Thursday, November 11, 2010

DualEyes for Windows

A product that a lot of editors rave about is PluralEyes; it's a plug-in that works with various editing environments to analyze the audio tracks of media files and figure out where the audio tracks sync up. It's ideal for anyone doing dual sound (capturing video with a video camera, and audio using a separate recording deck like a Zoom H4n.)

Typically, if you record dual sound you want to use some form of time code - which means using expensive gear - or use a clapper board to create a "mark" that you can use to sync the tracks. If your camera records sound as well as pictures a "mark" doesn't have to be made by a clapboard; you can simply clap your hands, but the reality is that there are situations where clapping your hands can interrupt the process; and what happens if you forget to do it?

PluralEyes does away with all that...mostly. It just looks at the two audio tracks and figures out where they match. And now Singular Software has come up with a standalone package for those that don't use an editing environment supported by PluralEyes. DualEyes does basically what PuralEyes does; but it outputs either audio or combined audio/video files that you can then edit as you desire. At the moment, DualEyes is only available for Windows.

I downloaded the 30-day trial from Singular Software's website without trouble. The website mentions that you need to have .Net and QuickTime installed, so I followed the link to install .NET, but I still got an error message when I first ran DualEyes that said:
DualEyes requires Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 SP1 Redistributable Package (x86).
Would you like to visit the download page.
When I followed the link I was presented with a list of three files, and I had no idea which one to choose: vcredist._IA64.exe,  _x64.exe, or _x86.exe. I quit and tried again, and this time - after jotting down the error message - decided that it wanted the x86 version. Installing that seemed to solve the problem.

Working with DualEyes
The interface of DualEyes is very simple; though it actually took me a few minutes to figure out how it worked because I had made an assumption about how it would work. I had thought it would be sort of like a video editor timeline, but it doesn't work like that at all.

In DualEyes you simply add the audio and video media files to a project, click the Sync button (an icon with a pair of scissors), and DualEyes goes through and tries to figure out how things match up. It then outputs a new audio file for each of the video segments that it's matched the audio to.

DualEyes Project Window

If that doesn't float your boat, you can choose the Replace Audio for MOV and AVI files option, and then run the sync process and DualEyes creates a new copy of each of the video files with the audio replaced.

I like that much better!

But I wish that it would provide some way to preview the results, and maybe choose how to mix/replace the audio with the final video. You can have it automatically adjust the levels, but that's just an On/Off option. The other option, of course, is to do that in your editing environment with the individual audio/video segments.

Other considerations
DualEyes seems to do what it claims; sync audio to video without the need for clapper marks or manual input, but there is an important consideration; even though you're replacing the video's audio with the audio from another source, you must have something recorded on the camera source - and it needs to be audible - or the syncing won't work. If the camera is thirty feet away from the source in a noisy hall, it probably won't be able to sync the audio. Similarly, a large distance and the person talking quietly and you'll have problems. In those situations you may still want to use some kind of cable or wired mic to the camera just so you get a good baseline audio track for matching.

In conclusion
If you do dual sound once a year, then just clap your hands, but if you're doing lots of dual sound audio, DualEyes or PluralEyes is worth the money. They both cost $149 each. While I'd buy the PluralEyes for Final Cut plug-in myself, if your editing platform isn't supported by PluralEyes - or maybe if you switch a lot between different environments and don't want to buy a copy of PluralEyes for each! - then DualEyes is the choice for you.

SingularSoftware: DualEyes

Short run through showing how to sync audio and video in DualEyes

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