B&H Photo Video Pro Audio-Multicamera Shooting with the Panasonic P2 and Apple Final Cut Pro
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Multicamera Shooting with the Panasonic P2 and Apple Final Cut Pro

By Kyle Doris

Recently, I was asked to help record a concert in Soho for a friend of a friend. I was told there would be two Panasonic AG-HVX200 cameras plus my own, making it a three-camera production. I obliged and was excited to test out P2 technology in such an interesting and spontaneous environment.

The obstacles I faced were numerous. However, the major issue was figuring out how I could skate by using only six 8GB P2 cards while still being able to continuously record on all three cameras effectively. This problem was going to be tough because the show was scheduled to run for 60 minutes. Luckily, I was given free reign to shoot in any way I saw fit, as long as I was able shoot only with the equipment we had immediately available.

After pondering the possibilities (and limitations) of what I had to work with, I concluded the use of timecode synchronizing was vital to a manageable post-production workflow. I wasn't really interested in trying to sync up three cameras on my own in post. I researched by reading the HVX Book by Barry Green and found that the cameras could be synchronized rather easily. Simply by connecting two of them together through their FireWire ports using a 4-Pin to 4-Pin cable, the HVXs can be synced automatically by navigating through only a few menu options- very cool.

Panasonic AG-HVX200 Menu includes Record and Free Running Time Code Setup

The key was changing the timecode setting from RECORD RUNNING to FREE RUNNING timecode. By doing this, the camera continuously runs timecode regardless of whether it is recording or not. Under RECORDING SETUP in the menu, the setting "TGC" allows you to choose between REC RUN and FREE RUN. This method seemed to fit my needs well since I was anticipating that all three operators might want to stop and start their cameras intermittently during the show. As long as the free running timecode didn't get disturbed, all three cameras would stay synced up.

With high definition being the name of the game these days, I decided to shoot the entire show at 720p, 24 fps, in native mode (720/24pN in the menu system.) Shooting in native mode gave me the ability to increase the record capacity of each card from 8 minutes to 22 minutes. In short, "native" mode discards duplicate frames when recording at 24 fps, leaving the newly freed space usable for additional footage. Unfortunately, even on this setting, shooting with six cards could only yield up to 44 minutes per camera and I was looking at a 60 minute set. I needed a good idea and I needed it fast.

The solution came to me while sitting at my computer trying to seek advice from the internet. I realized that I could use my laptop as a recording platform for the master camera. The way this would be achieved would be by recording the master directly into Final Cut Pro, and thus, freeing up all six P2 cards for the other two remote cameras. Each remote camera could then record for a maximum of 66 minutes over three P2 cards. As for the master, I bought a 500GB external hard drive and hooked it through the laptop. With the ability to shoot 500 total minutes on the hard drive, run time effectively became a non-issue: First Problem Solved.

As with most workarounds, my solution didn't come without a price. Since native mode only exists when shooting to P2, I didn't have the luxury of syncing the master camera with the other two through a FireWire connection; recording into Final Cut Pro requires outputting footage through the same port. I had to figure out how to sync up the laptop with the P2 cards manually.

Shooting the Time Code Display from one of the Remote Camera’s enables easier syncing of all three cameras

This was achieved by simply hitting the RECORD button in Final Cut Pro at the same time I reset the FREE RUNNING timecode on the other cameras. To compensate for human error, I took one of the remote cameras and placed it in front of the master, focusing on the LCD screen. More specifically, I focused squarely on the timecode display readout. When in post, it was as easy as looking at one frame of my footage and figuring out the deviation in timecode between the master file and the timecode seen on the LCD screen of the recorded camera. For this project, my master camera ended up being 19 frames off. To fix the deviation, I adjusted the master recording by adding 19 frames to the front of the master clip and all the timecode became perfectly aligned. Bravo!

For audio, I decided to try the "path of least resistance," which amounted to recording sound directly to the master clip. I achieved this by bringing an extra long XLR cable and begging the kind individual running the soundboard to allow me to connect directly to the board. He seemed fine with it, which was great; there was no need to slate the concert since the entire show ended up being synced automatically.

A full screen shot of the multicam interface in Final Cut Pro

Once in post, everything became quite easy by using the multiclip. Final Cut Pro's multiclip function automatically reads timecode, so as long as all of the timecode matches, everything is up and running in a matter of seconds. The advantage of multiclip editing is the ability to switch between each camera seamlessly while watching the concert in real time. Creating rough cuts of your synchronized footage is not only fun, but extremely quick and easy. The tool truly shines when cutting live event work, and I was able to make a rough cut of the entire 60-minute concert in only 2 sessions.

Final Cut Pro's multiclip function

Now switching between multiple cameras in Final Cut Pro is easy

The process works so seamlessly, you'll start wondering if multiclip editing is a viable option for every project you do! I'd highly recommend using P2 media for this type of project, and ultimately my experience was a pleasant and productive one.

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