How to Make Multi-Cam Video Editing Easier with a Plugin

Editing video projects with multiple camera angles can be a real pain. Not only is it difficult to sync the clips up so they match, but you basically have to watch the video many times over to determine the best shots to keep. Perhaps you’re not using multiple video clips, but have an external audio source that you prefer over the one captured by the camera. How do you sync these up perfectly without spending hours in the studio attempting to do so?

Enter PluralEyes by Singular Software, and it works on Final Cut Pro (7 and X), EDIUS, Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere, and Sony Vegas Pro. PluralEyes is essentially a series of plugins that are made for the biggest professional video editing programs out there that handles the task of aligning video and audio tracks for you. It does this in seconds, saving you hours of hassle dealing with time codes and other variables that make editing less fun and more of a chore.

We received a review copy of PluralEyes for Final Cut Pro X to try out, and while I was skeptical about how a plugin like this could actually sync video and audio in various situations, I decided to give it a try. The results were surprising.

How Does it Work?

The basic principal behind PluralEyes is the same across all of the supported platforms, with a few minor differences.

All you need to do is add all of the audio and video tracks to a new sequence, and fire up PluralEyes. Your tracks will be synced and you’ll even be provided with a multi-angle display so you can see all of the shots at once, a very handy editing tool.

Why Would You Need This?

Modern consumer camcorders tend to record longer videos in multiple takes, making it easier to store to SD without stopping the shoot. Now, imagine having two or three cameras at a particular event, all capturing interesting moments here and there, but not really getting it all in a single shot.

How do you take a master audio track and align all these clips perfectly so they don’t appear out of sync after editing? This is one of the nightmares that keep professional video editors grumpy, but in business. It can take hours to get a mass of video and audio tracks ready for editing, especially on longer projects.

By employing an external tool to handle aligning the clips for you, this would make an otherwise time-consuming task much faster and easier.

Does it Actually Work?

I gave PluralEyes for Final Cut Pro X a try. We set out and shot a minute of video from two different iPhones, and brought the clips to Final Cut Pro for editing. Arranging the clips so that they appear in the project was a standard process, and exporting the project to XML was easy enough.

Going to PluralEyes, the synchronization process took about ten seconds and resulted in a secondary project that was very well aligned. I was actually fairly surprised at just how well it worked. Clips were synced perfectly, and you couldn’t even hear a slight echo in the audio (a sign of being just slightly off on alignment).

The second test involved two different camera styles. I used an Olympus PEN Mini and a Canon HF-R20 HD camcorder. The PEN Mini has notably bad audio as you can hear the mechanism in the camera itself operate during recording. To make it even more difficult, I pointed the cameras in two different directions. If that didn’t do the job, I reset the internal clock on one camera to a different day/month/year just in case that had any factor in its operation (a very very slim chance).

The result of this test was consistent with what I had experienced with the iPhones. Everything was synced perfectly, and PluralEyes even generated its own .XML file for me to use with a later project.

Final Thoughts

It’s refreshing to be able to give an honest review about a product that performs exactly the way it is advertised. It was quick, relatively easy, and straightforward. I tried to break it, and figure out a way to keep it from working. To my surprise, whatever I threw at it seemed to work out rather well.

The one downside I did notice was that PluralEyes has to be purchased separately for each editing program you use. If I want to edit something in Sony Vegas Pro, I’d have to buy it separately than a copy for Final Cut Pro X.

The $149 price may be high for casual video editors. This plugin is intended with the professional in mind. Whether or not it’s worth the price would be up to the individual editor, though the time it can save may certainly add up to a value well above the initial point of entry.

Note: Comments made in regards to this article have indicated a want/need to compare this plugin to existing features on Final Cut Pro X. This article isn’t intended to compare the product to any one editing program. PluralEyes works on a wide range of editors on both Mac and PC, making it a hard comparison to any one program. Final Cut Pro X has audio sync baked in, and it works very well. The trick is being able to sync upwards of thirty independent clips and generate a multitrack clip to view from. In that sense, PluralEyes has a clear advantage. That said, there is no reason (in my opinion) any hobbyist video editor should invest this much in a plugin. This is intended for the professional crowd, and is priced for that market. So, there!

PluralEyes is available on a 30 day free trial with full versions priced at $149.