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Many questions have come my way regarding this problem that people can have in Premiere with syncing R3D footage. Here is a step by step process to synchronize and organize your clips so you can get on with your edit.
1. Organize Your Bins And Clips!
This is one of the most time consuming, dull parts of editing. I recommend that you use a nested bin structure, putting bins within bins, in order to stay as organized as possible. Organization is a pain, but it will save you tons of time down the line, especially with larger projects. Use whatever system works best for you, but coming from Final Cut Pro 7, I like to name my main bin “Capture Scratch” and nest my video and audio as separate bins within that bin. This will help you differentiate between what will be a series of different clips in different bins in your project file.
To the left is an example of a project I’ve worked out of. In this example, you can see that I’ve actually used the date of the shooting day (YYYYMMDD), followed by the device (camera or audio recorder) that was used, and the card number on that day. This allows the software to simultaneously make clips fall under alphabetical order and chronological order.
You’ll also want to go through and label each clip of video and audio. I usually label the first clip a shot, and then only label the take number for the rest of the clips of that same take. This makes things a little easier to look at. Labeling now will also help you immeasurably later, so I STRONGLY recommend that you do it.
2. Create A New Sequence
This sequence should only be used for syncing your audio and video. Don’t delete this sequence after you’ve synced all your footage, as it can be helpful later on. If you have too much footage to put all on one sequence, create more sequences. You don’t want to bog down your computers RAM unnecessarily.
3. Grab Audio And Video For Synchronization
Here, the blue clips are the R3D footage with a scratch track, and green are the 4 channels of 744t audio. Put them in your timeline similarly to my example.
You’ll notice that I have vertically zoomed in just a little with my audio, so that I can see the waveforms. Use the “Option” + “=” and “Option” + “-” keyboard shortcuts to easily zoom in and out.
You’ll also notice that while the waveforms do seem to be identical, they are not lined up perfectly. In addition, you’ll notice how the bottom two green channels don’t have any waveform. They are useless, as I only needed two channels to record audio for this particular scene, which brings me to my next step.
4. Delete Any Unneeded Channels Of Audio
Most of the time your R3D will have 4 audio tracks of its own when you bring the clip into the sequence. Highlight the different tracks to be synced, right-click and click “Unlink.” The keyboard shortcut is “Cmd+L.” Then select the blank channels and delete them. Consolidate whatever is left into as few channels in your sequence as possible, and select them all.
5. Sync The Audio And Video
The best way to go about this in Premiere is to select the audio and video that you want to synchronize, right-click and select “Synchronize.” Up pops a window that will help you sync. You’ll want to make sure that you use “Audio” as Synchronize Point, with your scratch track (which in this case is in channel 1 of my sequence) as your Track Channel. Hit “OK.” The software will undergo a series of processes, and when it’s done your clips should be magically moved to the correct spot, all synced and ready to go. Play it back a little just to be sure. Your ears are going to be a better gauge than the software a lot of the time.
For me, this process thus far in step 5 works about 80% of the time. For the remaining 20%, sometimes the scratch track isn’t loud enough to give a reasonable signal to the software, or it just malfunctions and I’m baffled why it won’t work. In this case, you have to line it up manually. My favorite way to sync manually is to find the clap spike in the waveform, and place a marker there. With the clip selected, hit the “m” key to place the marker.
Grab the green audio clip from the 744t and line up the markers from it with the markers from the R3D clips. Play it back to make sure it’s in sync. Make changes as necessary. For exampe, sometimes I’m off by a frame. If you’re not sure, move the 744t audio clips a frame forward and then a frame backward. You should be able to hear a flanging effect, or slight delay, if it isn’t lined up perfectly. You can also sync your audio with In or Out points, and with Timecode if you’ve done the necessary prep during Principal Photography for that.
Once you’ve got your two clips synced, select all of the clips together, right-click, and select “Link.” The keyboard shortcut is “Cmd+L.”
6. Merge The Clips Together
There are several ways to organize this. My favorite is to have another nested bin structure in your Project window with the top bin named “Merged Clips” and additional bins named after shooting dates or whatever other system you’re using. Grab the newly synced clip set in your sequence and drag it over to the appropriate bin in your Project window. After that a window pops up. All you want to do here is rename the file appropriately. I usually delete everything after the word “Merged” to keep things simpler.
7. Modify The Clips Audio Channels
This is the final part of the syncing process. If you bring your newly synced and merged clip into your sequence from your Project window. You’ll notice that there are four times the number of audio channels than there should be. You’ll need to turn some of them off.
To do this, right-click the clip in your Project window and select Modify > Audio Channels. From there the Modify Clip window pops up. You’ll want to keep the Source Channel of channel 1, 5, and whatever other channels the audio waveform falls under, unchanged. Change all the rest to “None.” Usually the software skips 3 or 4 channels, for whatever reason, so you’ll usually be turning off channels at those intervals. After you’re done, you can “Save Preset As,” before you hit OK. This will help you save time for your future merged clips.
However, keep in mind that this preset you’ve created will only work for whatever number of scratch tracks and 744t tracks you are syncing. In my example that I have used for this blog post, I have one scratch track and two 744t externally recorded tracks to sync. In other scenes I’ve used all 4 of my 744t channels, and other times there were zero scratch tracks. So every time I had a new combination within the Modify Clip window, after I’d merged the two clips together, I had to create a new preset in order to keep my process streamlined. I recommend you do the same.
After all of your clips are merged, you’ll probably be editing out of the Merged Clips bin (or whatever you named it), so make sure any shots you got MOS are in the appropriate sub-bin, within the Merged Clips bin, as well. You don’t want to forget those. Happy editing!