Sony Vegas and The 20th Annual Stellar Awards Broadcast
Vegas, Excalibur and SD-Connect fine-tune the Stellar Awards
: VEGAS Pro
: Timothy Duncan
: Sony Vegas and The 20th Annual Stellar Awards Broadcast
A Creative Cow Product Overview/Review
Northstar Studios, Inc.
Nashville, Tennessee USA
©2005 by Timothy Duncan and Creativecow.net. All rights are reserved.
In this article, Creative Cow's Timothy Duncan explores how Northstar Studios used Sony Vegas, the Excalibur plug-in's multi-cam wizard for Vegas and Convergent Design's SD-Connect video converter to help create this year's 20th Annual Stellar Awards broadcast -- a ten camera shoot recorded January 15th in Houston, Texas. With a deadline of delivery by 8:30am on January 20th, Timothy had his work cut out for him to edit and fine-tune the show's pacing using these three tools to quickly offline and then finish online using an Avid|DS system. How did these tools perform together? Read on for the complete story...
The 20th Annual Stellar Awards is in syndication and now airing nationwide around the country. Although this project was finished on an Avid|DS system, the offline was done using Sony Vegas and the Excalibur plug-in utilizing its Multi Camera Wizard. The key to the puzzle was the SD-Connect from Convergent Design which allowed frame-accurate capture from Digital Betacam into Vegas for the multi-camera offline.
The Stellars were recorded on Saturday, January 15th, at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas. There were ten cameras all iso recorded on Digital Betacam and used in a line cut: Two jibs, two Steady Cams, two hand-helds, and three tripods. I received the footage the next day at 1:30 in the afternoon and immediately began the digitizing process. The task before me was a hard deadline of 8:30am on Thursday, January 20th, to complete the final two hour master so it could be on a plane bound for the distribution company. The shows first airing was Saturday January 22. Heres a list of airdates: http://www.stellarawards.com/tv/stellarawards2005airdates2.pdf You may still be able to catch it in your area.
The SD-Connect is a converter that can handle pretty much everything. It has 1394, SDI, Component, Composite, and Y/C video inputs and outputs. It also has a composite reference input, or can be run with internal sync. Audio is 4 channels of XLR, AES/EBU, and embedded SDI. All outputs are hot simultaneously, based on the selected input. The SD-Connect also has RS-422 control. In Vegas, using 1394, it can be used for frame accurate capture from any RS-422 controlled deck. It also allows frame accurate print to tape from Vegas both in insert and assemble modes. The quality of the conversions is stunning. I ran several tests comparing the DV captured from SDI with SD-Connect to uncompressed captures of the same footage. On an SDI monitor, only a very skilled eye can see the difference. Luminance and chroma levels are absolutely a perfect match. The DV video has more inherit noise in the picture visible only via SDI. Looking at the same video on an analog monitor makes the difference un-detectable. This is without question, the cleanest SDI to DV and DV to SDI converter Ive ever seen.
The SD-Connect can also be run in standalone mode, just as a frame sync or converter. Proc amp control is available on analog inputs and, in stand alone mode, the unit can be controlled via Ethernet. All inputs are procd (limited) to legal levels. Firmware updates are as simple as connecting to your network via Ethernet and clicking update in the system menu. This box is extremely easy to setup and use. The only control is a twist/push knob on the front panel. The menu is visible as an LCD and navigation is a cinch.
Once the footage was captured, editing in Vegas was so simple thanks to a 3rd party scripting plugin: Excalibur. This plugin has many great tools, but I used the multi-cam and the voice over tools for this production. Vegas is very unique in the fact that it has a scripting language built in. This enables almost anything you can possibly do to be automated. There are hundreds of free scripts available that users have written to share with each other, as well as several very good packages of scripts from $5 to $130 each. Excalibur is $99 and you will pay for it in just one hour of use in a muliti-cam project. There simply isnt a better way to do multi-cam. Others have tried to copy Excalibur, but no one has succeeded. Gary Kleiner and Edward Troxel, both Sony Vegas forum hosts here on the Cow, teamed up to bring us this outstanding tool.
||Heres the workflow: I placed all eleven angles (10 iso cameras plus the line cut) on the Vegas timeline vertically, and labeled the tracks.
Thanks to the SD-Connect I captured each clip precisely using the time-code from the reels. However, Excalibur can actually sync-up your cameras based on sync markers you drop on the timeline, if your cameras dont have synchronous time code.
Next I ran the Excalibur sync wizard with a 4x4 layout. Excalibur has built in layouts for 2x2, 3x3, 4x4 and 5x5 so it can be used for up to a 25 camera multi-cam view. Now, I have a view of all 11 clips with labels in place. I adjusted the line cut to be larger than the rest, since I had an odd number of angles in the 4x4 (16) angle layout.
I use the same computer that I run Avid|DS on to run Vegas and have no issues running three or four instances of Vegas at the same time as a single instance of DS. (Vegas is the only editing/compositing application I know of that allows you to open multiple copies all at once). I have a fairly good system, a dual Xeon 2.8 Ghz running WindowsXP Pro, with 1.5 Gigs of Ram, and a 1 TB Fiber Channel hard drive array. But even this system could not playback 11 streams of picture in picture at full 29.97fps on the 1394 output. So, I rendered out to a new track all the layers with the label overlay. This enabled me to playback a single layer easily, while leaving all the other layers beneath in place.
I have customized my Vegas keyboard layout to allow me to program Excalibur camera scripts to keys 1 for camera 1, 2 for cam 2, 3 for cam 3, etc. I have also programmed shift+1 to be dissolve to cam 1 and shift+2 as dissolve to cam 2 etc. When you run an individual camera script, a tally light is automatically placed around that cameras video. This gives you a great visual of which camera you have selected. You are able to view and play the timeline seeing the tally change based on your cuts.
After you have made your cuts, next you run the Excalibur Multi Camera script.
There are several options here. I choose to add other cameras as takes. This gives you a new track labeled Master that contains your edit based on the markers created by the individual camera scripts. By using the option to add other cameras as takes, you can now switch cameras (takes) on the fly while playing the timeline. This allows you to fine tune the edit even more. You can also mute the top master layer at anytime to see the mutli-cam splits below to help make quick decisions. So this gives you REAL-TIME switching of shots WHILE PLAYING the Vegas timeline, and while seeing it 29.97 out to an SDI monitor if you have the SD-Connect. (Without SD-Connect you could monitor through any 1394 to analog converter). No other multi-cam software even approaches this. After tweaking the line cut, I exported EDLs of the segments from Vegas and then conformed at uncompressed in Avid|DS. (Conform is Avids fancy word for capture and assemble). Michael Johnson, the director of the Stellars, and President of Encore Entertainment, said, With the past experiences of doing multi-cam shows turnaround time is one of the most important factors. Working with this system provided the best opportunity I have ever experienced to re-cut and do pictures fixes, with no downtime. The Tally Wizard was an extra added surprise that really helped speed up the decision making process. The Stellar team was so happy with the use of Vegas and Excalibur that they put them in the actual show credits.
Voice Over is another Excalibur tool I find myself using all the time. This tool will automatically duck other audio under voice over or dialog tracks. Talk about a time saver! Theres no other audio program Im aware of that has this capability. Typically, I output OMF from the Avd|DS then mix everything in Vegas. I use a program called EDL Convert from CuiBono that can convert to/from just about any audio format: OMF, AAF, ProTools, Vegas, just to name few. Vegas can read the Avid AVI or QuickTime reference files with no issues so I can see the Avid edit and mix the audio in a program I feel is better than ProTools especially thanks to scripting.
You can see how the music track is perfectly ducked around the VO track. Excalibur has several options in the Voice Over tool to get exactly the result you are looking for effortlessly.
Acid Pro 5.0
Acid Loops can be used for much, much more than composing songs. I use Acid regularly for that client who wants royalty free music. But for the Stellars, Acid was used to make the sound fx for the Nominee packages. In the Voice Over examples pictures above, the sound fx are on the 2nd audio layer. Thanks to the new database engine in Acid 5, finding the perfect loops is now so much easier.
This show had to be extremely edited down to make time. This meant cutting much of the dialog for the award recipients, as well as actually cutting down many of the musical performances. One slower song, in particular, had an edit that I just couldnt seem to make right. So, I fired up Acid and actually used cymbals to match the cymbal sound in the first clip and carry the sound over the cut into the 2nd clip that had no cymbal sound at all. The result? A perfect edit that even amazed the musical director for the show.
My hats off to Sony for making such an incredible set of tools. Also to Excalibur which can be found at http://www.jetdv.com/excalibur and to Convergent Design http://www.convergent-design.com as well as EDL Convert http://www.cuibono-soft.com
Timothy Duncan is an editor with over 24 years of professional experience. He currently works as Senior Non-Linear Editor for NorthStar Studios, Inc., in Nashville, Tennessee http://www.northstarstudios.tv
Tim is also a leader in Creative Cow's Convergent Design users forum.
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