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Retracing The History of Multicam Editing in Final Cut Pro

Check out our Final Cut Pro: Multicam Editing course!

Multi-camera (commonly referred to as 'multicam') editing existed back in the days of hardware based switching solutions. And, the advent of digital editing brought with it the need for editors to use multiple angles simultaneously in NLEs like Final Cut. 

The objective of a multicam setup is to capture an event live, employing more than one camera to cover a variety of angles simultaneously while eradicating the monotony of a single view and taking the viewer to places where a single camera view could not. In covering live music, one camera can show the crowd, another a close up of the soloist or the drummer pounding on the snare drum. Having multiple cameras assures the director of multiple possibilities when choosing a usable shot.  The source monitors allow the director to watch all angles in one place and anticipate what angle to switch or cut to. Conversely unusable shots are excluded on the fly as well. The program monitor shows the final cuts as selected.

While not all productions were able to afford the same budget as live switching, the idea was to simulate the same experience in FCP.


Syncing Considerations Prior to FCP 5

Prior to FCP 5, there was no available feature to combine angles into a Multicam clip as we know it today. As a work-around markers could be placed on a sync point on each clip and used as a reference to line up the angles, with each angle sitting on its own track. 

Fig 1 - angles lined up with markers

Fig 1 - angles lined up with markers.


Editing was performed using the Blade Tool (B) by simply cutting out and deleting unwanted sections to reveal a desired clip that would show on playback.


Fig 2 - bladed clips

Fig 2 - bladed clips.


Multicam in FCP 5 - FCP 7

High end pro cameras have the capability to generate timecode which can be used to easily sync all the angles. Low budget camera equipment does not always offer this facility, hence we can use other creative ways to find a common sync point. Clapboards provide a visual as well as audio cue. Commonly, audio recorded with video has a waveform that can help to visually identify parts easily.

Final Cut 5 came with the much desired feature, Multicam editing. This allowed the editor to group angles in the browser and modify them into a Multiclip. 

In FCP 5 you could choose: Select browser clips > Modify > Make Multiclip. And you were given the choice as to how you wanted to sync the clips.

Fig 3 - multiclip sync dialog

Fig 3 - multiclip sync dialog.


Limitations

Your production cameras had to match or at least be capable of recording the same frame size and rate, otherwise errors would come up. If the codecs didn't match you'd go through an arduous chore of transcoding the angles to a matching format.

Fig 4 - when frame rates of source angles didn’t match

Fig 4 - when frame rates of source angles didn’t match.


Fig 5-  when frame sizes of source angles didn’t match

Fig 5- when frame sizes of source angles didn’t match.


Preview and playback source angles

So in FCP 5, 6 or 7, only when clips matched, could you successfully make a Multiclip in the browser. The clip had to be loaded to the Viewer where an In and Out could be set if needed. To playback you simply chose to overwrite the Multiclip to the Timeline. With the Viewer and Canvas playheads sync’d you were all set to start editing.

Fig 6 - multiclip source monitor

Fig 6 - multiclip source monitor.


Fig 7 - multiclip on timeline

Fig 7 - multiclip on timeline.


Welcome to FCP X

Now in Final Cut Pro X multicam workflows just got a whole lot easier. Instead of using the browser, in FCP X, after selecting an Event from the Event Library, go to Event Browser and find the clips that will constitute a Multiclip. Once the clips are selected choose the File > Make Multiclip option (not the modify menu as in previous versions).

Fig 8 - Event Browser clips

Fig 8 - Event Browser clips.


In Event Browser select the multiple angles and choose: File Menu >  New Multicam clip > OK.

Fig 9 - Sync dialog

Fig 9 - Sync dialog.


You can even use the default auto settings, FCP X will align the angles effortlessly using the audio as its reference in each angle.

Fig 10 - Sync in progress dialog

Fig 10 - Sync in progress dialog.


Fig 11 - A multi clip is created - has a multi-screen icon in top left corner

Fig 11 - A multi clip is created - has a multi-screen icon in top left corner.


Fig 12 - Multicam clip  angle viewer

Fig 12 - Multicam clip angle viewer.


Next, choose: Window > Select Angle Viewer to display your multiclip source monitor. An angle viewer allows you to preview and verify the angles are in sync.

To continue editing, the Multiclip needs to be placed on a timeline in a project. The angle viewer (Windows >  Show Angle Viewer) allows you to see all the clips in the multiclip arranged in angle order. This is where you can also assign which angle provides the good audio while the rest provide just video. 

Fig 13 - Multicam clip on timelime

Fig 13 - Multicam clip on timelime.


Editing is done on the fly, you can easily hit numeric keys that correspond to angles. Hit ‘1’ on keypad to select angle 1 and so on.


Conclusion

One of the most revolutionary features in Final Cut Pro X is the Multicam feature. Though it was late in coming, it certainly is one feature that was worth waiting for it to be built. It allows you to utilize camera resources you already have. You can truly mix and Final Cut will match. As a test we shot twenty angles of a music video in Central Park, thats twenty cameras of various brands and codecs. The list of cameras included Canon 7D, Panasonic GH1, GH2, Canon Mark II 5D, iPhone, iPad etc. The key thing the director emphasized on was for cameras to capture audio at an optimum level for later syncing with in FCP X, eliminating the need to manually add markers to each clip.




Check out our Final Cut Pro: Multicam Editing course!

Kiri C. Roberts

Kiri C. Roberts | Articles by this author

Kiri C. Roberts Kiri's journey started in Zimbabwe as a musician who had passion for computers. When he had opportunity to study in England he pursued a masters in audio production (Unvi. Of Westminster), and soon his interest gravitated towards sound design for film. He immediately latched on to Final Cut Pro version 2 as an editing tool and has been cutting video ever since. With his background in music, Logic Pro, Pro Tools and Soundtrack Pro became a staple in his tool set. The fascination in making things move on screen, especially to music and sounds made learning animation an enjoyable experience whether he's using Motion, Autodesk Smoke or After Effects. Kiri is right at home and can relate to composing music as much as compositing graphics or video - its all about blending elements that work well together - is his philosophy. He has pleasure in sharing knowledge as an Apple Certified Trainer and Smoke Trainer teaching across the USA at colleges, universities and training centers. He is also the founder of the Apple Trainers Worldwide - a group that has nearly 230 Apple Trainers from all across the world.

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