I did a couple of multi-camera shoots recently which required me to devise a more complex editing workflow than most of the shoots I’ve previously worked. After a couple of false starts I came up with a process that worked out quite well. In this post I’d like to share what I learned. There may be better approaches (perhaps, using nested sequences?) but for my needs the procedure described below was flexible and reasonably efficient.
I’m going to focus on a shoot I did of a two-day conference (Citizens’ Climate Lobby Southern California Regional Conference) in which three cameras were used for the plenary sessions. One camera (a Panasonic GH4) was focused exclusively on the speaker; another camera (GH4) was fixed on a large projection screen showing the speaker’s slide deck and the third camera (Sony PXWZ150) alternated between the speaker and shots of the audience. I used a separate audio recorder which was connected to a feed from the room’s sound system.
I learned that there’s a lot more setup work involved in creating a multi-camera editing project than for a single-camera shoot. It’s also important to set things up appropriately for your situation so that the rest of the editing process will work smoothly.
Preparations for Creating a Multi-Camera Source Sequence
One of the key steps in editing multi-cam footage in Premiere Pro is creating a Multi-Camera Source Sequence (MCSS). This synchronizes the footage from all the cameras (and the audio) and allows you to see the footage in Premiere’s Multi-Camera view. This makes it easy to select different camera angles while playing back the footage.
I had thought that my first step after importing the footage would be to create a multi-cam source sequence. But when I did that I found some problems in synchronizing. This was because the Panasonic GH4 breaks its footage into a series of six-minute files. It will record continuously for as long as you like (until your SD card is filled). But the footage is broken into a series of six-minute files.
I use Premiere Pro’s audio synchronization method so when syncing multiple cameras what actually happens is that Premiere is synchronizing the first file from each of my GH4s. But in a one-hour talk there will be ten footage files and I found that only the first one was synchronized properly. The way this works out is dependent on several factors but I determined that the simple solution for my situation was to create a source sequence for each of my two GH4s. Creating a single source sequence for each camera also simplifies editing later as it avoids the need to make edits that span two files. (The edits can span two physical files but the process is transparent to the editor.)
To do this I simply select the set of GH4 files for one camera, right-click and choose New Sequence from Clip. This creates a regular sequence of the appropriate resolution and frame rate for the footage. I created separate camera source sequences for each of the GH4s.
One thing to watch out for when creating a camera source sequence is to make sure the files are sorted by filename (in the Project window) before selecting them to create the sequence. If some other column is selected the files will be added in that sort order, meaning that they will most likely be out of order in the resulting sequence.
Creating a Multi-Camera Source Sequence
With the camera source sequences created I then create a Multi-Camera Source Sequence by first selecting each camera sequence & the audio file (recorded separately on a Tascam recorder). Then, with all camera sequences and the audio file selected I right-click and choose Create Multi-Camera Source Sequence from the popup menu. Finally, I create a new output sequence with my desired output resolution and then drag the MCSS onto the timeline.
Ensuring a Smooth Workflow
With a multi-camera workflow there are some options in terms of where you do things like scaling, color correction and audio editing. On this shoot I recorded on GH4s in 4K but was targeting output at 720p. This gave me the flexibility to punch in in post without losing any resolution. Of course, I then had to scale the footage down to fit the final output sequence resolution. So, the question was which should I do?
- Set the scale on each physical footage file within the camera source sequences or
- Set the scale on my camera source sequence or
- Set the scale in the final output sequence?
Option 1 requires extra work because I have multiple physical files for each camera. So, I used a combination of 2 & 3. I first set a scale factor of 0.33 to make the 4K footage fit properly on my 720p final output sequence. This allows me to see the entire source frame so I know what I’ve got when I’m choosing camera angles. Then, to take advantage of the ability to zoom in in post I can adjust the scale factor of individual clips on the output timeline.
Editing Inside the Multi-Camera Source Sequence
Now, to set the scale factor on my entire source camera sequence I need to do that within the multi-camera source sequence. However, you cannot directly open a multi-camera source sequence from the Project window. If you double-click on a MCSS in the Project window (or in the timeline of a final edit sequence) it will open the MCSS in the Source window. From there you can see each of the camera views but you’re limited in what you can do. You can’t set the scale of the individual source sequences, for example.
The fix for that is to open the MCSS by control-double-clicking on it (in Windows) in the final output timeline. That will open it into a view in the Timeline window showing each source sequence (each camera angle) as a separate layer in the timeline:
You can then select each layer so you can scale or otherwise adjust it as needed. Of course, you’ll have to temporarily toggle off the visibility of higher layers in order to see the effects of your changes on lower layers. And in this example, you can see that I’ve muted all the scratch audio (camera audio) and left only Track 1, the Tascam recorder sound, enabled.
I also thought about doing color correction in the multi-cam source sequence figuring that I could just adjust each camera sequence all at once to correct/match the other cameras. However, the room where the plenary sessions took place had some relatively large windows. This meant that the color temperature changed throughout the day so this approach would not work well. Instead, I decided to color correct each clip in the final output sequence to get consistent color from shot to shot.
The other thing I tend to do is adjust the audio before chopping the final output sequence into camera angle clips. Unlike my case with color correction it worked well for me to make all the audio adjustments once.
This process took care of all the setup I needed. The rest of the work is pretty straightforward as you edit the multi-cam source sequence to choose the different camera angles at the appropriate times. This results in a final output sequence like this one with cuts between cameras.