DreamSync is a software application that automatically synchronizes video with audio recorded on a separate device. Double-system recording still persists as the most reliable method for capturing high quality audio, and is essential when using DSLR cameras, which offer great images, but are awkward for recording audio.
Although other audio syncing methods exist, DreamSync is rather unique in that it’s a standalone application that merges audio and video into single clips that are easily managed and can be imported into any non-linear editing system.
As stated, the main feature differentiating DreamSync from other audio/video synchronizing methods is that it’s a standalone application which is NLE-agnostic. Beyond that, it’s streamlined by a graphic design that distills the process into a simple drag-and-drop procedure.
DreamSync runs on Mac OS X Maverick and Yosemite, and also on Windows 7, 8 and 10.
With DreamSync, the overall workflow is the much the same as with other syncing methods. You must record scratch audio into the camera when shooting and this is usually accomplished with the on-camera microphone. At the same time, you record audio on a separate digital recorder with an optimally placed, high quality mic. This frees up the sound person to use a boom pole and audio mixer to maintain proper audio levels.
The main drawback of this methodology is in syncing up the audio in post production. Existing methods work within editing software and require you to import audio and video separately and then sync them within the NLE. This can be a confusing process, as it requires careful management of numerous audio and video clips. DreamSync allows you to sync your clips before bringing them into an NLE, which simplifies the process.
But it’s really the elegant graphic interface that distinguishes this solution over other methods. It is so intuitively designed that all you need to do is look at it, and you know how to use it.
The DreamSync interface window is clear and uncluttered. It has two boxes on the left. One is where you drag the audio clip that you want to use. And the other window is where you track the video clips that you want to sync to that audio clip. Once you have dragged your audio and video clips into their respective bins, you simply press the sync button and wait for DreamSync to do its work.
DreamSync analyzes the two clips and merges them into one. The inferior audio that was recorded with the video is replaced by the high-quality audio from the audio clip. It works for dialogue or music. For music videos, the studio track can be supplied and merged with camera footage. All that is necessary is that the video camera records a scratch track of the final audio during the shoot.
Once the audio and video have been merged, it is displayed on a graphic timeline. Here, you can trim unwanted footage from the head and tail of the clip before exporting.
DreamSync offers several exporting options. Apple PreRes 422 with linear PCM audio is the default, which is ideal for bringing the new clip into any NLE for editing, including Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, Avid Media Composer, and Sony Vegas. However, you can also choose to export QuickTime H.264 in resolutions of 1920x1080, 1280x720 and 640x480. DreamSync also offers a number of MPEG-4 options including 1080p, 720p, 480p, and codecs optimized for cell phones, WiFi and Apple TV.
Once you choose your export format, the product is a single clip with your video synced to the high-quality audio clip.
The big advantage that comes with DreamSync is speed and ease of use. As the new clips are discreet movie files, they can be easily stored, transferred or shared.
I set up a pair of Canon T2i DSLR cameras in a typical two-camera arrangement. One was set for a wide shot and the other for a close-up. The cameras were set up to record audio using on-camera microphones, which is essential for syncing.
The desired “final” audio was recorded using a properly placed microphone and a Tascam digital audio recorder. This was a typical interview situation where the goal was to have pristine audio recorded on a separate device, while the cameras recorded scratch audio that will be synced later to the external recording device audio.
I intentionally turned the cameras on and off during the interview to test the sync capability of DreamSync. It’s common for cameras to be turned on and off while shooting a scene, interview or event, and this is one of the reasons syncing software is necessary. Clapping a slate at the start of the shoot will not determine a sync point if cameras are run intermittently.
After completing the interview, I had three memory cards; one from the audio recorder and one from each of the cameras. I then opened up DreamSync and dragged the audio wave file from the Tascam into the audio window. Next I dragged four shots from the same camera into the video window. (DreamSync will sync up to four shots at a time. You just have to be careful that they are all from the same camera, as they will ultimately be merged into one continuous clip.)
I then pressed the sync button and DreamSync performed the synchronizing task perfectly. It made one timeline with the four clips linked to the areas of matching audio. There were black spaces between the clips when the camera was not running. I exported the timeline as ProRes 422 and was ready to start editing.
I then decided to test DreamSync for its ability to work in a music video production environment. In this situation, I played pre-recorded music through a speaker that provided the audio backdrop for two mobile cameras. I again used two Canon T2i DSLR cameras recording video and scratch audio from the music source. The plan was to later match up the picture from the cameras to the pre-recorded music track.
As in the previous test, I intentionally turned both cameras on and off repeatedly as the music selection played. At the end of this process I had two memory cards from the cameras containing numerous shots from the music session.
In DreamSync, I used the studio-recorded music as the audio track. The live cameras recorded this during the shoot for reference. When I synchronized the video with the studio track in DreamSync, most of the clips lined up perfectly. There were two that were out of place, and I concluded that this was due to the fact that the camera did not record the audio faithfully.
Overall, I was very impressed with the ease and efficiency of DreamSync. However, it may occasionally misalign some clips, so the user has to be careful to record audio as clearly as possible with the cameras so that they will match more easily with the external audio source.
There are a few things that could be improved in DreamSync. However, I discovered that these improvements are already in the works for future upgrades, which will be free for all users. One item that needs improvement in the current version is that it does not allow you to slip the clip manually to correct for any misalignments. Mistakes do occur in any software, and it’s important to have a manual fallback. This will be remedied in a future release.
XML exports will be possible in the near future, which will expand file portability for professional users. Batch synchronizing capability is also in the works.
MORE INFO PRODUCT: DreamSync audio/video sync software
LIST PRICE: $99 MSRP
CONTACT: www. dreamsyncapp.com
In addition, DreamSync has an unusually attentive customer support system. If you encounter problems in synchronizing your clips that you can’t solve, you can send them in and they’ll fix things for you. Also, I need to mention that the one-time cost for buying the software includes all future upgrades.
DreamSync is an excellent product that’s constantly getting better. As more options are added and algorithms continually refined, it may turn out to be one of the hottest products to hit the video editing software market in years. The beauty of DreamSync lies in both its simplicity and efficient performance. Rather than inundate the user with a vast array of confusing options, DreamSync simplifies audio synchronizing so that the editor is free to focus on more creative aspects of editing. It’s a wonderfully designed, yet sophisticated, software solution that’s actually fun to use.
Geoff Poister, Ph.D., is a member of the film and television faculty at Boston University and a regular contributor to TV Technology.