLR workflows have been explored more and more. PluralEyes is a software solution that allows you to automatically sync up the separate audio and video files from, say, a 5D Mark II DSLR with an audio file from a handheld digital recorder, like the ZOOM.
Since the 5D's audio capabilities are horrendous, most people record audio using a second device. When most shooting was happening on camcorders where the audio and video was being recorded at the same time by the same device, you didn't really need PluralEyes, however, you can also use PluralEyes to automatically sync multiple cameras together without needing timecode or markers or clappers or anything other than similar audio on all cameras. Notice that I didn't say "identical" audio. Just something fairly close. PluralEyes works its magic by matching the audio waveforms. So if you have a multicam shoot, PluralEyes can definitely simplify that process if you don't have matching timecode. PVC has run a few stories on how to use PluralEyes with FCP or PremierePro, but it can also be used with Avid Media Composer, so I decided to explore that. This may seem like a lot of exposure for PluralEyes, but the workflows are different and PluralEyes is not a sponsor of PVC and hasn't paid for these reviews. It's just that I think this is going to be an important piece of software for this "new" workflow.
I had a project that I shot as a one-man-band with my Canon 5D Mark II and a ZOOM H4N audio recorder. These kinds of shoots are bad enough if you have a simple camcorder and you've got to be the D.P., audio recording engineer and the interviewer, but to make the whole thing go together on a windy day while trying to do dual system sound seemed like a recipe for disaster... luckily, the shots are in focus and the audio on the ZOOM, recorded directly from an audio-technica lav, sounded great. The real issue for this test of PluralEyes was that the 5D audio was recorded with nothing but the built-in camera mic and the wind noise was really rough in a number of places. I wasn't sure this was going to be a very fair test for PluralEyes, but I didn't want to go out and shoot more test footage just for the point of doing this review, so PluralEyes was going to have to prove its mettle.
We'll leave the question of whether it succeeded as the cliffhanger to get you to the end of what is both a review and a fairly simple tutorial on how to use Pluraleyes with Avid MC.
Some technical background: I'm running Mac OSX 10.6.7. I'm running Avid MC 5.03, and the latest version of PluralEyes for Avid.
I downloaded PluralEyes from the website, (http://www.singularsoftware.com/downloads.html). The download was simple and walking through it was just as easy and intuitive as most download/install procedures.
If you haven't heard too much about PluralEyes, I should note that it is not a plug-in. It is a stand-alone application that you interact with by exporting sequences from Avid as AAF files and receive synced sequences back from PluralEyes by importing AAF files.
Lots of people don't like leaving their NLE. But this was a pretty painless procedure. I didn't read any manuals before attempting this. I didn't even talk to any technical reps from the company. (Bloggers regularly get special hand-holding by tech services to make sure all goes well with their software.) All I did was watch the simple 5 minute instructional video which has a link from the install file. The video was easy to follow. (http://www.singularsoftware.com/help/pluraleyes_mc/howto_pluraleyes_mc.html)
Once I had the software downloaded, installed and registered, I launched Avid MC and imported my media. The 5D files were already on a folder on my RAID. I imported them as DNxHD files, maintaining the same size and frame rate. Then I imported the WAV files from the ZOOM.
I drag and dropped all of the ZOOM files into the timeline by selecting them all and option-dragging them to the RECORD window. This automatically edited them into a sequence in chronological order. I had recorded basically 11 WAV files as I interviewed 8 men at a hunting lodge. I also had about 14 .MOV files from the 5D. There was one spot where I recorded with the 5D but not the ZOOM and there were two instances where I recorded with the ZOOM, but not the 5D.
With the audio files in the sequence in chronological order on audio tracks 1 and 2, I simply cut the 5D video and audio on video track 1 and audio tracks 3 and 4. If you look at the timeline, I did not make any attempt to line up the tracks even roughly, except that I did put the start of the audio for each person's interview at the start of the video file. I think I could have simply cut them in in chronological order with no spaces and it would have worked fine. As it is in this timeline, some of the audio is still out of sync by more than a minute, and as I mentioned there are some files with nothing to match to at all, even though I clustered them together.
With my sequence laid out in chronological order, with the audio from the two devices stacked on multiple tracks, I exported the sequence as an AAF file. This is very easy to do. With the sequence selected, choose File>Export. In the resulting "Export As" Dialog box, select the Options button and in the Export As pulldown menu, select AAF. make sure to include all of your audio and video tracks. (I forgot this step the first time I tried this and got an error in PluralEyes, because there was only video to match to!) Maybe save the Export Preset as "To PluralEyes" or something and choose a location for the export to land. I knew this would be a temporary file, so I went out to my desktop. Almost instantaneously, a file called "TestSequence1.aaf" appeared on my desktop. At the same time, a new sequence with the suffix ".Exported.01" was created in my Avid bin. If you want to double check that you didn't do something stupid in the export (like I did with the video only export) just check that new sequence to see that it matches your original sequence.
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