Multiclip Tips for Final Cut Pro

Apple announced the new version of Final Cut Studio today. There are many improvements, but it appears that most fundamental characteristics of multiclips (and their limitations) has not changed. In the video below we show some tricks to get the most out of multiclips.

Along the way we answer some questions that we get asked frequently about PluralEyes, our product that automatically synchronizes clips without the need for timecode.
  1. What if some of the cameras are turned on and off during the shoot? Will that still work?
  2. Can I have an audio-only track? Because I made a separate high-quality audio recording. (This technique is known as dual-system audio)
  3. How do I get multiclips to work? I want to edit while seeing all the cameras at once in a multi-angle display.
The script of the tutorial comes below the video.

For this example we shot a band with three cameras and a separate audio recorder. We've captured the clips and put them all into ProRes 422 at 1280x720 30 fps. They could be a different format, but they all need to be the same for a multiclip.

To start editing we first make a sequence called pluraleyes and arrange the clips onto the timeline. Each camera goes on a separate track and the audio goes on its own track.

We start PluralEyes. (It's a standalone application in the Applications folder.) We press the Sync button. After a minute we've got a sequence with everything in sync. So right away we have the answer to the first two questions: we see that having cameras turned on and off is no problem, and having a separate audio track works just fine.

Multiclips will take a couple of extra steps, but it will be worth it. Final Cut Pro is a bit fussy about multiclips but once you've set them up they work great.

First we notice that PluralEyes says it couldn't make a multiclip because of the audio-only track. But even if it could you wouldn't like the result. Final Cut puts every clip into a separate angle. We have three cameras so you would expect three angles, but Final Cut would give you 17 angles, one for each clip. This is not very useful.

So here's what we do. We're going to export the tracks as separate movies and make a multiclip from those. It's very easy. In the pluraleyes output sequence, make only the first video track visible and mute all the other audio. Option-click is a quick way to do this.

Now ctrl-click on the sequence in the Browser and choose Export > QuickTime Movie. Use the "Current Settings" and make sure the check box for Make Movie Self-Contained is *not* checked. We'll name the movie for the track it came from and click Save.

This makes a QuickTime reference movie. It only takes a few seconds and we don't have to worry about using up disk space because the movie just has references to the original clips and so is much smaller than they are.

Do this for each of the three camera tracks. We could do it with the audio track too, but we have other plans for that. We now import the reference movies back into Final Cut. We're going to put them into a sequence called pluraleyes. We'll reuse the existing sequence with that name. Put them on the tracks they came from and make sure they are all lined up at the beginning of the timeline. That will keep everything in sync.

We now go back to the PluralEyes application and press the Multiclip button. This looks at the clips in the sequence called pluraleyes and makes a multiclip from them, using their positions to determine the timing within the multiclip.

We now have a multiclip with just three angles and all the clips synced up. There will be times when a particular angle is blank when the camera was turned off, which is exactly what you would expect.

We could just start our editing with that multiclip but we're going to do something to make our lives easier. It's nice to have a multiclip, but it's also nice to have a view that shows when the cameras are on or off. Fortunately, we can have both.

Go back to the original synced sequence. We're going to add the multiclip to this sequence. First we make room for its audio by moving our audio-only track down. Option-down-arrow is a handy way to do this. Now we add the multiclip and position it at the beginning of the timeline. The only things we want in our final production are the video from the multiclip and the high-quality audio, so we mute everything else.

Finally we double-click the multiclip to bring it up in the viewer, set the Playhead Sync to Open and start editing. As we play, we can watch the playhead in the timeline to see when the cameras are going to go on or off. That helps us make the decisions as to when to switch cameras.

That may have sounded a little complicated but it's easy after you've done it once. To summarize, we really just did three things:

  1. Sync the clips (using PluralEyes)
  2. Export each video track to a reference movie
  3. Make a multiclip from the reference movies (again using PluralEyes)


  1. LOVE IT! I purchased FCP 3 Studio just so I could use PluralEyes with my music videos. I made one video with no performance pieces and its been quite successful but my second one has been quite difficult in Premiere CS4 since I had to sync up the performance pieces manually. I just installed FCP 3 and will be downloading PluralEyes tomorrow.

    I'm booked for four more videos all with performance pieces and look forward to having PluralEyes as a much needed help to grow my biz.


  2. Anonymous6:02 PM

    I need to sync up original multitrack production sound to final 1 hour offline edited with ref sound sent to camera during production to tracks 1 & 2 ,... I usually do this on FCP syncing up to slate
    w/ clap recorded on video, it takes some time but work .Then export a OMFI and import it on Pro Tools to do my mix ,
    Can Pluraleyes can handle this kind of job ?
    These are feature films for TV

  3. @Felipe: PluralEyes should be able to handle that, no problem. Best way to know for sure is to get the trial version and try it out.

  4. Felipe Zabala4:31 AM

    ok thank you i will keep on touch ...it´s not an easy task

  5. hi. genius program. so far so good with the syncing. i'm having trouble with the workflow stated in this multi-clip demo, though. its not making a "Quicktime REFERENCE"movie. instead, its rendering out the clip which takes forever and eats hard drive space. The 'make self-contained' checkbox is OFF, so i dont know what the problem is. using FCP 6.0.6.

  6. QuickTime reference movies are very particular about their inputs. You can't, for example, do any kind of global changes like brightness adjustments or it will render the whole thing. This article has a nice rant about it and some suggested alternatives, but I prefer reference movies.

  7. I think the alternative to making a reference clip is just making multiple multiclips. I did this the other day and it seemed to work. My concern with reference movies is the issue about not being able to have color correction and also having a new file that needs to be backed up to each editing system that is sharing the same media assets for a mult-editor environment.

    So I think it's better to just not hit stop and start when filming, and then if you do, just put a slice and then open the clip up in the viewer and choose the prefect in point to make the multiclip, highlight the two clips and turn it into a multiclip.


  8. Hi Bruce, I just wanted to leave a note to thank you so very much for this post. I have saved myself so much time from using PluralEyes already that I feel like I'm cheating or something! ;) This article was exactly the info I needed to complete my workflow in FCP. I now have a strategy for everything from initial ingest/digitizing to multiclip editing, and I have shaved hours and hours from my editing chores through all of this.

    I will be visiting here often, thanks again for the info!

  9. Anonymous9:11 PM

    Hi Bruce, I've been using pluraleyes for almost 2 years. Great Tool.
    Now I'm having an issue with it and was wondering if you could help me out with it.
    In FCP I have 4 video tracks and 8 audio tracks with several broken clips on each video layer. After I sync the clips in pluraleyes and drag the multiclip onto the sequence, I have to use the 9 monitor view. Is this the way pluraleyes works? Why can't it play back as 4 clips in the viewer?



  10. Amazing, I thought my day was over until I found this. I am soooo excited about editing now. Thanks Bruce and the team

  11. Anonymous1:04 AM

    Alelujah! Thank you.

  12. Thank you SO much again. I wish all this was a little more obvious in the PE help. I've been through the mill a bit with five cameras all outputting different formats, DSLRs mixed with HDV. Oh boy was I innocent! Anyway thanks to Streamclip, over-night processing, and your precious bit of clarity I now see the wonderousness of the PE Multiclip world. Thank you again!

  13. Hey Bruce - never knew you were into this stuff. No XBRL here!! Found you by Googling!!

    Anyway - this is really useful - EXCEPT - I've been struggling with this workflow and finally figured out the problem - it assumes that the Audio track starts BEFORE the video tracks. If it doesn't you have to modify it to make sure the sync is maintained (this is left as an exercise to the reader!!)




  14. @Hugh Interesting to cross paths again in such a different area!

    I'm not convinced about the need for the audio to be before the video. There are a lot of superstitions about this problem. I'm going to stick with my analysis