One of the most time consuming and annoying processes when it comes to 360 VR video production has got to be media management. When you’ve got 6 or more cameras running every time you record, it can be quite an undertaking to organize and manage those shots in post. As we all know, if you don’t do it immediately, it’s even harder to make sense of what you shot the longer you wait.
To help us with this process, 360 Labs has created a Windows utility to copy and organize files from multiple GoPros or other action camera systems we call Action Cam Importer. What it does is extremely simple, it renames video files from multiple cameras in a 360 array and copies those files into folders per shot. Ultimately it saves you all that clicking, copying, and renaming grunt work. We use it on every project before doing ANY rough stitches or working on any shots. Once you start down a bad path of file organization, it’s hard to turn back.
Get Action Cam Importer (Windows 7, 8, 10)
USB Hub & Card Reader Recommendations
As of Action Camera Importer version 1.2.1 we now have the ability to sort files in 2 ways. Firstly, we can sort and import files directly from SD cards. Secondly, we can also point to a folder as a source camera. If you had previously copied shots into folders per each camera (cam1, cam2, cam3, etc) you can now use Action Cam Importer to sort those files by shot. Likewise, if you don't have a USB hub or access to one, you can import cards individually and use the app to sort them when finished.
If you intend to copy from SD cards, you’ll need a few pieces of cheap hardware if you don’t have them already. Firstly, get yourself a nice USB 3.0 hub with 7 or more ports, we like this 10 port hub from Anker. These hubs come in handy for more than just copying files, you can also charge multiple devices at the same time. Secondly, you’ll need a USB card reader per each camera. Transcend has a nice affordable $6 mini USB 3.0 card reader for regular and micro SD cards that will easily fit side by side into most USB hubs.
Why not just copy files directly from USB connected cameras, you ask? We find that sometimes these cameras are finicky to be recognized by the operating system, whereas SD cards in card readers rarely have problems being detected.
Using Action Cam Importer
Once you’ve got your hardware, using ACI is easy.
- Choose a destination folder. This is where ACI will copy shots.
- Optional: enter a prefix, like ProjectName_ if desired.
- Optional: check “Use FFMPEG to Combine File Parts” if you wish to concatenate long GoPro shots. If you have FFMPEG installed, ACI will automatically marry these files back together into 1 long video each. Look below for details on how to install FFMPEG if you don’t already have it.
- Optional: the “Cam Start with Video File” box is for the shot you’d like ACI to start with on each camera. Say you already copied 10 shots yesterday, in here you can enter “11” to start at shot 11 and skip the first 10. Leave this at 1 if you want to copy everything.
- Optional: the “Destination Drive Start at Shot Number” box allows you to tell ACI how to label the first shot being copied. Instead of starting with “Shot 1” it will start with the number you specify.
- Select your camera sources for up to 16 cameras. These can be SD cards you have plugged into your hub, or file folders containing videos.
- Finally, click “Start Copy” to begin.
IMPORTANT NOTE: When you select SD card or folder sources for each camera, ACI will provide a readout of the number of videos on each destination. Those numbers may not match if you had accidentally hit record on one of your cameras (it happens!). It’s best to identify and delete those accidental discharges before you start your copy process. ACI will warn you if your file counts don’t match, but you can also choose to ignore the warning and copy anyway.
By design, ACI never deletes files from the original source. To protect the integrity of your data, you can verify that the copy process was successful before choosing to format your cards. The same happens with sorting files from folders, after verifying everything works as intended, you may wish to delete the original folders.
FFMPEG is a command line utility for video. Installing is pretty simple, you just need to copy the binaries to a folder somewhere on your computer and then setup a Windows Environment Variable pointed to that location.
Download and Extract FFMPEG on Windows:
- Download FFMPEG from http://ffmpeg.zeranoe.com/builds/ (static is common)
- Open the zip archive (use 7-zip from http://www.7-zip.org/ if your archival software will not open the 7z format)
- Extract the .tar file within, 7-zip will typically extract contents into a folder within the same directory as the zip file.
- Open the extracted folder, copy all contents (FFMPEG files)
- Make a new folder where desired, we prefer the C: drive in c:\ffmpeg, paste the contents of the FFMPEG application inside. (you can delete your extracted folder after files copy)
Setting up the Environment Variable:
- Navigate to Control Panel / System within Windows
- Click on advanced system settings on the left menu
- Click the advanced tab
- Click the “Environment Variables…” button on the bottom.
- In the user variables, if you DO have a PATH variable, highlight it and click edit. Then paste this at the end of what’s already there: ;c:\ffmpeg\bin (or the path to where you installed ffmpeg)
- If you DON’T have a path variable, click new. Create a variable named PATH, and in the variable value add ;c:\ffmpeg\bin (or the path to where you installed ffmpeg) 7. To test and verify that it worked, open up a command and enter the command “ffmpeg –version”. If version information is returned, the install was successful.
That’s it! Enjoy! As always, we’re open to consider ideas for new features and improvements. Feel free to reach out. Also, if you have great utilities for helping people to manage the 360 video workflow, we want to know about them and try them! Get in touch!
Get Action Cam Importer (Windows 7, 8, 10)