Automatic Sync Gives Editor a Week of His Life Back

What do you do if you're starting post-production and realize you have to organize hundreds of audio files with no timecode, useful metadata or even names? Todd Batstone is the lead editor of an independent feature film called Dreadful Sorry, which he’s making with friends from his days as an actor and theatre producer in New York. As part of a grant from the South Carolina Film Commission, the production became a teaching project for students at the University of South Carolina College of Arts and Sciences.

Dreadful Sorry - Behind the Scenes - Video 4 - "The Future"

The footage was beautifully shot by veteran cinematographer Dan Kneece who used the new ARRI ALEXA camera, but when Todd opened the files to begin preparing them for editing, he found the students on set had named none of them. He was looking at three gigabytes of wave files with no indication of their corresponding scene or take.

Todd edits in Avid in his professional life, but was cutting Dreadful Sorry in Final Cut Pro because of the file format. Without an assistant, he faced weeks of manually searching for and synchronizing hundreds of files. It wasn’t until two days into the workload that he remembered the PluralEyes plugin for synchronization, and verified that it also works with FCP.

Todd recalls, “That was the lifesaver. I'd still be sitting here probably automatically lining these clips up and syncing them, and more than that, playing each one of them down to discover which tape it corresponded to, and there's several hundred files. I really put it to the test.

“I literally pulled almost every single clip, put them in a sequence, then dragged every single audio file into that sequence. Then let PluralEyes run. And it's magic ... you're looking at maybe 180 or 190 sound files and it matches them up with the wave form from the reference audio, and suddenly, magically you have this sequence with synced audio.”

Todd was so relieved with the solution that he wrote to Singular Software. “I just had to tell these people what this is doing in the real world, what the field experience is from somebody who really appreciates it and is having a very real world experience of the power of the application. I'd say it gave me a week, probably seven to eight actual working days of my life, of my editing life back.”

Dreadful Sorry is a suspense thriller seen through the eyes of a ten year-old girl who returns to her father at the family's plantation house after being sent away for seven years during the Civil War. Far beyond just synching clips, Todd is intrinsically valuable as a creative editor who collaborates with his director to write the final version of the story.

He explains, “There's just something about having been a performer and knowing what it's like to be in a scene with somebody, and having to listen to them, that lends itself to understanding the importance of creating a good rhythm in the editing room and creating a good rhythm with their performance.”

Todd first learned about PluralEyes as a member of the editing team on the new scripted MTV series called Death Valley, produced by Liquid Theory. Death Valley was shot in Los Angeles on the RED digital camera and edited in Avid. For the first week of shooting there was a problem with the jam synch so the time code on the audio and video files didn’t match up. Finally someone researched synchronization solutions and discovered the PluralEyes plugin.

Death Valley trailer for MTV

Todd recounts, “It saved our ass for a week until our production got back on track. That was my introduction to it, and the timesaving nature of it. If we hadn't had it we’d wind up syncing these things by hand, like the old days on a Moviola where you’re moving your film along on these plates, and moving the sound along until you get to the marker. We did that for a day or so because we didn't want to fall behind. It's an unreasonable, and tedious, and horrible process.”

Todd balances freelance work with his projects at Liquid Theory in L.A. Dreadful Sorry is sparking ideas for more independent collaborations with like-minded creative friends. “We have this pool of talent to pull from to begin to develop and create our own stuff … Conversations have been about what's the next project going to be for all of us, the people in our network who have known each other for all of these years, who've spent that time training, working for other people, and working in film and TV and theater. Now, we’re ready to pull all of those resources together and present something to the world.”

Follow Dreadful Sorry's progress through their production blog and FaceBook page, and catch Death Valley Monday nights on MTV - and keep an ear to the ground for Todd Batstone’s next creative revelation.

Comic Con Sizzle Reel edited by Todd Batstone

Writer Sara McIntyre is a Communications Consultant and Filmmaker who calls Vancouver, BC home.

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