Lessons Learned Shooting, Editing and Mixing a 9-Camera Music Performance

Click for larger image.

Last week post production officially started on episode 2 of SoundandSEA.TV, “#ImprovJam.” If you recall, back in October I gathered some the finest jazz musicians in the Seattle metro to do an improvised jam session with local rock guitarist Ayron Jones of AJ and the Way, and local hip-hop rapper Turtle T. I assembled a crew of six filmmakers (including myself) to shoot it on 9 cameras (three Panasonic GH4s, two Canon C100s, two Canon 70Ds, a Canon T3i and T2i) and 8 channels of audio. This was my first project of a scope like this, and there are some early lessons I wanted to share.

A Good Audio Set-Up is Essential

We in the video biz often say, your video is only as good as your audio. When I originally envisioned this project, I figured I’d just put lav mics in front of all the instruments and sync everything in FCPX. Thank goodness I brought in my co-producer Brian Russell. He heads up original video production and content at Rhino Camera Gear (one of the film’s sponsors) and brought out an array of RØDE microphones (the most recently added sponsor to the film) as well as his Pro-Tools rack set-up and PowerBook. It made all the difference in the world! I shudder to think how this would’ve come out if we hadn’t used his audio set up.


Wish I Had a Video Mixer

As I go through editing and switching among all the angles, one of the challenges has been trying not get me in the background running around the set. Ha! I would hop from camera to camera, directing the filmmakers, checking their angles and composition, etc. Other than a conference call I had with them, this was my first time meeting or working with any of these filmmakers. And part of this experiment was for it not only to be an improvised musical jam session, but to also be a sort of improvised film shoot. So I was not familiar with their shooting styles. What I wouldn’t have given for a video mixer and head phone com-links with all my shooters and direct them like they do at the Oscars. Not sure even if I thought of that at the time it would’ve mattered as the budget for this was essentially zero. Everyone donated their time and talent to make this happen.

Click for larger image.

 Professional Audio Mixing is Golden

For a brief moment I considered just bringing in all the audio channels into Final Cut Pro X to audio mix it myself. But one thing I know from working with artists (particularly musicians of this caliber), they want to look and sound good! I knew I would need a professional audio engineer to create a professional mix of all the songs we did, then kick out a mixed master. Besides having tools better suited for the mixing and tweaking, audio engineers think differently and have ears attuned to do this kind of work. Considering it took me about two hours to organize and sync all the angles with the master audio mix for just one of the songs, I can’t imagine what a nightmare it would’ve been had I tried to add seven more audio channels into the edit for me to tweak. Many thanks to our pro audio mixer Blaine Rochester for working his magic. The mixes he’s done sound great.

A Polished vs. a Live Sound

In the process of finding and working with a pro audio mixer, I learned that in performances like these, you can edit the mix a couple of different ways. You can make it sound really polished like a studio mix (e.g. cutting out room noise, better localization of instruments, adding reverb, etc.); or you can give it a more “live” sound (not doing all that other stuff, but just leveling out the instruments, and adjusting levels as needed). We ended up with four improvised performances from the shoot. Three of the performances (including the one which will be used for the main film) I had mixed with a more polished sound. Their first performance (which is a 26 minute jam session!) I’m having left with a more live sound.

More Lessons to Come

As the film finally starts to come together, I’ll be posting more lessons and behind the scenes. Stay “tuned” on Twitter with the hashtag #9CamJam. You can also find the associated blogs posts in the main menu under “Learning Series > 9CamJam” or use the blog tag 9CamJam.

Trailer Coming Soon

The official trailer for the film will premiere this Wednesday. So stay tuned to this blog to see it.

Give Props to Our Sponsors

To make a series like this come to life when your budget is essentially zero takes the generosity of not only the skilled talent, but companies who believe in the work. Please give our sponsors some love and let them know you appreciate their support of SoundandSEA.TV. Read below and you may find some savings for your next project. 😉


LensProToGo is an amazing company to work with. Their employees are working photographers and filmmakers who can help you make the right gear choices for your shoot.  Rates include shipping so there’s no shipping sticker shock at the end of the shopping cart. And all of their equipment ships in Pelican case, so you’re ready to roll wherever you go. (They’ve hooked up my readers with a special discount. Use the code 9camjam and save 10% on your rental.)


RØDE Microphones is a leader in providing audio equipment and solutions for the film, video and music industries. You’ll be hard pressed not to find a DSLR filmmaker shooting without a RØDE mic sitting atop his/her camera.


Sliders, Stabilizers & Rigs for DSLR Filmmakers

Rhino Camera Gear is a local gear manufacturer here in the Seattle area who has been able to have not one, not two, not three, but FOUR successful Kickstarter campaigns, all ranging from 230% to over 1300% funded. Their 1300% funded campaign was for their signature product, the Rhino Slider (video). I’ve used a number of sliders over they years, and I can honestly say this is one of the silkiest, smoothest sliders I’ve ever used; and at under $500, you can’t beat the price for that level of quality. We used their Rhino Carbon Core for this shoot.


FxFactory – Visual Effects Plugins for Final Cut Pro, After Effects & Premiere

The best way to describe FxFactory from Noise Industries is “The App Store for NLEs”. The FxFactory application is free, and once installed, it gives you access to a whole host of plugins for all popular NLEs and motion graphics programs including Final Cut Pro 7 and X, Adobe Premiere, After Effects and Motion. No matter what computer you’re on, if FxFactory is installed, you have access to all the plugins you’ve purchased. They have plugins ranging from color correction and grading to title effects to mo-graph effects. The one I personally use the most is Nattress Levels & Curves. Ripple Training has a few FxFactory plugins also you should check out. Their plugins are affordable, easy to use, and all come with full functioning trial versions (with watermarks).


Music Bed is a curator and licensor of high quality music that can be legally used and licensed in your film or video productions. They are a popular go-to source for many filmmakers, including the likes of Vincent Laforet, Philip Bloom, Eliot Rausch, Salomon Ligthelm and Shane Hurlbut. Use promo code 9camjam and save 10% on license purchases.