How to make a multi person virtual recording
In this pandemic and time of social distancing, there have been some amazing online virtual performances. All tough nothing replaces live performances, these have provided us with the next best thing. You might have asked yourself, "how did they do this?" There are a couple of different options, you can use an app to collaborate, or you can piece them together with a couple of different pieces of software.
Option 1 - Use an app (Level Easy):
One of the most popular apps for making these kinds of performances is Accapella. This app combines an easy format that can get you started right away. The free version of this app works in a limited capacity. To really get all of the functionality and not be restricted by time limits you will have to upgrade to the pro version. The pro version also provides multiple layouts to present your performances. Though this is the easiest way to make a virtual performance, it does have a few drawbacks. One is that sometimes there can be a small lag in sound which can make aligning performances difficult. The other is that although the app provides users with a lot of options to be creative with layout, it is not truly customizable.
Option 2 - Multiple Programs (Level Hard):
This option provides the most control over your project. Even though this option is more difficult, there are a few steps that can make it easier. Also, this is going to require you to use a couple pieces of software. First, you will need some sort of DAW (digital audio workstation), this can be as basic as Garage Band, or more full-featured like Ableton, Logic Pro, Cubase, Reaper, Reason, or even Pro Tools. A video editor will also be needed, you could use iMovie, Final Cut Pro, or Premiere Pro.
First, you will need a guide track. This could be created in your DAW or even a recording. This will be used to help keep everyone together. If you use a DAW create a click track to go with it, this will help keep the recordings in time as best as possible. Ideally, everyone would have the same cameras and the same DAW, however, this is highly unlikely especially as groups get larger. Once you get a guide and click track together you will want to send this out to all your participants. At this point, you might even want to create a little how-to video, this will be particularly helpful to those who have not done a virtual performance before. Also the more specific you are about video and sound setup, the easier your life will be when editing. You will want your participants to be listening to the guide track on one device and recording their performance onto another.
Next, you will receive everyone's performance back. At this point, you will want to upload the video in an editor and then split out the audio to your DAW. You can edit the audio in the video software, but this has a lot of limitations, it will sound better mixed in a DAW. Also, import your guide track as this will help you align all the clips. In most video editing software videos can be cropped and moved around. I have found it helpful to create an image with lines to layer on top to align the videos. There are plenty of YouTube videos that will show you how to edit your videos, as this is beyond the scope of this article. After you get all of the videos to align you will want to bring back your mixed recording from your DAW.
This will take some practice, but the results can be quite impressive. As with most things in music and the creative world you will get better. Here is an example of a virtual performance that I put together earlier this year: Truth In Jazz Virtual Performance