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FCP X 10.0.3: Multicam Explored
Iain Anderson on Mon, February 6th 0 comments
Multicam arrived late January 2012 for FCP X users. There's much more to it than meets the eye and Iain Anderson reveals the basics and advanced functions available.

Multicam: the promised feature. Just as Apple said when FCP X was released, multicam was released in a free update in early 2012. Grab 10.0.3 now if you don’t have it already. There are many other improved features besides this one, but it’s the headliner for most of us. If you’ve got a camera, an iPhone, and an iPad 2 handy, that’s three cameras ready to go. So, go shoot something then come back and read on.

Step 1 - Creating a multicam clip

First, gather your shots together in an Event. The great joy of FCP X’s Multicam when compared to FCP 7’s is that you can mix frame rates and frame sizes at will. I’ve specifically shot at two different frame sizes, two different aspect ratios and three frame rates here. (For the curious: the iPad was using its front camera and thought it was being held vertically.)

Yes, this is going to work.

Yes, this is going to work. 

Step 2 - Tag any discontinous footage

Wait a second! Did any of your cameras stop and start during recording? That’s OK. (For a simpler job where all shots are continuous, feel free to skip to the next section.)

If you have multiple shots from a single camera that you’d like to view as a single angle (with gaps between shots) then FCP might need some help identifying them. There’s a new Camera Name field which many cameras support, and that will help. However, my Canon 550D DSLR doesn’t show a name here, nor a Camera ID in the metadata, so I would need to give it some help.

You could simply enter a Camera Name for these clips. However, a more explicit way to work is to manually assign the angles. Using List view, find the Camera Angle column in the Event Library. Give each of the clips from the same camera the same angle name (A, B, C, or 1, 2, 3, etc.), then give different angle names to the other clips you plan to sync up.

Step 3 - Exploring the options

Finally, select all three clips, then right-click and choose New Multicam Clip.

While there are many options here, you’ll probably be able to skate by on automatic. If all cameras have audio, and they were all recorded in the same environment at the same time (or in multiple takes with the same music playing) then you should be good.

Standard multicam job? Just press OK.

Standard multicam job? Just press OK. 

For more control, you can customize the:

  • Angle Assembly, to put two clips from the same camera on the same angle, as discussed above. If you’ve set angles explicitly, you would choose Camera Angle here.
  • Angle Clip Ordering to proritize timecode or time of recording.
  • Angle Synchronization, to prioritize where the sync comes from. Note that you can use markers here to help FCP with a tricky multicam job, and you won’t even need to be too precise about where you put the markers.

The checkbox “Use audio for synchronization” is ticked in the middle of the dialog, and unless your cameras are all silent, leave it on. In a multicam or dual-system audio shoot, every camera should be recording audio. It’s good for sync even if it’s not perfect — any mic will do.

Looking at the lower part of this dialog, you have a similar set of options to creating a project. A suggested format and frame rate is offered, but you can override it if needed. In this screenshot, FCP X has suggested a 1080p24 standard, and I’ve chosen instead to set the frame rate to 25.

Press OK, then wait (It shouldn’t take long).

All the options. 

Step 4 - Explore the Angle Editor

To take a good look at your multicam clip, double-click it. The Angle Editor will open, where you can see all your angles and how they sync. Video and Audio buttons on the top left of each track allow you to choose the video angle that’s active (the monitoring angle) and the audio angles you want to hear. Turn the audio on in all angles and press play to verify the sync. If anything’s out of sync, drag it sideways to slip it back into place.

The Angle Editor.

The Angle Editor.

To the top right of each track are three short dark lines which indicate a draggable zone. Click and drag up or down to rearrange angles. Alternatively, you could drag individual clips from angle to angle — but if you do this, hold Shift to keep sync. You can also tweak clips as required, for example:

  • color correct angles to match one another
  • adjust audio levels over time
  • rotate and scale an angle (as is necessary with my sideways iPad footage)

Next to the name of each angle is a small drop-down menu which allows you to:

  • re-sync a clip to the current monitoring angle (if you’ve changed it or added to it)
  • add or delete an angle
  • select all the clips in an angle.

All this is handy for complex workflows. It’s worth noting that anything you do in the Angle Editor affects the source clip, so if you plan to make extensive changes, you might want to duplicate your Multicam clip before you start.

Step 5 - Cut it in a Project

Create a new Project, then select your Multicam clip into it by pressing E (append).

Choose Window > Show Angle Viewer, or press Command-Shift-7.

The Settings menu to the top right of the Angle Viewer let you choose how many angles you can see at once: 2, 4, 9, or 16. Excess angles can be shown by clicking on the small icons underneath the currently visible angles. Depending on how many angles you have and your current screen configuration, you might see a traditional grid of angles, but it’s possible in the 2- and 4- angle configurations to see a vertical stack of angles.

Here’s a stack of 3 angles in the 4-up view.

Here’s a stack of 3 angles in the 4-up view.

There are two basic ways to cut multicam: slow and fast. You can also mix and match as required. Fast means to play the video, and choose angles as it plays. Slow means to play the video, pause where you want to make an edit, and then carefully choose the best angle. A mix of the two, whereby you cut quickly then revise slowly, is usually the best.

First, you should reset your keyboard layout to access the new multicam editing shortcuts. Choose Final Cut Pro > Commands > Customize, then choose Default from the menu in the top left corner of the Command Editor window.

Step 6 - Basic workflow techniques

Here's a suggested Multicam workflow, at least to get started:

  • Assuming you have a single good audio source, right-click on your clip in the Timeline and choose it from the Active Audio Angle submenu near the top.
  • Click on the Video icon at the top of the Angle Viewer, to make sure that future edits occur only happen to the video.
  • Play the video.
  • Cut and switch to a new angle by pressing 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. on the keyboard or number pad.
  • Alternatively, click on the angle you want in the Angle Viewer. (Either way, it should be fast — a new preference setting optimizes all multicam clips.)
  • Stop the video when you want and Roll any edits you got in the wrong place. (No need to choose the Trim tool, Roll will automatically be selected when over an edit.)

After a few angle changes.

After a few angle changes.

Step 7 - Advanced workflow techniques

Once you’ve got your cut nearly there, some tricks will help you edit more effectively:

  • To switch a clip to an angle without inserting any new cuts, skim above it and press Option-1, 2, 3, 4, etc.
  • Alternatively, right-click on that clip segment and choose it from the Active Video Angle submenu near the top.
  • To manually insert a cut, but not actually change angles, use the Blade tool (or press Command-B) as usual.
  • To delete an edit you don’t want, select it and press Delete. (Just like a through edit in FCP 7.)

Keyboard junkies will want to explore all the new keyboard shortcuts by searching in the Command Editor for “multicam”. You’ll see keys for selecting the next or previous angle, next or previous bank of angles in the Angle Viewer, and open spots for angles 10-16 if you’d like to add shortcuts for them. Note the subtle difference between “Cut and Switch to Viewer Angle #” vs. “Switch to Viewer Angle #”.

When you’re done, you’re done. Hide the Angle Viewer if you wish. Multicam in FCP X is more powerful and easier to use than it ever was in FCP 7, and cameras are cheaper than ever before. So have fun shooting and editing your footage!

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