Low Budget Audio-Visual Synchronization and Productivity

I’ve been making these YouTube videos for a year or so now and have yet to develop an efficient work flow for their creation.

Most of the videos are recorded using the following setup:

  • RD-700GX output connected to Zoom H4 SD recorder
  • Optional MIDI connection from my old IBM ThinkPad to the Roland RD-700GX
  • Panasonic Digital Video camcorder (don’t have the model number at the moment)
  • Ubuntu Studio Running Cinelerra

My productivity is crippled by a number of things including:

  • Lack of general organization. I don’t have a good way of tracking which audio file from the Zoom corresponds to which video snippet and digital video file captured from the camcorder.
  • Syncrhonizing the audio and video during post production. My current technique is simply trial and error. I just keep sliding the audio relative to the video until it looks right.
  • Capturing the video from the tape-based camcorder.

The capture problem might now be eliminated or greatly helped anyway following the acquisition of a Creative Vado HD 3rd Generation camcorder. This unit will directly create a mp4 file that can be transferred to the Ubuntu worksation over USB.

The level of organization  could be greatly enhanced using a slate board like the big studios used. The slate, in my case would indicate the audio and video filenames as well as some other helpful information like the date, take number etc…

I was hoping the slate board could also be used for Audio-Video synchronization in the same way the movie studios use their slate boards: The clappers make a visible and audible click that can be matched up in post-production. I did a little research and found some entertaining clips from the set of Inglorious Basterds.

I thought this would be a good solution for the bigwinky.com studio but, I don’t have a microphone in my setup to capture the ambient audio along with the line-outs from the Roland RD-700GX. So, there’s no audible event on the H4 capture to match up with the visual closing of the clappers of the slate board.

One option would be to use a slate board or really just a small white board would be sufficient, to capture the file names and other data and then, for synchronization purposes, strike a key on the RD-700GX with grand, easily synchronizable visual gestures.

A second option involves witing some software to turn a laptop in to a slateboard. This software would display the file names etc… and would, upon command, trigger a MIDI note with a simultaneous, on-screen visual cue. The thing would work by holding the laptop screen in front of the camera while commanding the software to perform the synchronization note and visual cue.

A third option is to simply record directly to the Vado HD. This is proving to be a little challenging due to interface incontestability plus, doesn’t leave an opportunity for other post-production enhancements.

Prototype Direct Audio Line In to Vado HD 3rd Generation

I got a good deal (not a great deal) on a Vado HD camera. It has a 1/8 inch multi-purpose I/O jack. One purpose of this jack is to connect an external microphone. I wondered if I could somehow use it as a line in.A little research, and even less patience, led me to Radio Shack where I purchased (among other doo-dads) a 1/8 inch stereo headphone extension cord with integrated volume control (#4202559).I combined this cord with 2x quarter inch to eighth inch mono adapter cables and a 1/8 mono to stereo “Y” adapter.I did a binary search type of experiment with the volume setting until I got the best sound I could. (Too low, the noise overwhelms the signal, to high, the Vado over-limit protection kicks in and distorts the sound something awful.)After obtaining a volume setting, I took the prototype adapter to the lab and measured resistance between the tips of the  1/4 inch jacks, each tip to ground, the tip and ring of the output, etc… the observations are shown on this little sketch:Prototype Direct Audio Adapter for Vado HD 3rd Gen So now, the question is: How do I improve this thing?To see the results of this prototype watch the test video on YouTube.this brings up one issue with the Vado’s multi-purpose I/O jack: The Vado U.I. pops up a little chooser each time something is connected to the jack. The choices are composite audio/video input, stereo microphone, and headphones. The problem I was having was that the Vado  would only present the “microphone” input choice the first time I plugged in a microphone after power up. So after each test, I had to power cycle the thing after listening to the results through headphones.The head phone jack on the RD700-GX is 1/4 inch and my Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones have a screw-on 1/4 to 1/8 adapter. With all the connector futzing, I ended up just recording the thing in full Beethoven mode: no monitoring what so ever! So, not being able to hear the instrument really made my playing here kinda lousy.[kml_flashembed movie=”http://www.youtube.com/v/5hhQPmdcfnQ” width=”425″ height=”350″ wmode=”transparent” /]