THIS IS A VERY IN DEPTH TUTORIAL ON ACCURATE SYNC, I HOPE IT SERVES YOU WELL!
Please visit my website: www.bryancolvin.com
I have noticed that a lot of youtube tutorials are not teaching correct practice! (or simply not taking you to the finish line for sync clips!)
I hope this article gives you a clear path and gets your clips damn well in sync! Get your coffee/red bull/smoothie ready, (or whatever your cup of tea is)… hell even tea. There’s lot of information here, but I’ll try to keep it as concise yet descriptive as possible. THIS IS LONG! You may need to read in multiple sessions to take this all in. Best of luck and hope this information helps!
Note: This is AVID Media Composer Specific, but these functions can all be performed in other programs (except for perf slip). I think premiere has some “offset” function but its 1 frame accurate not sub-frame. In Final Cut and Premiere I believe there are ways to get sub frame accuracy using IN POINT method. Perf Slip is one of my MAIN reasons for always choosing AVID! 🙂
There are several ways to achieve sync with your audio and film/video sources.
1. Source Timecode (if you’re lucky)
2. In Points by hand
3. Sync map AKA MultiGrouping
4. Audio comparison AKA PluralEyes
When you’re done you want to end up with scene bins with each take being a true sync clip that is labeled something like
16A/2 (meaning 16A take 2) or
16A – 2 (doesn’t matter how you name them as long as it makes sense to YOU or your Editor if you are an AE)
This screenshot shows a bin setup with A and B camera and multiclip groups.
So, how do we get from:
Ready to edit sync clips?
For all methods you will probably want to create a temporary sync bin and drag everything into that to begin:
(I usually do this ONE camera roll at a time in Feature Film Editorial World)
Before I go into the methods, I am going to give you a
For perf slip to work (more on what this is later), you MUST MUST MUST MUST have started your project with the following box checked. Yes even if it is entirely digital trust me!
If you did not, you are going to cry. Yes that’s a bold statement, but ITS GUARANTEED haha.
If you can’t remember if you selected this you can check (in the latest Avid MC 8 and up)
If you see a perf listing here you are in good shape.
In previous versions (and you can check it same way in version 8 still) you can open the project and go to the format tab)
You still see in the bottom description, perf information.
If you don’t see this, STOP, make a new project with that film box checked. You can copy your bins into your new project, but you will have to redo any and all audio clip imports.
If you are in good shape here, MAKE SURE, MAKE SURE, MAKE SURE, then when you bring in your raw audio files. you use IMPORT!!!! Do not under and circumstance you AMA link -> transcode / consolidate to bring in audio
or: YOU. WILL. CRY. Also guaranteed. haha
Okay, sorry just had to get that warning to you UPFRONT! Now onto the real stuff.
How to sync:
Option 1: SOURCE TIMECODE
Note: This section is quite long, because I will be covering a lot of topics that effect all other methods! So even if you don’t have source timecode please read through this section!
This is only possible if on set the crew used a lockit box or jam synching or some other device to synchronize the timecode on all devices.
– Not always accurate!
One way to tell if this is working and you can use it, is to sort by Start column. If you see for the most part alternating audio / film / audio / film / audio / film, you’re probably in good shape.
Another way to check is to “auto sequence”. This is also good to show you what can go wrong when trying to use “perf slip” (we’ll come back to that in a bit).
To create an auto sequence select ALL clips in the bin and click on the fast menu of the sync bin and select “Auto Sequence”
This will create a timeline that auto names its self one of your tape names from the selection
Once you open the auto sequence (if source timecode is working) you will see the footage and audio placed in the timeline as they took place during their production day
It is good to note, that any audio clip that does not FULLY cover the duration of a film / video clip (with extra on front and back) will give you issues with perf slip! This is why you want audio to roll BEFORE camera and to not hit CUT so fast as camera does. If you can convince them to do so it will save you a lot of headache in post!
See how the GOOD clips have extra audio content on FRONT & BACK! This is how it should be, and if its not you should notify production to begin doing so! Urge, but don’t be an asshole! LOL, if you haven’t been on set you don’t understand sometimes things get so hectic that you can’t always do everything correctly (though it shouldn’t be this way, sometimes it just is)
Now that you know “YES Source Timecode is definitely there!” Select ALL Audio Clips and Camera Clips
then you very quickly create your subclips using fast menu on bin window and selecting “Auto Sync”.
You will see this window, make sure Source Timecode is selected. (the other methods can also be handy!)
In most cases you will want to make sure “Keep audio on clip with video” is NOT selected as you only want the audio from the audio device.
This will automatically create subclips for EVERY time camera and audio hit record and stop.
Awesome! (though they need to be checked and renamed). Here is where perf slip comes into play.
WARNING!: If you didn’t heed my warning in the beginning about FILM project setting and IMPORTING audio NOT using AMA linking, you are now in trouble and have to start over
Open the first one. Make sure you toggle to view source in the timeline
If you see your film / video clip with multiple lanes of audio you should have a big grin on your face! Now turn on Waveforms in audio data. Fast Menu in the TIMELINE (two buttons to the left of the source toggle button) and select Audio Data -> Waveform
Scrub to where the slate is closed or a frame just before closing
You will notice in my example the timecode is off by a few frames!
Timecode DRIFT has occurred. If this is happening a lot its time to politely remind production to jam sync their equipment more often. Using auto sequence you can determine how far off it goes over time. This will help you judge how to tell them HOW OFTEN to jam sync. I have noticed Arri Alexa material don’t drift nearly as much as RED camera material. I assume alexa must have a more accurate internal clock.
Perf Slip to the rescue (not only rescue, you should perf slip EVERY SINGLE CLIP, no matter how accurate the jam sync holds)
If you haven’t already mapped perf slip keys, open your keyboard settings and command palette
You’re going to want to to map Slip Left 1 Perf and Slip Right 1 Perf to your keyboard. (or you can use active palette)
There is an art to syncing with clapboard. My rule to myself is:
IF the clapboard is completely SHUT: The clap happened either exactly at that moment, or slightly before! There is where a lot of editors miss how sync should be. A lot of people scrub in their audio until the hear a clap, and using that as their sync point. Most of the time this is about 1 frame too late.
(blurred and painted to protect identity of film and crew)
Here is the first frame of clapboard CLOSED
My clapboard audio is quite far off so I have to perf slip a bit to bring it into the correct place
(The two green vertical lines represent frame start and end)
Using your perf slip keys you mapped, or active palette with command palette perf slip the audio over to the FIRST green line (as a starting point)
WARNING If you hear AVID beeping at you, you have a clip without enough audio slack and will have to jump ahead to how to fix those types of clips
If it works out you should end up with this
A lot of people stop here thinking that is perfect sync. WRONG!
You have to check the frame PRIOR to clapboard being closed. Remember I said the clapboard being closed means it either happened EXACTLY on that frame, or prior. In all likelihood your waveform should be a fraction of a frame prior to the vertical green line where the clapboard is closed.
You can see in the prior frame the clapboard is ALMOST closed. The clap probably happened closer to this frame than the frame where it is visibly closed. Here is where the audio waveform is currently
Using perf slip I’m going to move the waveform to a more accurate time where I think the clap TRULY happened.
Its INBETWEEN the green lines on the frame prior to it being fully closed. This is my best estimation of when the clap truly occurred.
It is best to double / triple check playing in slow motion (hold down K and press L)
Adjust until it feels right in slow mo, and more importantly real time playback.
Once you’re happy with the clip you can rename this clip (best to hit button FIND BIN to get back to it) You may have to map FIND BIN, open command palette and keyboard settings again and pick a key.
Now you have ONE sync clip (you can name yours however you like, or how your editor likes them if you are an AE)
Now repeat for the rest. IF YOU RUN INTO PERF SLIP BEEP and you can’t slip anymore, scroll down for how to fix this!
Once you are done you should have all your sync clips raw audio and raw camera all in this sync bin
Place your raw audio and raw camera master clips back where they belong in the dailies bin and raw audio bins
Now you should have a nice clean sync bin with sync clips that have ALL been perf slipped to perfection and are ready to enter their SCENE bins
You will either be creating these scene bins for the first time, or ADDING these new sync clips to already existing scene bins
Drag clips to their respective scene numbers.
THE DREADED PERF SLIP BEEP PROBLEM (AND HOW TO FIX IT!)
OKAY, now if you experienced the DREADED BEEP when there is not enough audio to perf slip where you need to go! Here is one solution.
If you go back to your autosequence (you can use auto sequence selecting ONLY the offending clips as well).
Remember this? (Audio doesn’t run off both ends with extra slack)
Most likely your offending clips have audio that do not cover the entire video / film clip. (Or there is massive timecode drift and not enough slack) Here is one solution using sub clipping.
NOTE: There is a more elegant method using AUX TC that is a bit more complex. Look at the videos at the bottom when you’re ready to learn it that way, but also learn this way so you know both.
Go to beginning of whatever source started last (in this case camera rolled AFTER audio rolled). Move forward 8 frames (2 on keyboard) ADD EDIT
now go to end of whatever clip CUT first (in this case audio cut first) BACK 8 frames (1 on keyboard) and ADD EDIT
This is going to create enough audio slack to utilize perf slip
T mark (making sure ALL tracks are selected that need to be in your sync clip)
If you don’t already have SUBCLIP mapped to keyboard or a button nearby go to command palette (Edit tab, right had side)
When you hit subclip from the timeline, WHATEVER BIN you last had focus on is where your subclip will go. So make sure you click on Sync Bin, before going to your timeline and hitting “subclip”
Once you do it you will see a new subclip show up
You will notice the SEQUENCE icon. This is because you need to perform AUTO SYNC. Fast menu from the bin, and Auto Sync.
Now you’re ready to perf slip and rename your sync clip! When you have to do a lot of these you’ll start getting ready to loudly let production know to PLEASE keep enough head and tail on audio material. Email them screenshots of your auto sequence showing whats happening so they understand.
*WIPES SWEAT* Wow, that was a whole lot of info, but all very valuable. Information that will set you above the rest.
If you need a break, come back in a bit. Let all that soak in!
Now that you’re back, how about, no source timecode? (DSLR anyone?) OR Source timecode that doesn’t match?
Option 2: In Points by Hand!
– You will get to know the footage!
– A lot more tedious
Once you have your sync bin ready (all raw audio and raw camera material in one bin)
select all clips and hit “G” on keyboard (removes all in / out points)
Now you’re ready to begin
Open your first film / video clip. Find the clip boards CLOSED position (or 1 frame prior, you will see what you like best in as you do more of this) MARK IN (E or I on keyboard)
Notice the in point, and also (if slate is properly marked) notice 78C take 1 in my case.
This means your sync point is ready on the film/video side, and 78C take is what I need to find in the audio recording.
Note: Most modern audio recorders allow sound mixer to label each take so they’re easy to find. If not, you will have an extra task of going through sound report and re-naming all your sound clips to match what take they are.
Now open this corresponding audio recording.
You now how to find the clapboard! In my case, the green line is where the slate hits. Don’t get mad at the sound mixer! On set pretty much always, sound is asked to roll, last changes, / make up runs in, prop master runs in. everyone runs in (even though they should already be done, it just happens), and camera doesn’t roll for awhile. Its not the sound mixers fault, its no ones fault, DEAL WITH IT haha. Also remember to check the END incase of tail slate.
Once you find the moment slate / clapboard hits (turn on CAPS LOCK for audio scrubbing) MARK IN (again E or I on keyboard)
NOTE: If you zoom in to where you HEAR the slate, you will learn why going by audio only and not using perf slip is not good enough.
Every time (WHEN AUDIO SCRUBBING IS ON) you step through another frame, it plays ALL audio samples inside of that frame range (green line to green line). If the clap happened JUST BEFORE the last green line, it really belongs to the next frame, not this one. That is why most of the time using audio scrubbing only to find your sync point is inaccurate and will usually be 1 entire frame off!
Anyway, once your film/video and audio clips both have IN POINTS marked, its time to select both and sync them.
Now use FAST MENU in the bin and choose Auto Sync
Note: With the in point method you can only auto sync ONE take at a time!
You will then see this familiar window
Now make sure Inpoints is selected since that is how we’re going to sync them. Hit OK
Voila sync clip ready to perf slip / rename.
Refer to Option 1 section for how to perf slip, and how to fix the dreaded perf slip BEEP problem.
Repeat for all clips, drag raw audio and raw camera back to their dailies and raw audio bins. Once all sync clips are perf slipped to PERFECTION and renamed drag them into their scene bins.
Option 3: Sync Map (By Hand)
Most likely your audio recorder had running timecode. If it didn’t its not the end of the world, just more work by hand (may want to go the plural eyes route in that case)
Start by making an audio only auto sequence. Select all audio clips. ONLY audio clips Fast Menu in sync bin and Auto Sequence.
This will create a new sequence, rename it to SYNC MAP! (Maybe sync map Day 1, or whatever)
When you open this you will see a sequence of your entire production day.
Now for the film / video side there’s two ways this can go.
1. You had timecode running on the camera (time of day type), it just doesn’t match timecode of the audio recorder
Now select all clips for one camera (if you have A camera, B camera, do auto sequence separately for both) In my case this bin only has 1 camera. and fast menu in bin window and select auto sequence. Rename so something like ACAM Sync Map
You will get a sequence something like
Yours may also contain audio tracks (we wont be using them though)
First switch over to your Sync Map sequence (the one with audio only) and ADD a video track. (CMD + Y, or right click in timeline ->new video track)
Now switch back to ACAM Sync Map
Set an IN POINT at very beginning of timeline and OUT POINT at very end of timeline. You should have it all selected. (if you have audio tracks DESELECT A1, A2 etc so you ONLY have video track selected)
Once all selected hit (alt / option + C) This puts the entire selection into your SOURCE window.
Now switch back to your audio only Sync Map.
Go to the VERY beginning of the sequence and start playing the audio. Listen for “roll camera” or any indication that the camera has started rolling (this is just to put in the content ballpark where it should be)
Now that you are vaguely where camera started its first shot of the day
Deselect All audio tracks and make sure your track V1 source is patched to V1 on the sync map timeline.
and hit B on keyboard to OVERWRITE the entire thing you have in your source monitor into your timeline.
You will see that they vaguely line up. This is because both audio and camera had timecode running, they just weren’t lined up on on set. So there was just an offset in time between the audio recorder and camera.
Now you can cleverly use FORWARD SELECT to shift ALL camera clips together (so they all move together and you are basically just shifting the offset of the camera and audio times)
make sure only V1 is selected in your track selectors, make sure your playhead is at the BEGINNING of the sequence, and hit the FORWARD SELECT BUTTON
If you are certain you only have your video clips selected, you are ready to NUDGE into place.
You will be using the M < > ? keys on the keyboard. If you don’t already know, these nudge the frames:
M: 8 frames back
<: 1 frame back
>: 1 frame forward
?: 8 Frames forward
zoom into your timeline looking at your first clip (ensure you don’t deselect the clips). If you do deselect them you can always just hit the forward select button again.
Find the slate hit / clapboard hit in the audio waveform of your first take.
Put your playhead RIGHT over it. Now using M < > ? nudge keys MOVE all the selected camera clips until you see the clapboard closing frame.
Move playhead back and see if its on the right time!
Now move your playhead to the next group in the sync map
check the clapboard on EACH clip. They will probably all be close because their timecode is simply offset! But you need to check each one individually.
This wasn’t so bad because we just shifted the offset in timecode to line up camera and audio.
Once you complete this, there are still no sync clips yet, but they are ready to begin creating them. Before we go through that, check out what happens if your camera had no time code? Or timecode that only counted up as it was actually recording?
2. No timecode running, or TC that only runs AS its recording. (Not Time of Day TC)
Instead of using auto sequence to create ACAM Sync map. You have to create a simpler roll of ACAM. All clips laid out with no in/out points.
Create a new sequence and name it ACAM KEMROLL
Select all ACAM clips IN ORDER OF WHEN THEY WERE SHOT! Especially if there is no TC, the next best way is to sort by name.
Notice the C001, C002, etc counting UP. They are in order of how they were shot. VERY IMPORTANT!
Now hit G on the keyboard (clears ALL in/out points) and click on drag this selection of all ACAM clips into ACAM KEMROLL
You should end up with a sequence that is all the clips right next to each other in their entirety. (THESE “KEMROLLS” as I called them are invaluable for other reasons!. Great way to sift through all your footage very quickly and find stuff you need)
Now perform the same action as the camera that had timecode, select in and out for entire timeline, and hit ALT / OPTION + C. It will all be loaded into your SOURCE monitor.
Now switch back to your sync map
Find first “roll camera” call out and hit B to overwrite the entire ACAM KEMROLL into your syncmap.
Unfortunately, now all your clips are bunched up together
Usually in this case you would want to go with the plural eyes route. But sometimes your camera didn’t pick up any audio. So you have to do it manually. (in this case you can also use the in point method)
This will be good practice for you to use forward select and move one clip at a time. Line up the first clip and then deselect all the clips, and reuse forward select the next clip and on. This is so you leave the clip you just lined up where it is!
Now shift all those clips over to the 2nd audio recording and again find the clapboard and nudge into place.
see how you can keep moving from clip to clip and scoot ALL the film/video clips over to the next audio recording?
You can also use the LIFT/OVERWRITE SEGMENT MODE (Red Arrow) tool to move your selection a much greater distance than M < > ? are able to do. (use for large gaps!)
Alright have fun! lol. Once you have completed this task you are ready to create your sync clips.
SYNC CLIPS FROM THE “SYNC MAP “TIMELINE
You have a sync map timeline, but you still have no actual sync clips! (this is where youtubers often leave you high and dry)
Time to create usable sync clips!
There are two ways to achieve this. One is the same as I showed you to fix perf slip by cutting and subclipping directly from the timeline.
The other way is AUX TC. (I have embedded videos further below to take you threw the AUX TC Method).
Note: AUX TC is DEFINITELY a better way to go over sub clipping out of the timeline. (even with the perf slip method I showed). But baby steps… this is a LOT of tech information and I don’t want to completely overload you (I may have already, hang in there)!
To do the sub clip method, add edits to each camera + audio recording like so:
Once you make it all the way through put your playhead over each group and T Mark it and hit your SUB CLIP button (command palette and map to keyboard if you haven’t already)
You will have a list of all your subclips
Select all those SEQUENCE subclips, and go to FAST MENU->AutoSync. Voila,
Ready to perf slip and rename. Put into scene bins.
Once completed, remember to return all raw camera and raw audio to their dailies bins!
If you are ready to check out the AUX TC method and more complex multi-grouping techniques, check out the next section.
Option 3: Sync Map AKA MultiGrouping & Option 4: Audio Comparison AKA PluralEyes
For these two I’m really just going to refer you to a fantastic video made by a great editor who describes both of these in much more detail than I’m willing to write out at the moment! (Plus this article is long enough! haha)
FYI these videos do go heavily into MultiGroup / multicam clips (and the 1st one goes into plural eyes). You can still use this sync map method to create regular sync clips. Once you have AUX TC (you’ll know what I mean when you watch the videos) utilize AutoSync instead of group / multigroup. It will work just the same.
Just remember to use Aux TC 1 instead of the other options!
and another video (incase you need another perspective on sync map / multigrouping)
Only thing I will say about PLURAL EYES (or any other type of audio comparison sync tool) :
This is ENTIRELY dependent on how accurate the sync of the camera’s raw audio track is. A lot of cameras I encounter, do NOT have perfectly synched audio straight off the camera. For a perfect example load up any DSLR footage go to the clapboard closing and check out the waveform. Pretty much ALWAYS a frame or two late.
You can definitely use these methods to create your subclips but do not think you wont have to perf slip.
PERF SLIP EVERY CLIP YOU MAKE!
I personally prefer Option / Method 1 (if source timecode is properly locked together)
I also don’t at all mind Option / Method 2 even though its tedious. You really do get more familiar with the footage, and honestly you can do it quite quickly.
All methods work! Use what you find to be best for you BUT LEARN ALL! You can combine all techniques to get you through prepping your project for editing.
Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if you see something that should be added or corrected!
Thanks for reading, I hope this helps you all out.