Cutting with the Vegas Pro multi-camera editing tools
by Gary Rebholz
With high-quality cameras getting more and more affordable, a growing number of editors are now faced with cutting together multiple camera shoots that consist of two, three, four, or even more cameras that have simultaneously shot the same scene. There are also many times when you might shoot the video separately, but still want to cut back and forth between multiple video streams. For instance, think of a music video, documentary, or any film with several different points of view. You might have only one camera, but you could shoot the band or subject performing or speaking multiple times from different angles so that you have editing options. You'll still need to cut back and forth between all of those video streams.
Naturally, as the number of video streams in the project grows, so too does the complexity of your editing decisions and tasks. One thing that you know for sure you don't need is a video editing application that compounds that complexity!
Thankfully, Vegas™ Pro software provides an elegant solution to multi-camera editing. In this article we'll take a look at exactly how you can use the multi-camera editing tools to make quick and intuitive work of your multiple-camera editing challenge. We'll use the example of a four-camera shoot, but you can use the same techniques with as many as 32 cameras.
The first step is to get all of the footage onto the timeline. Put the footage from each camera onto its own track in Vegas Pro software. I've got footage from four cameras, so as you can see in figure 1, I've got four video tracks with their four corresponding audio tracks in my project.
Your next challenge is to make sure the footage from all of your cameras is in perfect sync and this is a critical step if you shot all your footage simultaneously. Obviously, if the footage is not in sync you'll have all kinds of problems with your edit like video that doesn't match the master audio track and cuts between cameras that are less than seamless.
There are several ways you can sync your video tracks. If the footage was all shot simultaneously and you printed timecode from an external generator to each of the cameras during the shoot, syncing is easy. Select each of the video events and the choose Tools | Multicamera | Lay Out Tracks Using Media Timecode. This adjusts the position of each selected event as necessary so that the timecode for the media in each track matches the timecode for the media in every other track.
If you don't have the luxury of an external timecode generator, you can still help Vegas Pro software make your syncing task easier by synchronizing the time stamps on each camera before you shoot. If you've done this, add your media to the timeline, select each event that you want to synchronize, and choose Tools | Multicamera | Lay Out Tracks Using Media Date/Time Stamp. This method is a little less exact than using generated timecode because each camera's time setting could be slightly off, but it'll get you very close and you can manually make any minor adjustments that you need afterwards.
If you can't make use of either of those tools, you'll have to sync the track manually. The audio track can be a huge help to you here, provided you recorded audio to each camera as you were shooting—which you should consider doing even if you know that you will not use the audio in your final project. Solo the audio track for one clip and listen to the audio for a sharp, distinctive sound such as a hand clap or door slam.
When you've identified that sound and its corresponding waveform, place the project cursor so that it matches that location in the event. Then, move the event's Snap Offset marker—indicated by the small white triangle in the bottom-left corner of the event—so that it snaps to the project cursor. Zoom into your project if it helps. In Figure 2, you can see that I'm moving my snap offset marker and am approaching the project cursor.
Now do the same for each of the other clips so that you end up with the snap offset for each event positioned at the critical sync point. Now that you know where the sync point is in each clip, move each event until the Snap Offset marker snaps to the project cursor. If you've done your job correctly, all of your clips are now in sync.
If you don't have any audio to work with, try to find something in the video that you can key into like a camera flash. You can use the same technique of changing your snap offsets on video events. However you manage to do it, get all your video tracks in sync. Figure 3 shows my project after I've synchronized all of the video. Notice how the audio event's snap offsets are all lined up.
Keep in mind that, like mine in Figure 3, your clips are not likely to be all the same length since your cameras probably where not started and stopped at exactly the same time. For the rest of this discussion though, I'll trim the beginning and end of each event so that they all start and end at the same time. That will help make it easier to see the results of what we're about to do, but you don't necessarily have to trim the ends like this. After all, just because camera three didn't shoot the entire event doesn't mean that you shouldn't show what was shot on camera one.
Now that your video clips are all in sync, you can get to work calling your shots. Vegas Pro software uses its unique takes feature to make cutting back and forth between clips neat and easy. The takes feature enables you to stack more than one video clip into a single event and then switch between them to choose the one you want visible in the event. If you're not familiar with this tool, that might not make much sense to you yet. But in a moment you'll see why the ability to add more than one clip to an event is such a powerful feature when cutting between multiple clips.
We'll consolidate each of the video tracks into one track that contains one event with multiple takes. Click the track header for the first video track to select it and then hold the Ctrl key while you click the other video track headers to add them to the selection group. Now that all of the video tracks are selected, choose Tools | Multicamera | Create Multicamera Track. Figure 4 shows that now my project has just one video track.
The event on that video track now contains four takes. In other words, the video from all four original tracks has been consolidated into the event on the one remaining video track as takes. To see this, right-click the event on the remaining video track and choose Take from the menu. Figure 5 shows the list of clips that make up the takes in my event: Pilot, ViewFromSide, Instruments, and ViewFromFront.
The dot before one of the names in the list identifies the active take, that is, the take that's currently visible in the event and thus in the Video Preview window when you play the project. Select a different take from the list to change the active take.
Now that you have multiple takes in this single event, you can easily switch between shots. First, let's do it manually so that you get the feel for what's going on, and then we'll do it automatically on the fly as you watch the video.
Click the video event to select it and place the cursor at the click point. Press S on your keyboard to split the event. Now, right-click the second of the two resulting events and choose Take from the menu. Choose a different take from the list of takes at the bottom to change the clip that's active in this event. You've just called your first edit!
Although you could go through your project calling your shots manually like this, there is of course a better way. Look at the Video Preview window. At the moment—as usual—it shows whatever clip is active in the event that your cursor sits in. But in order to call your shots quickly, it'd be nice to see all of the video streams simultaneously. Choose Tools | Multicamera | Enable Multicamera Editing. Now look at your Video Preview window. You can see in Figure 6 that mine now shows all four video streams. The blue highlight around the instrument clip identifies that as the currently active take, that is, the clip that will show in the final project.
Now for the fun part. Play your project. As it plays, you can see all of the video streams. To choose your cuts, just click on the stream in the Video Preview window you want to cut to. Or, use your 10-key number pad to call your shots. In my case, I'll use the 1 - 4 keys to call the shots. Every time you switch shots, Vegas Pro software automatically splits the event on the timeline and changes to the take you selected. That's exactly what you did manually a few minutes ago, but you can see the advantage of being able to call the shots on the fly like this.
By default, all of the cuts between clips are jump edits that switch instantaneously from one camera to the next. If you'd rather have crossfades instead of jump cuts, hold the Ctrl key as you call your shots. When you're done, look at the timeline. The event has been split into multiple events and the takes have been changed to reflect the calls you made.
Now that you've made those calls, you can edit your video in any way you see fit. For instance, if you don't like the camera you switched to for the fourth event on your timeline, right-click it and choose the shot you'd rather have from the take list. Or, if you don't like where you made a particular cut, trim the edges of the events at that cut to place it where you want it. In other words, you have complete flexibility to fix any mistakes you might have made during the shot calling process.
Now, for the big payoff, choose Tools | Multicamera | Enable Multicamera Editing to turn the feature off. Play your project and watch the edits you made.
These multicamera tools can save you lots of time and headaches when you need to edit a multiple-camera project. To watch as I go through all of the steps in this article, check out the eighth installment of the Vegas Pro training videos hosted by Les Stroud. While you're there, check out the entire Les Stroud series as well as all of the free training videos and other training resources like our Seminar Series and the Digital Audio and Video Production guide book that you'll find there.
The footage in this article was supplied courtesy of www.sportys.com.
Gary Rebholz, is the training manager for Sony Creative Software. Gary produces the popular Seminar Series training packages for Vegas Pro, ACID Pro, and Sound Forge software. He is also co-author of the book Digital Video and Audio Production. Gary has conducted countless hands-on classes in the Sony Creative Software training center, as well as at tradeshows such as the National Association of Broadcasters show.