Synchronizing for music and video: VocAlign Ultra

The simple explanation of what VocAlign Ultra is, is this: it’s a plug-in that can automatically match the timing and pitch of one audio signal to the timing and pitch of another. More complex but implemented in a user-friendly way are the features that delve deeper, such as an advanced set of controls to adjust the amount and modes of timing and pitch matching, tools for correcting small issues like Protected Ranges and Sync Points, a pitch transpose control and a formant control for adjusting the pitch range of resonances.

VocAlign Ultra allows an artist to produce their best performance, free from the rigidity and repetition traditionally associated with re-recording or doubling tracks. In a sense, VocAlign Ultra is a lighter version of Revoice Pro 4, which has more power than what is needed for post-production and has a somewhat steep learning curve. I tested VocAlign Ultra to sync dialogue for video, besides trying it out to match the pitch profile and “intonation”, not of overdubbed dialogue but a synthesizer track to a voice recording, changing about everything there was to change.

The Logic Pro X plug-in that I tried out has a lovely interface that you can resize, so you can really see what’s going on. It has three views of your synced result, of which the piano roll that shows you the pitch profile is mostly for musical audio while the waveform and spectral distribution or energy view are for any type of project. All three views serve to check and fine-tune the synchronisation — time and pitch related.

I did not try out the tightening up of lip-syncing with foreign language dubs, nor did I test double-tracking vocal and instrumental parts and replacing the vocals in a music video shoot with a production track, to achieve perfect lip-sync.

Furthermore, VocAlign Ultra is installed as both an ‘ordinary’ and an ARA2 plug-in. I tested everything with the ARA2 version only, as I knew already from Melodyne’s ARA2 performance that it speeds up processing considerably.

This comes with some caveats too. While ARA2 is incredibly fast — especially for short segments it will seem almost instantaneous — the plug-in can only work on an entire track in Logic Pro X. On the upside, the DAW takes care of loading and saving all ARA data, so that your project is transportable and replay of processed signals is instantaneous.

VocAlign Ultra review

A limitation that requires you to first start recording with the cameras is that the time range of the processed signal using ARA is limited to the exact time range of the Dub. This means that if the plug-in generates an output that is longer than the original Dub, the DAW will not replay the audio that comes after the original Dub segment. This limitation does not cause any problems if you make sure to start recording on your master camera first, then other cameras and your audio capture device later on, and then cut away all extraneous matter.

Finally, some people won’t like that the VocAlign Ultra ARA plug-in must be the only ARA plugin in a chain. For example, you can’t load Melodyne on the same segment of audio. Even with these limitations, however, VocAlign Ultra is a must-have plug-in for anyone wanting to align and synchronise timing and pitch in musical and certainly post-production projects. You will soon find that you can be creative with VocAlign Ultra beyond its typical usage pattern as in this video I created.

That’s exactly what you can do with Revoice Pro too, but with VocAlign Ultra you will find you will have fewer settings to learn as more goes on under the hood and still enjoy much of the power of Revoice Pro. The latter is more of a specialized audio editing plug-in (pitch editing, doubling, fully adjustable…) while the former is pure and simple sync/pitch editing.

I first tried out VocAlign Ultra with three cameras and one audio recording and it worked much and much better than PluralEyes ever did (for an example, see this video). To sync all three cameras and have the audio coming from the audio recording, I synchronized the three cameras in Final Cut Pro X’s angle viewer first, selected my angles, exported as a ProRes 422 HQ file, and imported that into Logic Pro X.

In Logic Pro X, I used the camera audio as my master sound — the Guide in VocAlign Ultra — and the audio recording as the one that needed to be synchronized. It took one preset and 10 minutes to set this up and export the lot from Logic Pro X to a Final Cut Pro X XML file with all the audio and video assets neatly in the exact locations they needed to be to enjoy a 100% synchronized clip over the full length of it.

You can use VocAlign Ultra to compensate for sync drift too, although that will take a little longer to set up properly if it’s bad as it involves setting protected areas and sync points. The interface that allows you to do that, though, is very user-friendly.

With its internal 384kHz editing that ensures artefact-free results and its user-friendly interface — more user-friendly than the admittedly even more powerful Revoice Pro 4, I might add — VocAlign Ultra is a must-have for post-production as much as it is for music editing. It retails at €315; for a limited time, you can have it for even less.