FCP 7 Tutorial - Basic Audio Editing Part One

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Overview of Audio Editing

It's important to know a few things about audio before you begin editing. If you want the audio for your film or video to be professional quality, you have to use quality recording equipment. Although Final Cut Pro is a professional non-linear editing system, it can't fix poorly recorded audio. So, before you start shooting a scene for your movie, make sure your recording levels are adjusted properly, and the microphones are working.

Secondly, you can think of audio as the viewers' instructions for the film - it can tell them whether a scene is happy, melancholic, or suspenseful. In addition, audio is the viewers' first clue as to whether the film is professional or amateur. Bad audio is more difficult for a viewer to tolerate than poor image quality, so if you have some video footage that's shaky or under-exposed, add a great soundtrack!

Lastly, the main goal of audio editing is to make the viewer unaware of the soundtrack - it should mesh together seamlessly with the film. To do this, it's important to include cross-dissolves at the beginning and end of audio tracks, and to watch out for peaking in your audio levels.

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Choosing Your Audio

To begin, choose the audio you'd like to edit. If you want to edit the audio from a video clip, double-click on the clip in the Browser, and go to the audio tab at the top of the Viewer window. It should say "Mono" or "Stereo" depending on how the audio was recorded.

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Choosing Your Audio

If you want to import a sound effect or song, bring the clip into FCP 7 by going to File > Import > Files to choose your audio files from the Finder window. The clips will appear in the Browser next to a speaker icon. Double-click on your desired clip to bring it into the Viewer.

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The Viewer Window

Now that your audio clip is the Viewer, you should see a waveform of the clip, and two horizontal lines- one pink and the other purple. The pink line corresponds with the Level slider, which you'll see at the top of the window, and the purple line corresponds with the Pan slider, which is below the Level slider. Making adjustments to the levels lets you make your audio louder or softer, and adjusting the pan controls which channel sound will come from.

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The Viewer Window

Notice the hand icon to the right of the Level and Pan sliders. This is known as the Drag Hand. It's an important tool that you'll use to bring your audio clip into the Timeline. The Drag Hand lets you grab a clip without messing up any of the adjustments you've made to the Waveform.

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The Viewer Window

There are two yellow playheads in the Viewer window. One is located at the top of the window along the ruler, and the other is located in the scrub bar at the bottom. Hit the space bar to watch how they work. The playhead at the top rolls through the small section of the clip that you're currently working on, and the bottom playhead scrolls through the entire clip from beginning to end.

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Adjusting Audio Levels

You can adjust the audio levels using either the Level slider or the pink Level line which overlays the Waveform. When using the level line, you can click and drag to adjust the levels. This is really useful when you're using keyframes and need a visual representation of your audio adjustments.

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Adjusting Audio Levels

Raise the audio level of your clip, and press play. Now check out the audio meter by the toolbox. If your audio levels are in the red, your clip is probably too loud. Audio levels for normal conversation should be in the yellow range, anywhere from -12 to -18 dBs.

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Adjusting Audio Pan

When adjusting the audio pan, you'll also have the option of using the slider or overlay features. If your clip is stereo, the audio pan will automatically be set to -1. This means that the left track will come out of the left speaker channel, and the right track will come out of the right speaker channel. If you want to reverse the channel output, you can change this value to 1, and if you want both tracks to come out of both speakers, you can change the value to 0.

If your audio clip is mono, the Pan slider will let you choose which speaker the sound comes out of. For example, if you want to add a sound effect of a car driving by, you would set the beginning of your pan to -1, and the end of your pan to 1. This would gradually shift the noise of the car from the left to right speaker, creating the illusion that it's driving past the scene.

Now that you're familiar with the basics, check out the next tutorial to learn how to edit clips in the Timeline, and add keyframes to your audio!