Well , that’s a good question and a long story …
Steve Dummer (conductor and musical director) put together an arrangement in Sibelius (https://www.avid.com/sibelius), including a metronome, and sent it to all the musicians. This was used to ensure they were all in step with each other (you can see their earphones with some, especially George the clarinet player!). Each musician then recorded their pieces using their mobile phones. We asked them all to record at 1080p and 30fps.
When we got the recordings, the frame rate varied slightly on some (29.7 to 30.2 fps) and a couple had variable frame rates. So I converted everything to .mpv files using the properties -> convert button for each track, and used the converted files on the tracks.
I spent a couple of days trying to aligning the audio for each musician, but could not get it to exactly line up (it sounds terrible if it doesn’t!). Plan 2 was now to create a separate audio track and align the (now muted) videos with that. To create the audio, I used Audacity (https://www.audacityteam.org) to extract the audio from each track and build the composite audio. This was a really steep learning curve … so after 2 days of frustration we implemented plan 3: one of the trustees happens to know a famous sound engineer and producer, who graciously did the audio for us in about an hour!
Armed with the audio track, we could then align the videos with the audio. This is harder than it looks, as they all start at different times, but coupled with my wife’s ability to read music, we shifted the videos a few frames left / right until we’d got it aligned. I also checked the wave pattern on each video (it’s pretty obvious when e.g. the trombone is playing vs when it isn’t!). The recordings went backwards and forwards a few times to Steve Dummer and Stevie Higgins (one of our trustee: a conductor, musical director and pianist) so they could double check to ensure it was all aligned correctly.
The hardest to align was actually Steve Dummer, the conductor - lining up an audio track with someone waving their arms around is not easy! Getting the two percussions to do their comedy slap-stick was also a challenge (see the 2 videos top left if you missed this). I also have to edit a couple of the videos, where they were slightly out of step due to the variance in the fps - I chopped a couple of frames here and there, and stretched things out slight in other places.
Credits and lead-in were done in Keynote and exported as a videos, then converted to mpv files.
I ended up with the following tracks
17 main musician video tracks
(13 musicians, 1 conductor, 3 extra tracks for the percussionists)
1 main audio track
1 audio track for the sleigh bells
1 video track for the lead-in
1 video track for the logo
1 audio track for the lead-in tune-up
1 audio track for Steve Dummer eating his celery
1 audio track for Steve Dummer eating carrots etc over the credits
1 video track for the credits
Fade video in
Fade audio in
Fade video out
Fade audio out
All this was done on a 2012 MacBook pro with 8GB RAM, It crashed a few times and got very hot! It took about 45 minutes to render the final version. Used about 150GB of disk space to create a 112MB video. Took me about 60-70 hours in total I think, including false starts.
Things I learned (apart from Shotcut):
- It is an art form to create a good audio from multiple tracks. If you can leave it to the experts
- It’s easier to align multiple video tracks with a single audio track than multiple tracks containing audio and video.
- Without professional recording equipment, there is going to be a fair amount of hacking around with frames to get everything looking aligned
- You need to be able to read music to correctly align everything, and have the full score and each piece to hand.
- Allow substantial beer allowance.
I’d say it was an overly ambitious project for a first foray into video editing, but it got there in there end. Glad you enjoyed it!
As I said, please share far and wide - the more expose Kidenza gets the better chance it has for funding, which will not only allow kids to experience orchestral music like they never have before, but also keep the musicians employed, who have suffered a lot of financial hardship during the pandemic. Check out kidenza.co.uk