Multicam Editing in Final Cut Pro X
One of the significant advantages Final Cut Pro X has had over its non-linear editing rivals is the ease with which you can do multicam editing. The powerful synchronisation and playback features make it simple to create and edit sequences from up to 16 angles. In this article, we’re going to use the example of multicam editing a live event filmed with two cameras.
The first step of multicam editing takes place after import. Once the material is in your Event, use Keywords to group together each part of the day’s clips. Explanation of the methods and benefits of Keywords are in the article How To Get Organised in FCPX. By using Keywords, we can separate the footage and focus on one section of the wedding.
The next step of multicam editing is to synchronise the related parts into a Multicam Clip. This section is the couple’s first dance, recorded with one static camera and one roving. If you have more associated clips, viewing the Browser content in List Mode gives the ability to use the camera metadata to identify those that need to be together. With the three clips selected, we can right-click and choose New Multicam Clip.
(The Synchronize Clip option will not produce a multi-angle clip, but rather a Compound Clip of the selected items. Compound clips are great for matching video with separate audio coverage, to form a joint clip for use as a single element).
The window that opens next allows us to decide how the Multicam Clip will be created. We could explore the multitude of options, but the key one is ‘Use audio for synchronisation’. Assuming all the selected clips have sound captured, FCPX will do precisely that. Otherwise, the value of having timecode-synced cameras makes a difference here. Once OK-ed, the process takes time relative to the format of the video clips, their length and how many you’re trying to sync.
Once created, the Browser will jump to the new Multicam Clip, identifiable by the foursquare icon. Before we repeat the process with the remaining clips, we must check the synchronisation has worked. Double-clicking on the Multicam Clip opens it on the Timeline under the Angle Editor environment, wherein we can see the arrangement of clips.
All being well, you’ll be able to see the clips lined-up perfectly, without adjustment needed. The quickest way to check is to activate Monitor Audio for all the clips and playback from a point where all angles are present. It also makes sense to rename your Angles functionally. If you plan on doing any colour correction, it can save time later by doing so now, with the clips in the Angle Editor.
Notice that by default in the Angle Editor, the pointer becomes the Position tool, thus allowing you to move clips around without any influence of the Magnetic Timeline. So if any clips are out of place, you can drag and drop them around freely.
In this example, we can see that having two different clips for the wide shot has created a fourth track. Everything is still in sync, but FCPX has assumed each clip is a camera, thus producing an angle for each. We want to work with as fewer angles as necessary, so to fix this, we can drag the top clip into the track beneath.
As soon as you move anything, a timecode caption will appear, indicating if the clip is being shifted back or forward in time from its current position. If the automatic syncing was accurate, we want to keep it all zeros: This is made more accessible by lining-up the playhead to the end of a clip and enabling Snapping. For small adjustments in timing, use the < > keys to nudge clips along one frame at a time.
Once you’ve consolidated scattered clips, it’s best to delete the extraneous angle tracks. The opposite is also possible: Adding an angle allows you to bring other content into the clip that can be automatically synced to the Monitoring Angle, or positioned manually.
When you’re satisfied the Multicam Clip is built correctly, I recommend the following housekeep- ing duties. Again, further details on these steps are in the How To Get Organised in FCPX article.
Firstly, tag your new Multicam Clip with the appropriate Keyword, so it’s grouped with the original component clips. Ultimately, we no longer need to see these clips, as we will edit directly with the Multicam Clip. Therefore, identify those clips already successfully synced and mark them as Rejected. By then choosing to Hide Rejected clips, it’s straightforward to see those that still need synchronisation. Eventually, you’ll be left looking at just the Multicam Clips that are ready for multicam editing editing.
With a Multicam Clip on your Project timeline, it’s pertinent to adjust the layout of your work- space. I favour hiding the Browser and then opening the View > Angles window. We’re now able to see all the available streams inside the clip as we skim through the timeline. From the Display Settings, we can select viewing 2, 4, 9 or 16 angles simultaneously. In theory, it’s possible to live edit using that many angles, but your hardware limits the practical ability to increase the number of streams. It’s possible to view the Angles window at any time, and it can be useful when manually arranging clips in the Angle Editor.
Live multicam editing editing is done by merely selecting the angle to which you want to cut during playback, just as would be done during a live broadcast. The difference here, of course, is that all cuts can be adjusted, improved or removed at leisure. The cuts can be to switch video only, audio only or both together. The border colour of the angles changes to blue, green or yellow according to which has active elements at that time.
The cuts appear on the clip as vertical dotted lines. The timing of edits can be adjusted using the Trim tool, which enables sliding of the cut point back and forth as needed. Expanding the clip allows for adjustments to the audio, independent from the video, as with standard clip editing.
Relative to the position of the playhead, right-clicking on the clip permits adding additional cuts to the both the Active Video and Active Audio angles. This submenu can also be used to change existing cuts. To remove an unwanted cut, first, highlight it and use the backspace key to delete it, leaving the previous angle active.
After an initial live edit. it’s well worth rewatching the project and revising questionable or mistimed cuts. Also consider the rhythm and timing of video angle changes, so as not to disorientate viewers. The use of multiple angles should be to enhance the viewing experience, not confuse it.
Multicam Clips don’t require use in isolation. They can be added to any project, and combined with any other material and content types. They always maintain their Active Angle multicam editing abilities.
As with most initially multicam editing procedures, it’s well worth experimenting with Multicam Clips before embarking on an important project. Recognising the quirks and how to work around issues at all stages of the process, will increase your confidence and improve your output. Mastering multicam editing in Final Cut Pro X is an ideal use of your time and the power the software has to offer.