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Old July 11th, 2011, 08:11 PM   #1
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Workflow for creative, simultaneous video editing with original scoring?

I compose original music, teach music for a living and have been using various incarnations of music recording technology since the late 80s. I have recently been getting into videography/editing, and I have been wanting to score my own stuff. To my surprise, I could not find a way to sync my editing program, Adobe Premiere CS4, with my music production program, Stienberg Cubase 5. So I could have a creative process of writing the music as am editing. Ideally I would like to seemlessly jump back and forth between tweeking the editing and tweeking the score, and to be able to easily try out various possibilities on the video and music side, without going through the process of exporting changes to the video or audio and re-importing them into the other program. I tried a lot of ways to sync lock these programs, even employing my 80s SMPTE/MTC analog convertor box running in and out of the same computer, but to no avail. One problem is: Premiere will stop playback when another program running on the same computer is clicked on.

Anyway, this post is not so much about specific software Premiere and/or Cubase, but I am interested if you have an tips or tricks about a creative workflow that allows me to simultaneous edit video AND create original scores. I don't know how many folks out there do both, but... And of course, if you have any technical solutions to syncing (or otherwise) Cubase and Premiere, that would be great also.

Thanks in advance!

Cheers,
John
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Old July 12th, 2011, 12:57 AM   #2
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Re: Workflow for creative, simultaneous video editing with original scoring?

I believe that the issue you are having is related to sharing the soundcard. In many programs, there is a preference checkbox related to keeping or letting go of the soundcard when the app loses focus.

In general, a film is locked before scoring begins. Sometimes, we lock scenes so I can compose while the editing continues. It's usually no big deal to render out a low-res print for that. It's even quicker to render out a partial score and add it to your editing program.

Years ago, I tried syncing Sonar and Vegas using MIDI Time Code. It worked, but wasn't reliable. There were delays and things got out of sync. I think my computer hardware wasn't able to keep up. At that time, I had my sample engine (GigaStudio) on one computer and the sequencer (Sonar) and editor (Vegas) on another. Sample engines and plug-in reverbs are heavy. Sequencers (when doing MIDI only) are light, so I thought it would match up well.

These days, sequencers host VSTs and VSTis, so they can be incredibly heavy. Many composers run second computers with VST/VSTi hosts so we can load a large template. HD editing is heavy by its nature. I'd only want to try slaving the editor to the sequencer with two separate computers. And, yes, MIDI Time Code is the way to do it.

Looking at the "why" of combining editing and composing, it's all about the meter. One approach would be to
1) Do a rough edit to get a feel for a piece, possibly with temp music from another film.
2) Render and start composing. Don't worry about syncing hits. Worry about feel. Find your basic tempo. Render a click track and maybe a piano/pad skeleton.
3) Now that you have your tempo, complete the edit. That will ensure that you're cutting on or off beats as desired.
4) Compose. You can change things wildly as long as you stick with the tempo map.

On the other hand, composers have been working with strange edit rhythms for years. We vary tempo add and drop beats, skip hit points or all of the above to make things fit. It's part of the art.

For dramatic music, I hold the time signature and vary the tempo. For one trailer, I slowed the rhythm by a factor of 20 to really draw out the tension. For action music, I try to hold the tempo as steady as possible while adding and dropping beats to create the odd time signatures needed to sync the hit points. It's really rewarding to go from 6/8 to 5/8, 3/8, and 7/8 with a 16th note thrown in and to keep it musical. (Okay, for the 16th note, I'd probably push or pull the tempo a bit to get it to fit in.)

Anyway, that's my approach - edit for the visual rhythm and let the chips fall. And only go back and edit in the half beat in the rarest of situations.
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Old July 12th, 2011, 01:33 AM   #3
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Re: Workflow for creative, simultaneous video editing with original scoring?

Well, I haven't found a seamless solution yet either. I used to run MOTU Digital Performer on a laptop and FCP on a desktop. Easy to sync via smpte but overall it was pretty clumsy. The better I got at editing video though, I started realizing something strange. I'd edit video to an "internal score" which made adding the music after the edit was done very easy. I have also worked the other way where I create snippets of music before editing video and somehow it seems to flow.
I've just gotten used to working back and forth.
So the rig I have now is still fcp as the video system and I use a MOTU Traveller as the audio interface which allows me to record my keyboard right into FCP as a sketch. I can then export a QT file of the video into DP which is on the same computer and finish the musical thoughts.
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Old July 12th, 2011, 03:24 PM   #4
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Re: Workflow for creative, simultaneous video editing with original scoring?

Thanks, Jon and Robert. All helpful suggestions. And it's good to know that the pros are using two separate computers to accomplish this. I used to do that when I was using an Ensoniq/Emu PARIS system synced to another computer running Cubase via Alesis sample-accurate sync. The sync worked well, but it was a hassle to deal with two computers. And that's not something I am going to set up again. I will use your suggestions and see if I can come up with some of my own.

Last night I tried this and it worked okay: Started recording MIDI piano in Cubase. Changed program focus to After Effects and pressed play. Did a rough sketch on the piano. And then exported from Cubase and imported to After Effects. It still would be nice if they could just sync in the same computer though! I'm surprised that technology isn't standard in all of these programs.
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Old July 12th, 2011, 04:15 PM   #5
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Re: Workflow for creative, simultaneous video editing with original scoring?

Fortunately, cheap computers are pretty strong these days. Having a desktop and a laptop might make sense if you travel on occassion. You can get a KVM - or do the remote screen thing - to allow both PCs to work from one screen/keyboard/mouse. Storage can be networked together, though you want local storage for your video and samples. However, the editing/sequencing files are light and can be accessed over the network.

The two computer thing can have a positive side effect. It can force you to duplicate at least your HD files for fast access by both computers. Backups are good! :)

I use two computers for a different reason. I have a fast Windows 7 machine, but also have an older XP/Athlon machine so I can continue to access my GigaStudio sounds. It's basically a large MIDI sound module. :)

FWIW, I'm loving the completely re-worked UI in Sonar X1b. It's working great with EWQL Gold Orchestra. Also, I just downloaded the trial for Quantum Leap Spaces, and it's a great sounding, easy to use, and very light convolution reverb. You can apply a French Horn specific impulse where they modeled the bells facing backward. For strings, the highs go up and the mids go down. (I know of a number of working pros who are now using Spaces over their trusty Lexicons.) For the first time, I've been able to sequence, mix, and print without pre-rendering (except when I need to render a unique sound from GigaStudio.)

[I have no ties to any of the companies or products mentioned above...]
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Old July 12th, 2011, 05:06 PM   #6
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Re: Workflow for creative, simultaneous video editing with original scoring?

Sure enough, just after posting how EWQL Gold is working well, EW releases their new sampler, PLAY 3. Hopefully, it will work even better. Downloading now...
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Old July 13th, 2011, 04:25 PM   #7
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Re: Workflow for creative, simultaneous video editing with original scoring?

John,

I know exactly what you mean. I'm amazed the ability to sync an NLE and music sequencer isn't completely standard. There's no serious technical reason why not. I once asked on this forum if anyone knew how to sync FCP and Logic (with either as slave) and most of the answers were 'why would you want to do that?' I think that says it all. I think those who do most of their work in video don't realise that in music software we do this sort of thing all the time.

I'm afraid I don't have an answer but my method is often quite haphazard using Sibelius and Logic to create rough tracks then importing bounces into FCP mixing with on-screen sound. I then export the on screen sound back to Logic (with a video file) and complete the rest and and then back into the NLE. But it varies depending on the project. Sometimes I can do most in FCP using many audio tracks. You do kind of get a feel for it as JF says but a simple way of syncing the two programmes would be so much better.
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Old July 13th, 2011, 11:22 PM   #8
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Re: Workflow for creative, simultaneous video editing with original scoring?

Jon,

For me the technical hassle use of two synced machines out ways the benefits of what I am looking to do in the first place: Focus on creativity. I had a two machine setup once and there were too many factors to get to sync right and so I would end up spending a lot of time troubleshooting with technical issues rather than creating. For my purposes, where I don't score and edit a lot, it wouldn't be worth the trouble. But if it was my full time job, I would probably do a setup like you suggested.

Geoffrey,

Steinberg invented a specification called Rewire which would work great for this. It not only syncs playback but it allows digital audio "patch cords" between multiple programs. However, because it is Steinberg proprietary stuff, not that many manufacturers us it. Another thing: I would be great to just be able to use the superior audio functionality of a dedicated audio program to mix the sound for video. Cubase audio functionality is much more powerful than Premiere. Perhaps we should figure out a way to let Apple or Adobe or Sony know that we want this feature!

Thank you both for your input!
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Old July 14th, 2011, 03:07 AM   #9
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Re: Workflow for creative, simultaneous video editing with original scoring?

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Shapiro View Post
I would be great to just be able to use the superior audio functionality of a dedicated audio program to mix the sound for video. Cubase audio functionality is much more powerful than Premiere.
It's that simple isn't it? Yes I've come across re-wire and I use Soundflower to route audio signals between different programmes (not a sync device but similar idea). Recently I managed to sync my old Atari STE running Notator to my MacBook Pro running Logic in order to record MIDI files in real time for archive purposes as there seemed no other way to get the info off the floppy discs (no floppy drive, old disc format), so if that is possible ... All it would need is for FCP etc to send and receive a midi time code or similar.

I think the problem is that the two crafts of audio and video are traditionally done by different people in different places so what we need is rare, but maybe growing...
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Old July 15th, 2011, 10:00 PM   #10
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Re: Workflow for creative, simultaneous video editing with original scoring?

Hi Geoffrey, I work in an environment where we shuttle sessions between Final Cut and Nuendo for mixing all the time, and actually sync in a real workflow isn't really that much of a requirement in television because of the reality of everything else that is going on.

Mixing and composition generally only happen when an edit is locked. At the same time the picture is locked, color grading and sound mixing tend to happen. If something needs to be scored, composers are given a temp earlier version to develop themes, and then score the final version or they are just given the picture locked version to score.

This is obviously less artistically creative in one sense, because it means the final score is usually informed by the picture choices rather than the other way around - but the final score ads so much to the pictures and is so much more malleable than video in terms of making quick changes that this makes sense.

I imagine AVID is the most likely company to have this funcitionality though, running on Media Composer and Pro Tools there are probably ways to sync an AAF session on a unity system so that they can get pretty close to sync - but you are talking about a pretty large infrastructure there for a specialist cause.

It's certainly also a case of that in a production environment having one person both editing and scoring isn't time efficient, so that's why there is simply a lack of demand.
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Old July 17th, 2011, 08:15 AM   #11
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Re: Workflow for creative, simultaneous video editing with original scoring?

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Originally Posted by Craig Parkes View Post
This is obviously less artistically creative in one sense, because it means the final score is usually informed by the picture choices rather than the other way around - but the final score ads so much to the pictures and is so much more malleable than video in terms of making quick changes that this makes sense.
Thanks for the perspective Craig it's what I suspected really. As someone who not only often does everything myself (or with one other colleague) and is very interested in the relationship between sound and image such that I like each to inform the other during the process of creation and then editing and in as malleable way as possible, the traditional workflows are frustrating. As a sound oriented person I'm often vexed by the way the image dominates so much, not only in our sensibilities, but also encouraged by the technology. In the work I do want to give sound and music 50% of the show, if not more! I recognise this is problematic in many ways but I like trying and it can lead to more interesting work.
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Old July 17th, 2011, 03:59 PM   #12
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Re: Workflow for creative, simultaneous video editing with original scoring?

Music videos and musicals flip the order. In those cases, the images follow the music.

I composed a Musical in a 48 Hour competition once. And won best score. :) It was by far the toughest composing job I've done...

1) Write the script outline (team)
2) Write the lyrics (team)
3) Write the melodies
4) Record click, chord, and melody tracks to the target tempos.
5) Record the singers.
6) Compose the backing music while others film to lipsync
7) Complete the backing music during initial editing.
8) Compose the connecting bits after each segment is locked.
9) Complete audio mixing.
10) SLEEP!

So in this case, the script informs the lyrics, which inform the melodies. The composer sets the tempo for all songs. The video editor still connects things to tell the visual story, and the final cues need to match.

The bottom line in all cases is that things should be locked before they get thrown over the wall. Once I deliver the recorded singing, I can't touch it. Otherwise, I force a re-shoot. And once the editor locks the connecting bits, he can't change it unless he wants me to throw away those cues.

I think this still applies when doing both audio and video. Finish something on one side or the other that locks the tempo of that section. Throw it over the wall and work on the other side with the goal of not making rework for one's self.

Sometimes there is an exception. You might recognize a problem when editing that could be fixed with an additional beat or measure of music. No problem. You can negotiate the additional fee with yourself. But I would avoid a habit of bouncing back and forth. It could become inefficient. Besides, some of the best art is created when working within uncomfortable constraints.

Rendering is so quick these days that I don't quite see the problem. I can render minutes of music in seconds - or in real time at worst. And unless I have lots of effects, I can render a quarter HD Cineform output in less than half of real time.

The bigger problem I would have is trying to run too many samples and simultaneous tracks of HD in real time. Loading a large, orchestral composing template can take much longer than a render. Rebooting to clear a computer's mind takes time. That's why separate computers would be attractive to me. I can let my composing tools have all of its CPU, RAM and HDD access and vice versa for the editing tools.

But I edit and sequence on the same computer. And I do it more traditionally - edit then compose. That minimizes the context shifts for my PC - as well as for me! :)
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Old November 14th, 2013, 10:37 PM   #13
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Re: Workflow for creative, simultaneous video editing with original scoring?

I have been interested in finding a solution for simultaneously editing video and midi tracks for some time now. I edit with Sony Vegas, and have tried midi syncing it to various DAWs with little success. Midi sync always seems to have annoying delays, and unreliable sync lock, and can't go two ways automatically switching from master to slave on the fly. I have done quite a bit of research on alternative syncing methods and also came to the conclusion that the only promising technology out there is ReWire, which to this date no professional video editing software supports.

An even more ideal solution would be a single piece of software that would do both. So far I have only found a few options, none having all the features of a professional video editing system, but maybe passable for certain projects.

I thought that ProTools HD would do multitrack video editing, but the more I looked I realized it is limited to a single track, only handles quicktime files, and doesn't do fades or any effects. I'm still not even sure if it will allow cuts to the video. Besides that the price is exorbitant.

Ableton Live appears to allow multitrack video, in quicktime format, without fades or other effects, but does have some nice time stretch tools for manipulating the video to match music hits. It also is a bit expensive.

Mixcraft is the other that works with multiple video file types (through 3rd party CODECs), only a single video track, but will do fades, crossfades, dissolves and other basic effects. It only costs $80, and is not a full featured professional DAW, though it does seem to have most of what would be required for most projects, and for the most part has nice logical functionality. It seems like it has a bit further to go in development, but I have decided to buy it to try to support their efforts and get the workflow going for some projects that I have put off because of not being able to do simultaneous editing before.

I hope that helps some people looking to do the same thing. It took me a while to find the info that I did. I'd love to hear if people have discovered other solutions out there.
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