DualEyes Beta Impressions
Last month after we posted our “2011 Crash the Superbowl ” Doritos commercials, I received some comments asking about our work-flow shooting these on the Canon 7D. As I wrote this turned into more of an initial impressions of Singular Software’s DualEyes dual system audio syncing software which we decided to try for the production.
There is no way to manually adjust the audio input of the 7D, as you can with Canon’s other HDSLR’s. I have no idea why they won’t add this to the 7D when they’ve ported manual audio controls the the 5D, 60D, and T2i, but I digress. The 7D can record audio from the internal mic or via a 1/8″ input, but it will only record audio with Automatic Gain Control (AGC). AGC has it’s uses, but typically introduces a lot of noise and hiss, and when mounting a production, low budget or not, you want to make your finished product sound professional, so AGC is non-starter.
In order to get clean audio when using the 7D I record dual system audio like a traditional film would shoot, using a Slate with a clapper and separate digital audio recorder. We use the Tascam DR100, though the Zoom H4n is also a popular choice. Since the audio and video files are recorded separately they will need to be synced together in post. Film editors have been doing this for years, matching the moment the clapper sticks connect to the sound on the audio track. This method works just fine, but it adds a step to the process for those used to working with audio already embedded in sync with the video files. That’s where DualEyes comes in.
DualEyes is a stand alone program that works outside of your NLE. It examines the wave forms of your audio and video files and creates new synced video files with sound from your external recorder. This then allows you to import your video files and edit as you normally would without having to manually re-sync the files in your NLE, potentially saving you hours of time depending on your project. You can see a video demo here.
Sounds too good to be true right? I thought so too, but as we were in a time crunch to finish the spots for the contest, and since Singular generously offers a fully functioning 30 day trial of the software, I figured what the hell and downloaded the latest beta.
It installed on my Windows machine without an issue and within minutes I was importing my 7D .mov’s and Tascam .wav files. To put it through it’s paces I decided to go one scene at a time. I imported all the Doritos Flavor Lab takes, hit the scissors button to start processing and went to get a cup of coffee.
After returning a couple minutes later it was already finished processing. It performed admirably , though due to the repetition of multiple takes, it would sometimes sync multiple audio instances with a single video take. Not the end of the world, you just have to be sure to double check the output, which is still faster than trying to manually re-sync each take in an NLE.
I continued to process the rest of the scenes with similar results, with the exception of the “Cool Rancher” scene. This scene was shot outdoors on a horse ranch in Aqua Dulce in very windy conditions. The 7D’s AGC couldn’t handle all the wind noise and so the scratch track was difficult to make out. DualEyes was unable to process it, even when I set the option to “Try Really Hard.“ I don’t blame the software though, since in this environment I was asking a lot.
Overall I found this to be a very useful tool. I like the fact that it’s stand alone so you can use it with any NLE. I can batch process files, letting it run while I go do something else. This also lets me pre-sync all of my files in advance of the edit. Sure that means doubling up my hard drive space, but it’s worth it to have the freedom to just start cutting without having to worry about re-syncing each take on the timeline.
There are a few things I’d like to see improved.
- After every sync it creates a .csv report you can view to see which files didn’t sync if you need to try again. However, it overwrites this file on every retry, instead of auto incrementing. It’d also be great if that report simply showed up in the GUI instead of having to open another program.
- I’d like to see more options for naming the output files, and choosing were they should be saved.
These are minor quibbles though, for a product still in Version 1 beta. If you are shooting dual system audio, DualEyes will save you a lot of time and is recommended. Try it free for 30 days, and then pick up a copy for $149. I am.