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Video post issue: how do you guys handle this?
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RobAnderson
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31st January 2013
Old 31st January 2013
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Video post issue: how do you guys handle this?

Lately, a lot of my work is live music capture for concert videos or documentary-type stuff - not TV or film, but for web or DVD. I really enjoy doing these gigs, and it's proving to be a nice market.

The only problem is (and I'm not throwing any particular video guy under the bus here, because I'm seeing it from a lot of different places), I deliver audio files of a decent stereo live or rough mix, and when I see the finished video, the audio has been messed up somehow: either it ends up in mono, or the channels are swapped, or there's distortion all over the place (when there was none in the mix), etc.

It's one thing if I am being hired by the video company, but even so, if I'm on the gig I want the end result to be the best it should be. I'd hate for the musicians on the gig to think that I'm at fault for the lousy sound, or for a paying client to wonder why they paid more to hire an audio guy when the sound of the final product sucks.

So, three questions to start:
What exactly is going on in video post that would make this so prevalent?
Is there some setting in Final Cut that I should be telling these guys to look out for?
How do you QC the final product when this part is out of your hands?
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31st January 2013
Old 31st January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobAnderson View Post
Lately, a lot of my work is live music capture for concert videos (...)
The only problem is (and I'm not throwing any particular video guy under the bus here, because I'm seeing it from a lot of different places), I deliver audio files of a decent stereo live or rough mix, and when I see the finished video, the audio has been messed up somehow: either it ends up in mono, or the channels are swapped, or there's distortion all over the place (when there was none in the mix), etc.(...)
I feel your pain, you're not alone. All these happen to me too.

... and I have your same questions.

all the best,
Ave.
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31st January 2013
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Rob, I don't think you are throwing anyone under the bus but I am thinking that if the picture and your sound went to a top-tier post house, perhaps in LA or NYC, that you wouldn't see (so much of) these problems.

I think that it is like any new, growing market, that young people are doing the work that the older, more experienced guys don't/won't do.

There is, then, the learning curve that us old-timers went through a while back, that these new video-for-the-web folks have to go through.

That doesn't point to a solution and I have had the same experience with carefully recorded tracks getting scrunched and twisted, somehow, especially in Final Cut (which seems to be particularly weak in the audio side, if what I've seen is not just what happens in my neighborhood.)

I know this doesn't help with your particular issue, but I, for one, would hate to listen to the work I did 25 years ago. I am sure some After School Special dialog editors cursed the day I was hired

D.
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31st January 2013
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The audio import for video (at least in FCP and the little I know about Premier) allows for almost DAW-depth editing and processing of the imported file. The "default" compressor is often a smashed-flat bit of pseudo AGC that can beat the life out of great audio... And, if you have not insisted on oversight or a say in that processing (I'll further guess that the edit station has cheap 4" desktops as "standard" nearfields... although one might luck out with some M-Audio Bx5a or small KRKs), I'd recommend demanding your credit read "Original unedited high-fidelity audio capture by Xxx Xxxxxxxx." Or simply ask to be un-credited. If it's a great bit of video, you might go so far as to rip the video and redo portions with *your* mix... for your personal use, of course.

If the sound truly sucks after video edit, finishing and compiling to DVD... have the client over to hear a CD of the mix you delivered on decent transducers, and a beer, while you commiserate their fate.

And, you can rest assured that audio "issues" are the last thing most young/inexperienced video editors are concerned with...
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31st January 2013
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It's actually better if the client hires me separate from the video guy - then they get to hear my mix directly, without the video.

However, when I am hired by the video company, the "uber client" and/or the musicians will only hear what the video guys deliver. In my mind, that makes me look bad, and I can't ever explain to these folks that it's not on me.

I've pointed it out to some of the video guys I've worked for, and they have corrected it.

Even so, I'm not sure how to specify that the video should not get delivered until I've had a chance to OK the final sound, especially if the video company is NOT the client...

I'm not cheap, and I don't want people to think they are getting less than their money's worth. I also want the video guys that hire me to keep getting hired, so that they'll hire me more
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31st January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobAnderson View Post
It's actually better if the client hires me separate from the video guy - then they get to hear my mix directly, without the video.
You could always release the "official sound track CD" and let the customer question the video guys what they did to the good sound.

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I've pointed it out to some of the video guys I've worked for, and they have corrected it.
Why not ALL of them?

Quote:
Even so, I'm not sure how to specify that the video should not get delivered until I've had a chance to OK the final sound, especially if the video company is NOT the client...
It depends on what the work-flow is. And what your role is. Are you just giving them mixes of songs which they then incorporate into a larger sound track?

Or are you producing a final mix to "locked picture" where you have an expectation that your delivered mix will be THE sound track for the finished product?

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I'm not cheap, and I don't want people to think they are getting less than their money's worth. I also want the video guys that hire me to keep getting hired, so that they'll hire me more
Right. I would think that it is in EVERYONE's interest to get the best possible sound track on the finished video. By NOT giving "notes" to the video producers, you are letting down your side of the bargain, IMHO.

Would it be possible for you to sit in on the final editing to see how they are doing it? It might be instructive for them to see what the sound issues are. And instructive for you to see what their workflow is and how you might to be able to make it easier for them to handle the audio properly.
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31st January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rcrowley View Post


It depends on what the work-flow is. And what your role is. Are you just giving them mixes of songs which they then incorporate into a larger sound track?

Or are you producing a final mix to "locked picture" where you have an expectation that your delivered mix will be THE sound track for the finished product?
Generally a combination of the two - where there is music involved, I expect my mix to be the sound track. In a concert "documentary," I'd expect my mix to be the final soundtrack. All the video editor has to do is sync it to his picture and make his cuts.
Quote:
Why not ALL of them?
Sadly, many times I never even get to see the video. At all.

Quote:
Right. I would think that it is in EVERYONE's interest to get the best possible sound track on the finished video. By NOT giving "notes" to the video producers, you are letting down your side of the bargain, IMHO.

Would it be possible for you to sit in on the final editing to see how they are doing it? It might be instructive for them to see what the sound issues are. And instructive for you to see what their workflow is and how you might to be able to make it easier for them to handle the audio properly.
I wish I would have the opportunity to give them notes before the video was published. I don't need to see or hear the whole thing most of the time - often just a few seconds of listening is enough for me to know if my mix made it through intact or not.
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31st January 2013
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I do both and fcp doesnt screw up alone. I advise you to NOT send mp3 and to limit to -0.3... If they just delete the cam audio from the timeline and drop the stereo audio on tracks 1-2 and do nothing else to the audio it should be ok.

Sent from my MB860
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31st January 2013
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Originally Posted by saciestudio View Post
I do both and fcp doesnt screw up alone. I advise you to NOT send mp3 and to limit to -0.3... If they just delete the cam audio from the timeline and drop the stereo audio on tracks 1-2 and do nothing else to the audio it should be ok.

Sent from my MB860
No mp3's - always .wav files and limited to peak at -1.0 dBfs.

That's what's so frustrating though - all they have to do is nothing. Sync it up and they're done.

I get that they might have some "normalize" function or something to distort it - but how do they make my audio mono? How do they swap the left and right channels?

These are the things I want to tell them to look out for.
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31st January 2013
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I've done a fair bit of video editing of live gigs where I've mixed the audio separately to drop in to the video. From what you are saying, the video guys are screwing around with the audio their end. It should be as simple as importing the audio and then not touching it, aside from a few cuts to match it to the start and end of the video and some fade in/outs at either end. I would point out though that when I have bounced stuff out, limited to -0.1dB, the meters in FCP/Premier Pro or whatever do say that there is clipping (red light on the meter). Though I tend to ignore this, as I know it isn't it is possible, the video guys might see this and decide to try and fix it.
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31st January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobAnderson View Post
No mp3's - always .wav files and limited to peak at -1.0 dBfs.

That's what's so frustrating though - all they have to do is nothing. Sync it up and they're done.

I get that they might have some "normalize" function or something to distort it - but how do they make my audio mono? How do they swap the left and right channels?

These are the things I want to tell them to look out for.
The problem is that nowadays these sort of things are not getting properly posted.

A friend of mine recorded location sound for a documentary about how food is sourced. The director/cameraman, was a women, who was difficult to work with on the shoot. He pointed out potential problems a couple of times and she just "waved him off". A couple of months later he still hadn't been paid so he chased up the company and then got an email back detailing complaints and, I guess, looking to argue the bill. They sent him a VHS of supposed problems that was just pure distortion on the soundtrack as they had overmodded the VHS they sent him. It turned out that they were only detailing a couple of complaints, both were issues he mentioned at the time of the shoot, an example was wanting to shoot an interview on a trawler with lav's right by the engine room.

He wrote back detailing that the VHS sent to him had been totally overmodded and director had been made aware of the problems at the time of the shoot, but had ignored his advice. He insisted they pay his bill forthwith. They paid up.

It turns out their idea of post, were a couple of "kids" with a basic FCP set-up in their offices. I saw the VHS and it was pretty obvious they didn't really know what they were doing.

Most frightening of all, was this programme got broadcast on a national UK tv channel. Budgets are so bad over here, this lack of profesionalism is increasingly common.
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31st January 2013
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Even in broadcast short films are not being dubbed by a mixer
They are assembled in the video edit suite(laptop) with often dire results
Audio training is minimal for video editors now.
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31st January 2013
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Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
Even in broadcast short films are not being dubbed by a mixer
They are assembled in the video edit suite(laptop) with often dire results
Audio training is minimal for video editors now.
I know a director who works for the beeb, he told me they used to go out and shoot with him, soundman, cameraman, sometimes even an assistant. Now it's him and a cameraman. They have dedicated editors, but you have to put your name down for a slot in the edit suite with an editor, or, as happens quite a lot of the time, if you need to get on with it, you have to do the edit yourself.
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31st January 2013
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My company does both audio and video recording of concerts. We have complete control over what gets done and how it is done.

Today too many start up video companies have a DVW, a second monitor and two computer speakers and they call themselves a Video Production Company. They do not have the same expertise in audio as they have in video and many times the video takes precedence over the audio.

One thing I would do is send them a file that was 48 KHz 24 bits at -10 dBFS as that is what a lot of DVDs are spec'd at. Forget the -1 dBFS as it is too hot especially if they decide to "modify" it with some limiting or compression. They will not have your expertise or your ears to know what sounds good or sounds bad. A lot of video editors have nary a clue as to what is proper or correct when it comes to audio. They seem to think it really doesn't matter in the bigger scheme of things.

The other thing is that you should review the whole DVD before it is released for duplication to make sure there are no audio problems with it. This can be built into the contract with the producer and you, as the audio engineer, should have the final say in all things audio.

Best of luck!and please give me a call if you want to talk more about this.

Just as an aside Apple's audio editing software, "Soundtracks" is NOT a great audio manipulation software and can cause a lot of the problems you mentioned and the video editor may not even be aware he or she is messing things up....
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31st January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
My company does both audio and video recording of concerts. We have complete control over what gets done and how it is done.

Today too many start up video companies have a DVW, a second monitor and two computer speakers and they call themselves a Video Production Company. They do not have the same expertise in audio as they have in video and many times the video takes precedence over the audio.

One thing I would do is send them a file that was 48 KHz 24 bits at -10 dBFS as that is what a lot of DVDs are spec'd at. Forget the -1 dBFS as it is too hot especially if they decide to "modify" it with some limiting or compression. They will not have your expertise or your ears to know what sounds good or sounds bad. A lot of video editors have nary a clue as to what is proper or correct when it comes to audio. They seem to think it really doesn't matter in the bigger scheme of things.

The other thing is that you should review the whole DVD before it is released for duplication to make sure there are no audio problems with it. This can be built into the contract with the producer and you, as the audio engineer, should have the final say in all things audio.

Best of luck!and please give me a call if you want to talk more about this.

Just as an aside Apple's audio editing software, "Soundtracks" is NOT a great audio manipulation software and can cause a lot of the problems you mentioned and the video editor may not even be aware he or she is messing things up....
I looked at the -1db thing and thought the same as you Thomas. To be honest I mix average -18db for video and tweak later if necessary.

When we used to do all our DVD authoring here, we started with FCP until we found that we couldn't cope with the issues we had with it. We moved to Premiere, which was much better. I had cause to recently look at the latest versipn of Premiere and with it's integration with things like Photoshop, After Effects, Encore and Audition, I certainly think it's better for most video editing jobs.
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31st January 2013
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I looked at the -1db thing and thought the same as you Thomas. To be honest I mix average -18db for video and tweak later if necessary.

When we used to do all our DVD authoring here, we started with FCP until we found that we couldn't cope with the issues we had with it. We moved to Premiere, which was much better. I had cause to recently look at the latest versipn of Premiere and with it's integration with things like Photoshop, After Effects, Encore and Audition, I certainly think it's better for most video editing jobs.
I think you are closer to the actual specification for audio levels.

I have seen video editors that get a file at -1 dBFS and then limit and compress it and do some eq and never listen to what it really sounds like after they "process it".

Rob, You should have a very loooooooooong talk with your videographer before the next gig.
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31st January 2013
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Thanks for the advice guys.

I get the level thing, and that's a fairly easy discussion to have when it comes to expectations on the deliverables.

The most common problem by far is summing the mix to mono. That might be tougher to explain to a video editor. Any ideas on why this might happen so often? I deliver interleaved stereo files. Wouldn't the import automatically go in as stereo?
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All the mixes I send back to FCP drivers for "layback" are at the correct levels for broadcast or whatever as spec'ed in the producers contract. I think part of the OP's problem may come from sending mixes that are going all the way to -1. That SHOULD work, but in practice you are asking for trouble. Many broadcasters have a peak limit of -10, some -6 others -3, and these are True Peak measurements, ie the tracks have been limited to those specs with a limiter that can handle inter-sample peaks. (NuGen, Elephant, etc) SO the video editors, possibly not very sound-savvy and also maybe not having great monitoring, will have to change the level of your mix to match their delivery spec. This is kind of dangerous--it's better, and on my jobs required, that I get the mix to the correct level so that all the editor has to do is lay it in and not touch anything. Of course, it is still very easy to screw up panning, inadvertently double tracks, forget to mute the original tracks, not get the sync right, get the level wrong in the FCP mixer window.... A visit to the edit suite for a friendly confab might be a good idea.

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31st January 2013
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Luckily I have never had this problem. I have really only worked with folks experienced in live event video and they have never screwed up my audio.

I suppose if they did, and we were both working as independent contractors for the same client, I would bring up the quality issue directly with the client and ask them to tell the other guy to fix it.

Luckily, I have started providing my own video services with my brother, who knows more about it than I do, but I can control the quality issues first hand if needed.
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31st January 2013
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Quote:
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Thanks for the advice guys.

I get the level thing, and that's a fairly easy discussion to have when it comes to expectations on the deliverables.

The most common problem by far is summing the mix to mono. That might be tougher to explain to a video editor. Any ideas on why this might happen so often? I deliver interleaved stereo files. Wouldn't the import automatically go in as stereo?
If it were me I would give the video editor AIFF or WAV files and not interleaved Protools files but that is just me. I am wondering if the video editor is just making a mono track instead of a stereo track and importing your tracks into a mono channel??? Sometimes, as others and myself have pointed out, video people are more worried about the looks of the video or DVD and not so worried about the audio.

FWIW and the reason we do both the audio and the video is so we have the final control over the materials. When I hire a freelancer to do the shooting and the editing they seem to get themselves into trouble very quickly with the audio. I really don't think a lot of them even really listen to what they are doing or listen on computer speakers that may not give them a representation of what is really going on.

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31st January 2013
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uncheck "normalize audio"
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FWIW and the reason we do both the audio and the video is so we have the final control over the materials. When I hire a freelancer to do the shooting and the editing they seem to get themselves into trouble very quickly with the audio. I really don't think a lot of them even really listen to what they are doing or listen on computer speakers that may not give them a representation of what is really going on.

Thanks Thomas. I know I am going to have to evolve in this direction at some point, but that's going to add an order of magnitude of time, effort, and expense.

Not sure what the returns will be, or if having a divided focus is going to negatively impact my output. The learning curve is a bit intimidating too: video and lighting are a whole other ballgame.
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You can get AMAZING picture quality out of pretty modest consumer cameras. But LIGHTING is the big factor. The cheapest camera can look great in good lighting. It takes more expensive cameras to produce decent video in the kind of lighting I see in typical concert/church venues.

And modern video NLE tools made editing video almost as easy (and in some respects EASIER than editing audio).

I got into video originally because of the deplorable state of audio-for-video.
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31st January 2013
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Guys I was talking web. For DVDs -10 is the spec but if I deliver web like that most probably they will find it too soft and try to "fix" it themselves. Have you listened to a -10 clip on a phone or notebook? Its almost inaudible...

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What happens to the audio depends on who does the audio editing of the final cut. In
the worst case scenario there is no audio editing and the scratch track is not erased
(of the camera audio) and the person in charge can't tell the difference between mono
and stereo unless it is explained.
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31st January 2013
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IMHO when it comes to video, the difference between professionals and amateurs is the way they work with audio. I guess it's similar to an audio pro who doesn't stop learning on just audio but also takes into account acoustics, power, sync, etc.

I don't want to sound harsh, but many video guys pay more attention to catering than audio. I once did a live recording of a tour for a movie which included shows in many places of my country (10,000 seats arenas, theaters, the President's Residence Hall, etc). When I go to the premiere, I wait for the credits and they mispelled my company's name and just forgot mine. I specially asked for my asistants place in the credits but they forgot mine and also mispelled their audio recording provider's name.

I would suggest that you pick your battles: only try to correct when good attitude and professional people make a mistake, and don't lose time with people who doesn't deserve it and won't improve.
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1st February 2013
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I’ve not used Final Cut, so I can’t comment on that, but I would have thought that any NLE suite would import the audio file as is. To end up with mono requires an input from the editor. It should be the same thing with the channel swap.

One area for potential disaster that has not been mentioned is the encoding stage. Some encoders allow bit rates as low as 8Kbps.
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1st February 2013
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I have not used final cut , I want some suggestion , How to use it ........Please reply it soon.
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1st February 2013
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I have not used final cut , I want some suggestion , How to use it ........Please reply it soon.
There is so much information on the WWW. A good starting place is here CreativeCOW

There are tons of other sites dealing with FCP 7 or 10. There are a lot of free tutorials on YouTube and elsewhere on the WWW. Just do a search and you can spend the next month reading and learning and it is ALL for FREE!

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1st February 2013
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panphonic is offline
I think that one of the problems comes because when importing interleaved files into FCP7 (dont know about FCPX) they show up as two mono tracks which are linked and the pans are automatically assigned L/R. However, this leaves the opportunity to unlink them, and mess up the panning if you don't know what you are doing. If you don't know what you are hearing, it makes the problem go unnoticed.
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