2016-08-28

Multicam editing in DaVinci Resolve 12.5

One of the great new features of Davinci Resolve 12 is multicam editing including synchronizing cameras via their sound track.
Something I have done extensively in Final Cut Pro X and now want to do directly in Resolve, so save the extra step of colour graded, intermediate files rendered from Resolve and edited in FCPX.

Since nobody seems to write about actually using this feature, I use this blog posting to document my findings.


Summary

If you don't want to read all of it:
  • you can't add a camera angle to an existing muticam clip with automatic syncing
  • syncing by soundtrack doesn't work at all (either crashes even in trivial cases or doesn't sync) 
  • there are serious bugs and even crashes related to multicam clips.
  • file creation dates can not be used as a criteria to get at least a starting point
  • identifying what clips are from the same camera doesn't work (ignored Camera ID metadata field)

Setup

Software:
Davinci Resolve 12.5 Studio with hardware dongle on MacOS.

Show:
This is a stage show. Not scenic film. Not a documentary.
Together with sports events this is probably the most common occurence of a multicam edit of more then 3 cameras. (Interview typically max out at 3 cameras.)

Material to work with:
  • No clapperboard (the audience wouldn't be pleased) 
  • No time code synced via cable (hald the cameras don't support it, TC-generators cost a fortune and we aren't allowed to put cables all across the emergency exit routes)
  • Nothing can ever be re-shot. There is one chance and one chance only to record it.
  • 1 Zoom H6 doing a continous audio recording (including -6dB backup) including pause times.
  • 2 Blackmagic Pocket cameras in ProRes with Atomos Samurai Blade HDD recorders
  • 2 GH4 with Atomos Shogun SDD recorders
  • 1 Blackmagic Production Camera 4K recording RAW (for dark scenes for easier denoising) and ProRes (for bright scenes to save SSD space due to limited number of SSD we could rent)
  • 1 GH4 with internal MPEG recording
  • some 3rd party footage will come in later
  • cameras record 3 acts of 4 scenes per act but not the pause times

Problems identified

Problems in Ingestion

  • Resolve doesn't import any camera name/id from any camera except the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K in RAW (but NOT in ProRes) => WTF?
  • Individual dropped frames in RAW recordings (it's a 3+h show. Such things happen) have to be manually added via shell-script for Resolve to even acknowledge that there IS a recoding in that directory and not a million image files. => not exactly robust software for a production environment

Problems in automatic syncing

Due to the 2GB limit, the audio track is broken up into 3 files.
  • syncing even a single clip to a compound clip of the 3 arranged audio files crashes resolve every single time => Bug ticket with Blackmagic Design [Support #BAX-398-79379]
  • syncing to the 3 individual wave files lets everything start at 0, even the 3 audio files with file creation timestamps indicating their correct positio (*hint* *hint*)
  • Same for any atempt to sync 2 video clips with 95% identical audio 
  • "detect clips from same camera using: Metadata Camera #" completely ignores any manually entered value into the "Camera ID" metadata field => BROKEN
  • There is no way to define a track as the master track for every other track to sync against
  • There is no user interface to ADD an additional camera/clip to an existing multicam clip with automatic syncing.
  • There is no user interface to re-sync a single or multiple, selected clips inside a multicam clip.
  • There is no user interface to even create a new multicam clip from clips that are in different bins (e.g. because you like to organize clips by camera to make colour grading them easier)
Result: syncing via audio track IS BROKEN and the feature is HIGHLY INCOMPLETE.

No software should EVER crash (at worst it should display an error message) and this feature plain doesn't work even under ideal real-world conditions. Maybe it would work if the cameras had identical audio tracks instead of recording the same audio independently using their own microphones but that's not a realistic scenario nor a useful feature.
Without the ability to add tracks later, the implemantation of this feature can not be considered to be "complete" in any sense of the word. 

Problems in manual syncing

  • Draging a new video clip into the audio area of a multicam adds only the audio.
  • The selection of what should be visible and non-silent when doing sync-work in the multicam clip directly affects what video and audio angles are exported for use in timelines that make use of this multicam clip. Anything you hide/mute will not be offered as a choice later or display as black/silent.
  • There is no way to scale the waveform display without adjusting the audio levels, so that you can clearly see all you need to see for manual syncing via audio waveforms.
  • There is no visual display of the border between individual frames whe zoomed in far enough in manual syncing. You only notice how far you have zoomed in when trying to move the clip around.

Problems in workflow

  • Clicking or double clicking a multicam clip or timeline does not open it in the timeline editor...it simply does nothing at all. 
  • When doing picture-in-picture and multicam clip that makes up the smaller picture has no clip for the selected angle at the current time, not only does the scaled-down area where the PiP would apear go black but the ENTIRE frame goes black. => Bug ticket with Blackmagic Design [Support #BSX-823-55972]
  • The manual refers to keyboard shortcuts as they are on an English keyboard. There doesn't seem to be a German manual explaining the German keyboard shortcuts. (Something like "Option-Shift-[" or "Option-Shift-\" would break your fingers as "[" and "\" are Option-combinations of digit keys and not first order keys here.)
This blog posting is constantly being updated while I am editing my multicam project.

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