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How to Synchronize Interview Audio and Video in Final Cut Pro X

In this tutorial you’ll learn how to synchronize interview audio and video within Final Cut Pro X.

 

Usually when you record dual-system sound you end up with a situation like this:

  • Many little video files: you have several, possibly many, video clips. These videos have the audio recorded from an on-camera shotgun mic or the camera’s built-in mics. The
    levels are a low and so is the sound quality.
  • One (or a few) big audio file: you have a lavalier or a boom mic that goes directly to an external recorder. This recording sounds a little bit better.

Even on a single shot, you might have two (or more) video clips if your
camera has a clip limit. Some DSLRs have a 10-12
minute clip length limit (a 30 minute clip limit in Europe). Or maybe
you stopped
and started a recording during the interview just to help yourself
organize. So it’s very common that you’ll end up with multiple video
clips and one long external audio recording.

PluralEyes is a little single-purpose program that is really good at
syncing audio. It’s especially good for complicated shoots where you
have multiple cameras and audio sources. Maybe you’re recording a live
performance with three or four cameras and a line from the sound
board, and then everybody has their own microphones on top of their cameras.
PluralEyes can synchronize between all that video and audio very quickly.

First I’m going to show you how to use PluralEyes. Then I’ll recommend a few ways to do this within Final Cut that makes it easier
and simpler, without having to use PluralEyes.

Syncronize audio and video with PluralEyes
PluralEyes is a small program that can synchronize audio and video from Final Cut Pro.

How to Synchronize Audio and Video with PluralEyes

The first way we’re going to synchronize audio is to send the project from Final Cut to PluralEyes, and back again. This is called a “round trip” between the applications.

Round Tripping Between Final Cut and PluralEyes

1. Create the Timeline in Final Cut Pro

Select your video
clips and place them on the timeline. Then place your audio on the timeline underneath the video. Choose File > Export XML and save the file.

2. Import to PluralEyes and Process

In PluralEyes, choose File > New Project from
Final Cut Pro
, and select the file you just saved. The timeline you created with Final Cut will load into PluralEyes. Go to Sync > Synchronize to start the process. For short videos with clear audio, it sometimes takes less than a
second.

3. Export and Return to Final Cut Pro

Now export the corrected timeline back to Final Cut Pro: File > Export.

Select Final Cut Pro X XML, Create multicam clips, and Open Event/project automatically in Final Cut Pro. You can deselect Create an Event with audio content replaced in video clips.

The Results

We selected our media assets, processed them in PluralEyes. It’s a great start: you now have the video and audio synced within a multi-cam
clip. PluralEyes also spits out a new project where your video and audio are
synced. You’re ahead of the game!

How to Synchronize Audio and Video in Final Cut Pro

It doesn’t take much for PluralEyes
to do this kind of work for interviews. However, going to another program can be overkill on smaller, simpler projects. It is also another expense, in addition to what you’ve already paid for your
license to Final Cut. Luckily, you can sync audio and video in Final Cut
without using PluralEyes.

The Easy Way

The first way to sync is simple: to select your video clips
and your audio clip from your Library, then right-click, and choose Synchronize Clips. In the modal box that pops up, give the new clip a name, tick Use audio for synchronization, and click OK.

Now you should have one long clip featuring the original videos, with a little gap in the middle, and the good audio automatically synced up. If you drag these into your project and make cuts you won’t have to worry about the audio not following along.

One thing to
keep in mind with this method is that it retains the original on-camera audio. If you go to your Inspector and select this new synchronized interview
clip, you’ll see that Final Cut keeps our old audio from on top of the camera,
in addition to the good audio from the external recorder. So you’ll want to
uncheck it to make sure that we don’t hear the bad audio anymore.

The Multicam Clip Way

The second way that we can synchronize interview audio
and video within Final Cut is to create a new multicam clip. Final Cut
will actually synchronize the video and audio within the multi-cam clip automatically.

As before, select your audio and video files. Right-click, and select New multicam clip. Call this something like
“synchronized interview multi-cam clip,” and make sure that Use
audio for synchronization
is selected. Leave everything else in its
default settings.

Now if you go to the resulting multi-cam clip you’ll see that in Angle 1 you
have your original two video clips, and then your one long external audio
clip, and they’re synced perfectly.

The Manual Way

Those are the two automated methods of using Final Cut to
sync interviews, and they work 90 percent of the time. When they don’t it can be really frustrating. You can end up spending a lot of time trying to force the
automation to work when it would be really much easier to just do it manually.

Locate the audio and video clips to sync. Right-click your first video clip and select Open in Timeline. The video and audio within the clip from the clip have been added to the timeline as separate elements.

Now drag the external audio track below them. Try to move this audio track as close to what
looks like a sync visually; you’ll manually fine tune the sync frame by
frame, left and right.

So visually we can move this back. You can see that this is
the hand clap sync. You’ll notice there are other peaks here that look pretty
similar to each other, so we can visually just kind of find that peak. And get
it as close to where we think it’s synced – you don’t have to get it super
close, but close enough.

Start playing the playhead (L), and use
your comma (,) and period (.) keys to nudge the external audio clip left a frame or
right a frame until it’s in sync. You’ll know it’s in sync when the audio
sounds like it has a phase effect on it: it sounds like it’s a little
tinny or like a space alien. You’ll know it when you hear it (like we do in the video above).

Now that you have everything in sync, don’t delete the
original audio. You may need to reference it, and in any case,
you don’t want to delete data in editing anyway. But you can hide it by using
your V key. If you go back and drag this clip into your project you will have the
good audio married to the video now.

Sync Multiple Clips Manually

If you have multiple video clips, one really easy way to manually
sync them step by step is to go back into Open in Timeline.

When you reach the end of the video clip, just Blade (B) the leftover segment of
the interview from the audio recorder. Cut and delete the gap, and then go into the
second clip. Open that in the timeline, and now you can paste and start to move
this audio closer to where the peaks are in sync.

Happy Editing!

And now you are all set: your original video clips
now have the good audio synced to them. In all of the methods here you didn’t generate any new clips, which is really great for organization. Anywhere that these clips go now, the synced
audio will follow them.

I hope you’ve learned how to synchronize interview audio
in Final Cut Pro X. See you next time!