If you are a musician during the pandemic, creating a virtual choir video has —at the very least— crossed your mind. For choir directors, band leaders, and other music directors attempting to run an ensemble with the absence of in-person meetings, knowing the basic technology to put one of these videos together can be rather useful. I like to break the process down in three chunks: organization, editing your audio, and creating your video. In this first article of three, I will cover all of the ins and outs of the organizational component, from communicating and collecting files from your participants, to organizing your video files on your computer. Be sure to check it out:
Part 2 How to Create a Virtual Choir: Audio Editing In Logic Pro X
Part 3 How to Create a Virtual Choir: Video Editing in Final Cut Pro X
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As another resource to you, I have recorded a basic walkthrough of my process, bringing this three-part-series to a visual format. If you learn something from it, consider subscribing to our YouTube channel for more helpful tips.
Communicating and Collecting Files from Your Participants
When I started out editing virtual choirs, I completely negated the organizational component of virtual choir creation. I was so eager to get to the fun part (aka mixing the vocals and putting them in fun little boxes on a screen) that I ended up wasting a lot of time due to a lack of organization. If you were to ask any music producer, they will tell you (at least I hope) how important it is to have an organized hard drive and session. This applies even more so to virtual choir videos, which in many cases can contain up to 60-70 voices (or more). So, spend a lot of time with this step. It will ultimately
a. maximize the quality of your participants’ videos
b. allow you to receive them in a timely and organized manner
c. will prevent you from losing track of your footage while editing
This will ultimately save you time if you do it correctly, so don’t gloss over this step!
Stay Organized from the get-go.
Before you even write to your participants, envision
a. What do you want your video to look like, and
b. When do you want it to be released?
Setting a timeline is very important so that you know exactly when you should expect videos from your choir. Having at least a vague idea of your vision can impact your decision-making in dress code and background choice for your participants. This will all be really helpful when sending out instructions to your choir. Which brings us to….
Have really clear recording guidelines and instructions.
For our videos, we provide instructions like these. These instructions clearly break down the process into 3 sections: materials needed, recording space, and how to record. Feel free to use this as a template, but depending on the song, you may want something different. For example, we ask for a plain background to record; this may not, however, apply to your vision. Make sure to set a recording deadline in your instructions. Having no deadline will tremendously slow the process down (in my first video, I didn’t set a deadline and it took me weeks and weeks to track everyone’s submissions down).
Set a Deadline
Tip: Set both a hard and soft deadline.
A “soft” deadline is a deadline I like to give my participants. The deadline isn’t real, but this is what I advertise to them. Then, your “hard” deadline should be the secret, but very real cut-off point for your video submissions. I like to set this one to be approximately 1 week after the “soft” deadline. This little trick can be really effective. Typically, you will receive 80% of your videos by the soft deadline, but for the pesky 20% of people who missed your deadline, you secretly programmed an additional week for them to submit their videos. This can be a win-win solution: you stay on track with your production timeline, while including all of the videos of participants who missed the deadline. And I promise you: it will happen. Every. Time.
Receiving Your Videos
Yes, it is possible to receive individual videos through email and text. But you should do this? No! You will drive yourself crazy collecting, organizing, re-organizing, and reorganizing your re-organized files if you do it this way. So do yourself a big favor by collecting your files on an online file sharing platform like Dropbox or Google Drive. If you have the free version, you will have limited storage, so with that, do yourself another favor and upgrade to their basic storage plan. It’s around $1.99 a month, and it’s really worth it, especially to anyone who is making a virtual choir video. To choose between Google Drive and Dropbox is really preferential. I prefer Google, but it requires you to have a google account if you want to add your video to a folder. Dropbox is meant for file transferring and sharing, but requires a small learning curve if you have never used it before. Summary: both of these methods are infinitely better than the alternative, so this step is a must.
Organizing Your Files on your Computer
I will be explaining this even more in future articles, but before I show you my way of organizing files on your computer, I need to explain my basic process for creating a virtual choir video. While it is possible to edit both audio and video in the same editing platform like Final Cut Pro X or Premiere Pro, I almost always like to do each component in separate applications. This enables me to focus on one element at a time, while simultaneously granting me more audio editing flexibility (this will be explained more in the next article). As for organization, I like to create 1 project folder containing the following sub-folders: Audio, Footage, and Final Delivery. If I am working in Logic or Protools, I will save that session in my audio folder. If I am working in Premiere Pro, I will save my session to a separate folder within my project folder. However, if I am working in Final Cut Pro X, I like to save my library (equivalent to a project file) in my project folder as a standalone. Here is what the folder might look like.
Now, when I am downloading my videos from Google Drive or Dropbox, I make sure that the destination is set to my Footage folder. If you choose to save it to your desktop, just transfer it over.
Tip: You should be working in an external hard drive. Your computer disk space should be reserved for your applications and nothing more. Here are some recommendations for a starting producer:
Converting your Videos Files to Audio Files
Chances are, your participants did not record audio separately from their video, which means that you will have to extract your audio files from your footage. To do that is actually very simple. If you work in Apple software like Logic Pro X and Final Cut Pro, all you have to do is drag and drop your video file into your session. It’ll display this pop-up message:
Make sure to uncheck “Open the movie”, and bam! Your audio is now separated.
If you are working in Pro Tools or any other non-apple-based editor, you can simply change the extension of your video file! For example, if this is your video file:
Just duplicate with a right-click (control-click) and rename it to:
It will ask you for permission to change the extension, and click yes! I like to
a. Duplicate all of my videos
b. Change all of my extensions
c. Copy them all over to the audio folder.
This step isn’t 100% necessary but can be a sure-fire way of keeping track of all of your audio and footage.
Final Delivery Folder
Finally, I use my Final Delivery folder as a location to export my final video and audio. This way, I can easily find my mastered audio to drag into my video editing software, and export my final video renders.
For those of you out there who are embarking on the challenging task of creating a virtual choir video, I hope that my advice may help you in your journey! Even if you are not editing the final video, I hope that this article provided you with some key tips on how to stay organized, from your communication with your participants to your very own computer workspace.
Be sure to check out:
How to Create a Virtual Choir: Audio is Everything (coming soon)
How to Create a Virtual Choir: Video Editing Techniques (coming soon)
If you need any additional help, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com. If you are interested in collaborating with Auri Productions on your virtual choir project, learn more about our virtual choir services.
Finally, be sure to subscribe to our email list for upcoming virtual music content.
Part 2: How to Create a Virtual Choir: Audio Editing In Logic Pro X
Part 3: How to Create a Virtual Choir: Video Editing in Final Cut Pro X
Ariel Wyner is the founder and creative director at Auri Productions. He is an established arranger, composer, producer, mandolinist, and vocalist based in Boston, Massachusetts. His musical works have pushed the boundaries of pop, bluegrass, jazz, and every style in between, all stemming from his strong foundation of classical training. In 2020, Ariel arranged and orchestrated a production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado (a Wild West adaptation that he arranged for bluegrass instruments and piano), scored music for independent films, and has worked on and produced over 110 virtual videos during the pandemic.