Reviews, Video

PluralEyes 4 in Red Giant’s Shooter Suite 13: a review

several different devices synchronised

Shooter Suite 13 is the latest upgrade of Red Giant Software’s application bundle for video shooters. The suite is targeted at offloading video from camera recording devices to your system as well as ingesting video into your NLE so that it is instantly usable. Shooter Suite 13 includes Offload 1.x, PluralEyes 4, Instant 4K and Frames. Of all the included apps, PluralEyes 4 is the most important one and the only app to have received a major feature upgrade.

Red Giant’s PluralEyes synchronises video clips with separately recorded audio. PluralEyes 4 is easier than its predecessors, with most of its power fully automated. The new PluralEyes analyses footage and automatically chooses the best options to sync your audio and video. I distrust fully automated apps for anything but simple tasks. The ones that I know of never perform as good as my own fiddling, so I was very interested to see how the PluralEyes “Nouveau Style” would do. Knowing Red Giant’s high product quality standards, I reckoned this couldn’t be too bad, but how good it would be was a question I needed to answer.

pluraleyes offload integration

Before I go into details of how good or bad PluralEyes 4 is, let me first briefly go over the other improvements.

The new version now integrates with Adobe Premiere Pro. There’s a sync button in the Premiere Pro Panel and PluralEyes will take care of the rest. The app in Premiere Pro offers the same colour coding capabilities as it does in the standalone version, so editors will know which clips, if any, require attention.

The new version has a “Smart Start” feature. You can drag and drop an entire folder of media into PluralEyes, and during a sync it should automatically detect which device the media came from. I was very curious to see if I could make the software trip over in this respect. I couldn’t. The files will be sorted so that media from the same device are on the same track. Drag and drop also works with Final Cut Pro X XML files. No need to select “Import from Final Cut Pro X XML” in the File menu. D&D is all it takes to make PluralEyes 4 start humming along.

When synchronising long clips with separately recorded audio, sound and video can stop matching up perfectly — this is known as drift and it results from devices not recording sound the same way. PluralEyes should account for this and export a perfect sync with the Automatic Drift Correction that was announced in version 3.5. New in version 4, however, is that PluralEyes will automatically detect and fix it. Afterwards, you can still toggle between drift-corrected sync and original audio for comparison.

An essential feature from the app’s beginnings, colour coded visuals shows you the progress of the sync, making it easy to make adjustments. in the new version, export from PluralEyes to Premiere Pro features a colour coding option for clips that don’t sync properly.

audio drift compensation

The excellent Offload app performs a checksum during media transfer from camera card (or whatever memory device you use) to hard drive, giving filmmakers the peace of mind that footage was backed up with no loss. PluralEyes 4.0 is able to detect Offload events and bring footage over, for a seamless workflow from Offload to PluralEyes to the host-app. The Offload integration can’t be missed as it has its own brightly coloured icon.

PluralEyes 4 experiences

I didn’t test PluralEyes 4 with Premiere Pro. I lack the latest versions of that application and so it becomes increasingly less useful to discuss Premiere Pro for pretty much anything today’s video editors want to know about. I did test PluralEyes extensively with Final Cut Pro X.

My first test involved one audio recorder and three cameras running for 15 minutes simultaneously, with randomly chosen cameras stopped and restarted at random times. All cameras in this test were running at the same frame speed of 24fps. This didn’t prove to be any challenge at all for PluralEyes 4 and even on my lowly iMac i5 (mid-2011) it didn’t take more than a couple of seconds to straighten out all the media in perfect sync. There was no drift detected in this setup, so I decided to make it much harder on the app.

My second test was totally over the top. Not a single video shooter in his or her right mind would ever consider setting up the cameras and two audio recorders the way I did. To be quite honest with you, I wouldn’t have considered this setup either, were it not that I conducted my experiment on a day that was so hectic I forgot to check the frame speeds on each camera.

several different devices synchronised

The resulting setup had two cameras recording at 24fps, one at 48fps and one at… 50fps. In addition, I had a Zoom H4N audio recorder recording to the Atomos Ninja Assassin as well as internally to four channels, and my Duet Mac/iPad to the iMac. It wasn’t until I saw the app shuffling clips back and forth that I realised what I had done. I decided to let the app process the files anyway.

And guess what? PluralEyes 4 succeeded in synchronising most clips, except for two clips that were still on the card from the previous test. Drift correction was not entirely perfect, but that too was my fault. I only had to turn off the 4-channel recording to make it sound perfectly synchronised.

I was very impressed with the results, baffled actually. PluralEyes 4 had just proven that automated algorithms can be as good of not better than the human touch.

To round up the review, I exported to Final Cut Pro X XML files, including a multicam XML. All of them generated an error message inside Final Cut Pro X — something related to malformation of the XML, but without any effect on the clips themselves. Perhaps these errors are due to the way my system is set up, or perhaps it’s a minor bug. Whatever it may be, it didn’t negatively affect the media PluralEyes 4 created.

PluralEyes 4 is near-perfect and takes all the work out of synchronising sound and video. Its automatic algorithms are really powerful as the app will even sync cameras and sound that weren’t recorded at the same frame speed. Best of all is that you can intervene if you want. You can check everything and the controls are still in place, but you’ll rarely need them in my opinion. With its gorgeous interface and flawless integrations, PluralEyes 4 is a must-have. So is Offload. The entire Shooter Suite costs approx. €365.00. The upgrade price is €90.55.