Virtual Performance Video: How Long does it take?

Many people have asked how long does it take from from "start to finish" to make a virtual performance video. I have to give you an almost full-unabridged explanation so you can understand what needs to be done.  It's not to scare you, but this is not a one-stop shop or an overnight feat!  If someone asks you for one overnight, please allow them to read this.   This is my response to a letter someone asking me," How long does it take?"

1.) Pre-Production: I had to make the click track. This was done by arranging the music of both Lift Every Voice and Sing and Star Spangled Banner.     The average arrangement may take  8 - 10 hours.  Even with my Synesthesia (I see color as I hear the music, which tells me the chord structure of the music as soon as I hear it.)  Some may say it is absolute pitch, but I don't hear it "stacked," I see the overall sound structure.  So as far these arrangements and because the chords are already in my head, the songs took me 4 hours.  It's not just about placing notes, it's about voicings and setting the music to perfectly fit your ensemble. With me having a smaller ensemble, voicing can be complicated.
Total Hours Pre-Production: 4 hours

2.) Editing & Mixing.  This is where a bulk of my time is done.  One could have crappy video, but EVERY expects great audio quality.  What Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) do you have: ProTools or Logic?  With your size band, GarageBand isn't going to cut it. 
So to begin, you can't just take everyone's audio and just drop it.   You'll have to align everyone's audio after you set up your template in your DAW.   That comes to about a minute per track.  Imagine if you were to have sixty people in your group!  Some students had stereo tracks, some had mono.  You'll have to decide how you'll want to do that.  

Some sent 24:44 resolution, some sent 24:48, some 16:44. That's technical jargon on how the music was recorded and how the computer will read it. It's kind of like old VHS recorders at SLP, LP, and EP.  I even had a kid send an 8-bit recording which is the resolution of the first Nintendo Entertainment System.  Translation: All files need to be the same resolution, or you can't play or edit them all together.  If you are curious on what those numbers mean, here's a good link for that:  I strongly recommend recording at 24:48.

You have to give time for the computer to convert all of those files to the same resolution. Some of the students sent files that didn't work so I had to wait on them to resend the audio. You also have to factor in time if the students don't know how to send separate audio and video files.  MOST don't know how.  Even fellow teachers don't know how.  That can be about an hour for every thirty people. This is just PREPARATION to edit.

With all of that, now you must make it sound like a band. With thirty tracks, I had my time cut out for me.  

Lower instruments take up more sonic room.  What does that mean?  
Picture the offensive linemen of your favorite football team. Now imagine them sitting on a bus.  They aren't sitting two in a seat. If they do, it's uncomfortable for them. So with bass frequencies, you must let them breathe. Your bass guitar, string bass, tuba, bass drum, sometimes your trombones/euphoniums, violoncellos, and low range of piano are all fighting to get through the same door.  When mixing, the engineer is trying to find a place to sit for all those low frequencies comfortably.  This is a task. Do you want more tuba or more bass drum?  There's not a right or wrong answer; however, it's a constant fight in your mix especially given the range of the tuba and bass guitar.  You may have to automate who comes out more. This itself is a 1-3 hour process by itself sometimes.  In gospel music, R&B, and house (where bass is more expected), it will definitely take more than an hour.

Now that we have the low-end done, I'm trying to make the rest of the band sound good.  You have to align eighth notes/sixteenth notes which can be tedious.
Prayerfully, everyone plays the right articulation.   I haven't even talked about intonation.  We haven't been in the band rooms so it's hard to expect them to remember pitch tendencies. Decent tuning programs cost about $349 but you really need the mid-level option:

I'll end it there on this section.  I could type more about editing and mixing, but I think this gives you the general idea.  Just with editing along is a 20-40 curve with a 5-10 curve for mixing per song. 

Total Editing and Mixing Time: 26 hours

3.) Video Editing.
You would think this is self-explanatory; however, it's further from the truth. The bigger the band, the more you will have to edit. I only had seven people complete videos; this saved me a bunch of time.  That still doesn't make the work easier; it's laborious no matter what.

Everyone didn't shoot at 1080p; some shot at 720; some filmed at God-only-knows!  Just to make sure we're clear, the resolution is basically how many lines are captured on the camera and how it is viewed on the screen.  HD video (720 and higher) is about twice the resolution as SD (standard definition, what we grew up watching.)  That's why old TV shows can't quite fit on Flatscreen TVs when watching it nowadays.  Therefore, some people's video you will have to stretch/alter the video so it can fit the full view of the screen.  Now you will have a streamlined video.  Lord help us if someone filmed Portrait instead of Landscape. Now we will have to wait for them to refilm it.

Now you must line up the videos, do transitions, and tell a story.  Oh, don't forget to add your title cards, and everything.  All this for a 2:30" video.  For your band since it's bigger than my ensemble, you will need almost three times the amount of time I did for a cinematic feel.   You could "cascade" the separate videos, but that's a hassle depending on how much power you have and those videos are the least enjoyable.  That really should be used for effects.  That's why when we watch professional films and television, they switch camera angles.  Don't believe me? Watch a show and see how often they change the camera angle per minute.  You'll be surprised.

What type of computer do you have?  I have to warn people who desire to do video editing.  Everyone who has a Mac has iMovie.  Problem is, HD video requires a lot of power and memory.  Most people don't have sufficient memory and graphic cards to push multilayers of video. If you don't, the computer will sputter and drop frames.  What I have found is that school-issued computers can barely handle two layers of videos let alone four! So when you have, or shall I say, when you see a video that has six people playing side by side, you need a computer to handle six separate million-color graphic videos at the same time. Go back to our football analogies.   Try placing four offensive lineman in a Honda Civic and you're trying to race.  Not going to happen.   Ever wonder why your phone gets hot while playing certain games or watching movies?  Same reason.  

Oh, you can't do 4 layers in iMovie.  You have to buy Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere.  They have two TOTALLY different workflows.  You'll computer will have to also render cuts and the more transitions you have, the more power you'll need.

I had to buy two 16 gig RAM chips so I can run my iMac at Optimum capacity.  My iMac is a 2011.  I really need at least a 2013.  Even at 32Gigs of RAM, it still stutters. Oh, that was additional $320 for my computer. All this for a 2:30" video.

Total Hours: 10 hours

4.) Mastering
I won't get too much into this, but you need to do it. It makes your music wider.  I did a "Cheap" master since I was stuck on time.  No matter what, you need to do it to make sure your music is line-level and reaches the widest and fullest bandwidth.

Total Hours: hours

Grand Total Time for 2:30 video: 41 hours.

Perhaps I was loquacious; however, I had to tell you everything so you wouldn't get caught off-guard.  Remember, I do this for my church and the process is much longer for all of the aforementioned.  Why?  I'm dealing with about 10 vocalists and a six-piece rhythm section.  A Six-piece rhythm section is about 14 tracks (8 for drums, 2 for piano, and everything else is mono.)

 Oh, before I go, I really implore you to have a dedicated workstation for your audio and video.  If I remember correctly, your computer was short on RAM.  The Macbooks from the last seven years can't get upgraded.  The RAM is soldered on the motherboard.  You'll need to purchase a new computer.  The new Macbooks you will need will cost about $5200.  This includes all the cables, adapters, and all the memory (128G) you will need.   You won't be able to do all of that on a Chromebook or iPad.

I ALMOST forgot! How big is your hard-drive?  You will need a separate hard drive to handle all those videos. Why?  If everyone shoots at 1080p (Full HD), that will be about 330MB for a 2:30 min video, or roughly a Gig for 3 videos.  You have 60 people? That's 20 Gigs. That's five DVDs of information. All of that memory for a 2:30" video.  

So, if you do a concert of 8 songs (and the average concert band compositions/movements are 3 minutes long) it could be anywhere from 200 to 400 Gigs of information.  Most computers only come with a 500G hard drive. Now imagine if you do a year's worth of concerts? That's six computers' worth of information.

Love you Frat! Hope that helps. We also haven't talked about microphones and audio interfaces. All this for a 2:30" video.

Musically Yours,
Dr. Chad "Sir Wick" Hughes