I had no idea it is this easy to cut and edit video in the music production application Ableton Live! The lucky coincidence that had me find out was when I was hired to teach a group of film people about Live. To prepare the workshop I started playing around with my own crappy cell phone video clips; simply throwing them into Live to see what would happen. What happened was just amazing! I discovered I was able to abuse and mutilate video almost as badly as I usually mangle audio in this application! You may think “so what” but listen here: what whe have here is an exciting new hands-on approach for churning out video and music simultaneously! Not “making video for music” or “composing music for film”, that’s just boring, lame and obsolete by now. The new vision is about being a video musician! Play the shit out loudly with the right attitude and apply your musician’s first-take approach to video! Ok, so for those of you who haven’t gotten around to try this out for yourself, here’s what you can do.
Drop a Quicktime video clip into Live (Arrange View) to have it create an audio track and open a video display window where you can see the moving picture as the sequencer plays. If double-clicking the video clip you get access to clip properties at the bottom of the screen (just as for audio clips).
If you already have a music mock-up cocking and want to adjust the musical tempo to hook up musical downbeats with cue points in the movie, set the QT clip to “Warp as Master”. Then create warp markers just as you do with audio clips. Drag a warp marker to align a video cue point with a musical timing point.
Also, if you throw in other QT clips they will create their own, new, audio tracks. Mix the volume of these tracks according to how much of the sync sound (original video cam sound) you want to keep (or not). You may also process the video sound with Live’s effects, if you’re so inclined. Anyway, a very cool thing is this: if these extra thrown-in clips are happening while already the master video clip is playing they will just take over the video channel for the clip’s duration. See the point? Instant video cuts with an exact musical timing! And you may do this as you are also creating the music – in the same arrangement window with the same visual timing grid. Awesome! You may even use a copy of one video clip (alt drag and drop it to copy it) to shrink it into a short slice to just beep a 32th note video scene into the overall video flow. And of course this does not even have to show the same moving picture flow as the main video at that particular moment in time, you are free to fetch the cut’s content from earlier or later in the video take.
Here’s another scenario: You have a video with a rhythmic passage that you want to use as the tempo base to create new music. Then do not set the main video clip to “warp” but fool around with Live’s global tempo until you find a tempo that is the same as in that particular video sequence (you may create a playback cycle in Live, around the rhythmic video part, while working out the fitting tempo). You may also want to adjust the video’s starting point in order to set the groove right. Below is a quick mock-up I made in a couple of minutes with this method. I also copied the video and shrinked it to loop only the rhythmic part part a couple of times to make room for adding some drums to the video loop + video sound.
You can not play video backwards in Live though. But you can do all this:
Continuous speed change of video + original sound.
Continuous speed change of original sound while video stays normal.
Distribute short video slices as “cuts” to take over the video channel from the main video track.
Tune the original audio of a video clip into any melodic interval.
Change pitch of original video sound without affecting the sync sound timing.
Draw rhythmic “pitch change melodies” for the video clip’s original sound.
Render both a video + now sound and a 24 bit sound file to give the proper audio mastering treatment. Then you may put that sound channel back into the film.
To wrap this up I have to mention that this was all written regarding Ableton Live 7.0.14. By late spring 2009 we will get access to Live 8.0 and the add-on tool Max For Live. Max For Live is developed especially for Live 8 by Cycling74, based on both their legendary midi and audio manipulation software Max/MSP and the video manipulation application Jitter. Needless to say, Live 8 will bring video musicians some sharp new axes.