Studio One’s Video Player makes writing for picture a breeze. Find out how...
With the ridiculous range of cinematic sounds we have at our fingertips I think we’d all relish the opportunity to score a movie. But when the call from [insert favourite director’s name here] comes in, is Studio One up to the task of generating the soundtrack to a film and putting you on the road to your first Oscar? Perhaps the better question is: how does video work inside Studio One?
Studio One has no pretensions to take on Premier or Davinci Resolve when it comes to video editing, but it does have some rudimentary video support to allow you to write and compose in perfect sync to moving pictures. We’re assuming here that you’ve been sent a digital video file, and it’s on your computer. We’re not going to be tackling sync’ing to an external video machine or capturing film ourselves.
You’ll find the Video Player under the View menu, but the easiest way to get video rolling is to drag in a video file from the browser. All supported video files appear in the file list with a film strip icon next to them. Supported formats include MP4, 3GP, MOV, AVI, MPG, M4V, MKV and WMV. Drag the video file into your timeline and it will automatically bring up the Video Player ready to go. The video won’t exist in your timeline like an audio track; it only appears in the Video Player window.
You can use a couple of modifier keys during the drag‑and‑drop to get a bit more value out of that single action. Hold Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac), and you can extract the audio from the video at the same time and place it in the timeline. Or, if you hold Ctrl (Windows) or Cmd (Mac) you can pull over the audio by itself, although in this case, we really do want the video.
You are unlikely to want to extract the audio if the video has come from a studio that wants you to provide a soundtrack. However, if you want the video’s audio to appear mixed with your music when you render the project, you’ll need that audio on its own track.
According to the Studio One manual, when you drag in a video it will automatically be offset to the point on the timeline that you dropped it. This has not been my experience. Whenever I drop some video in it is always sync’ed from the start of the project. If I’m extracting the audio at the same time then I do get a solid option to place it on the timeline, and the video starts at the same point as the audio. These things do not have to stay linked, and if you hit the little clock icon in the Video Player you can set an offset so that the video starts at a specific point on the timeline. If you’d rather not have anything in sync, there’s a button to turn the video offline (more on that later).
The Video Player window always stays on top of your project as a floating window. It would be a common practice to plonk it onto a secondary screen where you can blow it up to full screen. Otherwise, it’s very resizable to accommodate your screen real‑estate. You can only have one piece of video in your project. You cannot queue them up or have them scattered around the timeline; the Video Player can have a single video loaded into it at one time. If you drag in another video it will simply replace what’s already there.
On the player itself you have buttons for loading and unloading a video (if you didn’t want to drag one in from the browser), audio extraction, offset and some settings where you can change the size of the video playback. The audio on a video is muted by default but you can change that if you hit the speaker icon.
As I mentioned earlier, if you want the audio to be present in your exported video file, you’ll need to extract it onto the timeline. It’s also worth noting that if you extract the audio to a track you’ll want to keep the Video Player muted to avoid any doubling up, because the audio is still embedded in the video. Finally, there’s a little chain link button that sets the video online or offline. When online the video remains frame‑accurately in sync with the project. When offline it is unsync’ed, flowing and fancy‑free.
While the Online button is lit, the video will remain in sync with the playback of the project. It will start at the right time and maintain sync throughout. However, the latency in the playback of video is greater than that of audio and so your video may take a moment to buffer before playing back. You’ll experience this as a little skip at the beginning of playback, which is simply the video catching up in order to remain in sync.
Video will often come with visible timecode stamped into the video stream. To ensure the smoothest experience it’s best to set your project to the same frame rate as the video. You can do this in Song Setup from the Song menu. There are 13 different frame rates to choose from.
Once in sync you can do useful things like place markers on the timeline that represent key points of the video. This makes it much easier to compose music to meet those events. If you enable Cursor Follows Edit Position in the toolbar you can drag a marker in the Marker Track and effectively scrub the video to get to exactly the right frame.
Now there are some scenarios where you may be dropping a video onto an existing project and so rather than writing sound and music to the picture you need the video to match up to whatever is there already. I don’t mean you’ll be time‑stretching the video or anything like that, but maybe you’ve had the video of a live performance sent to you that you now need to match up to the audio that you recorded separately. This is where offset comes in handy...
There are no special magic tools for sorting this out, instead you’re going to have to use your eyes and ears to get them in sync. So, find something that happens in the music that’s easily identifiable in the video. Vocals is good because bad lip sync is always the thing people are most likely to helpfully point out. So, find a point at which the vocals start, or maybe a big drum hit, and place the timeline song pointer on it. Then use the offset box to scrub the video until it hits on exactly the same spot. You could use the embedded audio to help you at this point if there is any. You could also extract the audio to a track and use the shape of the waveform as a guide. Whatever way you do it, it’s not difficult to match it all up with a bit of trial and error.
You export video in a very similar way to how you’d export a regular audio mixdown.
While Hollywood is unlikely to need you to export a video with audio embedded, it could be useful for smaller projects or as a way of sending a draft composition to a director or producer. You export video in a very similar way to how you’d export a regular audio mixdown. Select Export Video from the Song menu and it will generate a video that includes a mixdown of any audio on the timeline within the video’s length. If you are using external effects or instruments, you should select Realtime Processing to capture those in the mixdown. For video codecs you can use any that are installed on your system.
So, while the video options in Studio One are rather basic they do offer enough to give you the ability to compose sound‑to‑picture all within the one DAW. It would be nice to be able to lay video on the timeline and perhaps do some simple start‑ and end‑point trimming and fading, but before too long it becomes a very different piece of software.