Plural Eyes is software designed to automatically sync audio/video clips from multiple cameras,
multiple audio sources, or from multi-take projects without the need for time code, clapboards or
other manual ways of creating sync points during the capture process. Currently, Plural Eyes
is available for Final Cut Pro (Mac), Premiere Pro CS5, Avid Media Composer, and Sony Vegas Pro 8.0c or higher (PC).
Plural Eyes benefits anyone that records interviews, concerts, music videos, weddings, corporate events, or creates films or documentaries with
more than one video camera or audio source.
Video Review & Overview
Video: How to use PluralEyes with Premiere Pro CS5
About a year ago I reviewed Plural Eyes for Sony Vegas Pro and found it to be an indispensable tool for syncing clips. In that review I talked about the
problems with trying to sync multi-camera footage by hand (without time code or PluralEyes) to highlight the benefits of using PluralEyes. In this review
I won't go into the reasons why a program that can automatically sync your video footage is beneficial as I think by now it is obvious, but I will spend
time discussing how to use PluralEyes with Premiere Pro CS5, how it performed, and how to get the most of this software.
Since Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 (CS5) doesn't offer in-app scripting, PluralEyes for CS5 is a stand alone application. While it would have been better to have
it more tightly integrated with the application, using PluralEyes with CS5 is pretty straightforward. If you would like to give PluralEyes a try you can
download a 30-day trial direct from the Singular Software's website.
The most important thing to remember if you want to use PluralEyes for syncing your video files is to make sure that each camera is recording some type of
reference audio during the event / shoot. This can be as basic as using the camera's built-in microphone, just make sure that each camera's microphone
is recording audio from as close to the source as possible, otherwise it will be more difficult for PluralEyes to use this source for syncing. This is due
to the fact that PluralEyes uses the audio waveforms from each camera and audio source to match up each clip. While PluralEyes CAN sync up clips with
poor quality audio it's success rate decreases as the amount of clips that need to be synced increase.
For this review I had originally planned on using PluralEyes to put together a wedding ceremony that was captured with three cameras and a Zoom audio
recorder (four audio tracks in total), but each time PluralEyes just wasn't able to accurately sync many of the clips. Each camera had an external microphone
connected for reference audio, but I imagine that the acoustics in the church recorded through these microphones had too much echo for PluralEyes to accurately
sync. I spent countless hours with PluralEyes trying different sync options, including the "try harder" option which with 160+ clips took so long that I could
have been done syncing the event myself.
Since I have had pretty good luck with PluralEyes in the past, I decided to give it another shot with some footage that I captured of my brothers' 50th
birthday celebration. A comedian was the highlight of the party and his 1 hour routine was captured using a Canon HG10 AVCHD camcorder for the static footage,
and a Canon EOS 5D Mark II for "b-roll" footage. In total there were about 90 clips, 4 or 5 from the camcorder and the rest from the Canon 5DMKII. I placed a
wireless microphone on the Comedian and recorded that straight into the camcorder, which kept the total track count down to just two. The DSLR video/audio and the
camcorder video & audio. This time PluralEyes did a much better job. Of the approx. 90 clips, PluralEyes only missed 8 or 9 clips. Since
each clip is in numerical order it was easy to go through and sync up the final clips manually - though I really don't know why PluralEyes had a rough time with
those clips as their audio tracks were clean and clear.
Preparing the timeline for PluralEyes
As mentioned earlier in this review, PluralEyes for Premiere Pro CS5 works as an external, stand-alone, application. This is due to the fact that
Premiere Pro doesn't offer the access that PluralEyes would need to work within the application itself. While this forces one extra step it doesn't interfere
with the process and unless you have used PluralEyes on another platform such as Sony Vegas you won't know the difference. I have outlined the process that
you should take to prepare your sequence for syncing:
- Import footage from each camera into CS5 and place them into their own folders.
Folders help to separate footage. If you have video from an AVCHD camcorder and a DSLR you would
place the footage from the DSLR into a folder named "DSLR" and the footage from the camcorder into a folder named "Camcorder" or "AVCHD."
- Create a new sequence and set the resolution to match the resolution desired for your edit.
Keep in mind that placing 1080i footage (1440x1080) on
a 1080p (1920x1080) timeline will cause Premiere Pro to upscale your footage when you export your final movie.
- Drag all clips from one camera into the newly created sequence
Select all clips from one of the folders you created by selecting the first and last clip in the list while holding
down the SHIFT key on the keyboard. This tells CS5 that you are selecting both files as well as all files between them.
While all the clips are highlighted "click, hold and drag" the files over into the sequence - releasing the mouse over one of the empty tracks.
If the clips are in chronological order, which they most likely will be straight from the camera, make sure to sort the clips first before dragging them over
into the sequence. You can sort the clips by clicking on the top of the column "name."
- Drag clips from the remaining camera(s) into their own track within the sequence
Clips from each camera should be placed on their own track. This will make multi-camera editing possible once all the clips are synced.
- Export the Project as a "Final Cut Pro XML" file
Once all the clips have been dragged into the sequence you are ready to export the project as an XML file. Make sure you don't
add any effects or transitions to any of the clips until later as this will cause errors in PluralEyes. To export to the project just select "FILE" from the
main drop-down menu, click on the "EXPORT" option and then select "FINAL CUT PRO XML." Premiere Pro will prompt you to save your work and will then ask you
to choose a location and name for the exported file. Your project has now been exported as an XML file.
- Start PluralEyes
- Import Project into PluralEyes
Near the top of the PluralEyes window click the "Open" button to locate and select the newly exported XML file that you just created.
- Select the Sequence to Sync
Once you have selected the Project file (XML) PluralEyes will allow you to choose which sequence to sync. If you started from scratch you will most
likely only have that one sequence, which will be selected by default. If you have more than one make sure to use the drop-down box to select the appropriate one.
- Select Options and Sync
Above the "SYNC" button are five options that when selected tell PluralEyes a bit about what it can expect. The one I select the most often is the "Clips are Chronological" option.
This tells the software that the clips will be in chronological order. This makes it easier for the software to sync since it knows that that in order to sync clip #43 it only has
to look after clip #42 and before clip #44. This gives more accurate results and should be used whenever possible. Of course, only select this option if the clips are indeed in
chronological order. The other options may also be used, but you'll need to know what they do before using them. Here a guide:
- Level Audio
Select the Level Audio option can only help with Sync, but using it will make the Sync take a bit longer. Singular Software recommends using it when the audio levels vary a lot between clips and/or cameras.
For example, during an interview the audio on one camera may be recording a direct feed from a lavaliere microphone, while another camera is recording the interview using an on-board microphone. Since the
audio levels will vary greatly between these two cameras using the "Level Audio" option will improve the sync accuracy. When selected PluralEyes will try to make the volume of each audio clips the same,
making it easier for the software to find the right sync point.
- Use Media Markers
If clips are not syncing and you know they should, you can manually look for a sync point in the clips and place a marker near those points. PluralEyes will then use those markers as guides to
look for matching sync points in or around the markers you set. You might place a marker at a similar audible or visual cue (Camera flash going off or someone coughing). Unless there are a lot of clips
that don't sync, you're probably better off taking the few and just manually syncing them yourself. If you're going through the trouble of finding a similar sync point in each track why not just drag them
over and fine tune them manually? If you want to use the media markers here's how according to Singular's help file.
To use markers, add a numbered clip marker at the sync point. Give matching markers in the two clips identical numbers. Select the Use Media Markers option and run PluralEyes in the usual way. It will
use the markers to determine the approximate sync and then refine it from there.
You can have more than one marker per clip for PluralEyes as long as you name them appropriately. For example, suppose you have three clips (A, B and C) from a music video. B covers the whole song
but A is just the beginning and C just the end. You could put two markers on clip B with numbers 0 and 1 and corresponding markers 0 in A and 1 in C. PluralEyes will use the 0 markers to sync A-B
and the 1 markers to sync B-C.
- Try Really Hard
This option tells PluralEyes to spend extra time trying to find the sync. Be very selective when using this option as it can take up to 10x longer to sync your clips and still may not get it.
If there are less than 20 or 30 clips it may be worth using this option when needed, but if you have a lot of clips to sync this option takes a long time and the results may be 'better' but will
most likely still not be perfect.
- Replace Audio
This option is designed to create a final synced sequence with just the good quality audio in tact. This cleans up the timeline but should only be used when just the audio from the best quality track is
desired. For example, during a wedding ceremony I may have the audio from the Groom's microphone recorded onto Audio Recorder or Camera A while the audio from the Priest may be recorded onto another
recorder or camera. Since there is important audio on two or more audio tracks I would NOT use this option. I recommend not selecting this option, instead muting the tracks you don't need right in the
timeline. If you later find that you needed a portion of the audio from another track you can easily bring back the audio from that track.
- Import Synced Sequence Into Your CS5 Project
When PluralEyes finishes syncing your sequence you are ready to import it back into Premiere Pro CS5. Under the "FILE" menu select "IMPORT" and select the newly synced file. The synced file is named the same
as the original XML file that you exported but will have "_synced.xml" at the end of the filename.
After import you'll see a new folder in the project panel. This folder will include the new sequence and also includes copies of your folders. Do not remove these folders inside the synced folder as the synced
clips will be referencing them. You can, however, remove the main folders if you prefer.
Just drag the new synced sequence over to the timeline to see your footage all synced up.
Once the clips in the timeline have been synced you can then use the "multi-camera" editing option in Premiere to make it easy to watch and select the camera view you want. Multi-camera editing allows you to
see up to 4 camera views at the same time. As you watch the output monitor you can use your mouse or keyboard to select which of the 1,2,3 or 4 views you want to go to at any given point - similar to a live
broadcast. As you select a camera view Premiere Pro CS5 will automatically create the edit points for you.
There is a tutorial included in the video above that shows how to do multi-camera editing in Premiere Pro CS5. It starts at the 14:06 mark in the video.
Mixing Camera Footage
Premiere Pro CS5 allows you to mix video formats and frame-rates in the same sequence, which means you can drag an AVCHD clip captured at 1080i/29.97fps with a DSLR clip captured in MOV format at 1080/24fps.
PluralEyes can also sync up tracks with mixed formats as well, but it does handle audio from AVCHD video files a bit differently during the sync process.
When you first use PluralEyes to sync a sequence it creates a new WAVE (.wav) audio file for each clip. It uses these temporary .wav files to help it find sync points. Since the software is not able to
create a .WAV file from AVCHD footage (.MTS or .M2T) it automatically opens up Adobe Media Encoder and uses it to create an .flv file which is then used to create a temporary audio clip. This is automated
but the process takes longer than it would if you only used .MOV files. Once the temp .wav files have been created the software won't have to re-create them if you decide to re-sync the sequence.
Some users have reported that Adobe Media Encoder crashes when PluralEyes tries to open it. I have never had that issue, but if you do here is a forum post that tells you how to fix the issue.
In the video below there are actually two .MOV files being converted along with the .MTS files. I'm not sure why PluralEyes used AME to convert these .MOV files when the other ones were handled directly
PluralEyes is a product that can save you a lot of time, especially if you have good clear audio recorded with each camera. If there is too much redundancy in the audio tracks (concert) or a lot of echo in some
of the tracks (Church) you may find that PluralEyes will only be able to match a part of the sequence, leaving clips on the timeline that need to be manually synced. When this happens you can try locking the
clips that were successfully synced, then exporting the sequence once again in hopes that PluralEyes will find a match for the unlocked clips, but I personally haven't had too much luck with that process.
The biggest issue I have with any type of automated software is that if it's not 100% accurate, you learn not to fully trust it and rightfully so. When you
have multiple tracks to sync and potentially hundreds of clips, it becomes a daunting task to have to go through the entire edit - once for each track you were
trying to sync, just to make sure that all the clips are in their proper position. It may be just as quick (or as time consuming) to sync up your clips manually
as it is to use automated software that might have to be re-run a few times before finally coming close - only to force you to manually go through your piece
clip by clip and track-by-track to check its accuracy.
PluralEyes can save you tons of editing time, but it's really important to have good clear audio with each track you want to sync.
On the first few projects that I used PluralEyes for CS5 with I was pretty disappointed with the results. I even delayed this review until I had more experience with the software.
Now that I have learned not to expect 100% accuracy I have stopped 're-syncing' and 're-syncing' in hopes of achieving it. I let PluralEyes do most of the grunt work, then I
go through and just manually sync up the small percentage of clips it missed. It's pretty easy to do since most of my footage is shot in chronological order so I know that clip C will need to
go somewhere between clips B and D.
Part of my high expectations with this software was due to the many demo videos I have seen, not just from PluralEyes, but also from other reviewers. Their videos often show PluralEyes successfully
syncing up just a few clips, so when I started to test the software with more involved edits it was aggravating to discover a percentage of clips that weren't synced. I wasted a lot of time trying
to figure out why and trying to re-sync these projects, which in-turn wasted more time. Once I got over my high expectations I become much more productive. PluralEyes can truly save you hours
of editing time, especially once you learn that itis sometimes quicker to manually sync the small percentage of clips that the software misses than it is to fiddle around with re-syncing using different
So despite my sometimes frustrating journey I definitely recommend PluralEyes for anyone who needs to sync up footage and audio from multiple cameras or single camera with a second audio recorder.
PluralEyes retails for $149 and can be purchased directly from Singular Software. A free 30-day trial is also available for anyone who wants to try it out before buying.
B&H just yesterday announced that they are now selling Singular Software's PluralEyes Software. Here are the direct links. Any purchase through these links help to support our site as we
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