In this three-part series of posts, I’ll take you through why and how to make one of those charming multi-screen, multi-track musical videos, based on my own experiences. I’ve used software that’s freely available online, and I’m very much coming at this from the perspective of an amateur video editor, in the hope that my tribulations might make life easier for anyone contemplating putting one of these together.
We’ve looked at why we might want to have a go at a split-screen music video. Now let’s look at one way of actually doing it.
Note: This is just one of a thousand different ways you could approach this. I’m not claiming this is the best way – just the one that worked for me, which I mostly figured out as I went along.
Further note: I’m going to address this to the moderately tech-savvy. If you don’t know how to install software, or still think that nice video website is called ‘the Youtube’, there are other guides that might suit you better! This is purely a guide to what I did – take all or none of it. It presupposes using YouTube tutorials to get the basics of the software, so I’m not going to cover these in the guide.
What you’ll need
This is the most basic version of the equipment you’ll need to put this together.
- A reasonably well-specced computer
- There’s no getting away from this, I’m afraid – video editing eats processing power for breakfast. You’ll need a reasonable amount of RAM and a decent CPU. If you’re using a MacBook, you’ve probably already got this. If not, check your system specs – I reckon 4-8 GB of RAM and a reasonably modern processor should do it, together with enough space on the hard drive for quite a few videos!
- Audio editing software
- Video editing software
- This helps us make sure all the video files submitted to us can be edited by the software, by converting them all into the same format
Step 1: Create the Guide
You could simply make your performers record audio and video at the same time. This can be a little overwhelming, and it makes editing and controlling the audio a little trickier. We’re going to record the audio and video components of the video separately, then put them together afterwards. This means that the performers can focus entirely on getting their performance right, then can effectively mime the video.
Creating the Guide
The performers need a guide recording to perform along to. It can be as simple as a metronome, but the more the performers feel like they’re performing with others, the better, and some have used preexisting recordings for this purpose. Metronomes can lead to a rather mechanical performance, and singing along to someone else’s recording doesn’t allow you to come up with your own interpretation.
Note: in fact, the pieces I chose needed a flexible tempo, which a metronome would make impossible, and there weren’t any extant recordings to use.
Here’s how I made my guide recording:
- Using my phone, I took a video of myself, clapping on the fourth beat of a metronome – beep, beep, beep, clap – followed by me conducting the piece to camera.
- I then recorded myself playing the piano into Cubase, while watching the video I had just made (making sure to clap along at the beginning), then exported this
- In Premiere Pro, I lined up my new piano recording with the video, by lining up where the two ‘clap’ waveforms were on the audio tracks – they’re pretty easy to spot. I then exported this video
- Watching the new video, I repeated the piano recording process, except this time recording myself singing the vocal parts, always lining them up using the clap
After exporting, this left me with a video of me clapping, then conducting an invisible ensemble of piano and singers. By following myself conducting, instead of using a metronome, I was able to allow for breaths and a slightly more organic performance. It also helps you see whether you’re easy to follow or not!
Note: I asked friends to supply the voice-parts I couldn’t sing. If there’s no one around and you don’t feel like doing it, why not engage some professional singers to lay down guide tracks for a few bob – they’ll appreciate the work.
Send it to the Performers
Send the video to the group, along with detailed instructions as to how to contribute – everything from positioning the recording device, to warming up beforehand, and clapping with the guide. I based my guidelines on the excellent list available here (geared towards the acappella tradition but mostly applicable).
Each participant records audio (with headphones in) and then video separately (no headphones), and sends you both files.
Step 2: Assembling the Audio
As you receive the audio files, import them into Cubase, and line them up with the guide recording using the clap.
NB You might need to make sure they’re in a format Cubase can read – it doesn’t like Apple’s m4a, so I used this website to convert those to wav.
Hopefully this should mean they’re vaguely together with each other – you can make micro-adjustments if not. You can trim ‘rogue’ moments out, add some reverb to distance the sound a little, and use the Mixer to get the balance right between parts. Play about until you’re happy, then export to a single file.
If you’re just making an audio virtual recording, you can stop there. If hubris hasn’t yet got the better of you, though, the final stage is video. Hold on to your hats (and spare a thought for your poor computer).
Making a ‘Virtual Choir’ video with free software: Part 3 – Video