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In Premiere Pro CS4 Beyond the Basics, Adobe Certified Instructor Chad Perkins explains how to take video editing from simple nuts and bolts to an art form. He shares tips for shooting video in the field to get the most from a subject and get the best footage for a project. He demonstrates how to build a project through the careful use of cutaways, pacing, and suggestive edits. He covers special effects, color correction, and keying and compositing, integrating all these concepts as he builds a music video project from scratch. Exercise files are included with this course.
To me, one of the most amateur signs of a video production is a complete lack of consistency in audio volume. Let's listen to this. I've assembled just some random clips here and you could really tell what I'm talking about. (various audio samples playing) You hear how just the volume for these different clips is just completely inconsistent. Now, one of the processes that can help us to gain at least some degree of consistency is something called Normalizing. Before we understand that, we have to understand a little bit about the way audio works.
One of your best friends in working with audio is this Audio Master Meters panel. This gives us a readout of the loudness of a particular track. The higher a tone goes on this chart, the louder it is. Well, the loudest point that a clip ever gets to is referred to as its peak, in other words, it's loudest point. And Normalizing is the process of making a consistent audio peak across different clips. Now normalizing isn't always going to be a perfect fix. It's going to be a help, but it might not be a total fix.
So if you have two clips and one of them has a higher peak, that doesn't necessarily mean, in every instance, that it sounds louder than the clip that has a lower peak. So you definitely have to use your ears, but Normalizing can help, and Premiere actually has some really sweet Normalizing tools. Let's look at this clip here from Dream Job, this get ambient audio DJ clip. Listen to the audio here. It's very quiet background noise. So what I'm going to do is with this selected in the Project panel, I go to Clip>Audio Options>Audio Gain.
It tells us here that the Peak audio Amplitude, in other words, the loudest that it ever gets, is -33 dB. That's actually pretty low. It's a very quiet clip. Now, in this case, that's kind of what we want is just background audio. But we could bump that up a little bit. Here in this dialog box, you could bump up the Gain. We can set the amount to Adjust the Gain by. We can also normalize the Max Peak to whatever we want. So let's say we said -6 here, which is actually much louder than -33 and we said Ok, then Premiere will actually change the audio of this clip.
We don't need to change it here in the timeline, if we use it. It automatically changes the audio of the clip. Now, if we listen to it, it'll sound much louder. So now that buzz is almost deafening. Now, what I'm going to do is go back to Clip, and show you one more thing here. Audio Options>Audio Gain and what you can do is choose to Normalize All Peaks to something. So I could select all of my clips in this Project panel and select Normalize All Peaks, and then I can change the Peak Amplitude for all my clips at the same time, normalize them.
Now, one of the reason this is so important, folks, is back in the day of the 60s when Rock n Roll was coming to you and we're just learning how awesome distortion was you couldn't crank the things over much. That's where overdrive comes from, that cool distortion sound of the guitar. It's from taking things past the top level and that sounded great, because that was analog. But in the day of digital stuff, taking things to 0 or little bit over 0 is terrible. It causes all kinds of crackling and horrible noises. That's something you definitely don't want to do.
So as a safeguard, often times with audio, people will do in the video world or even in the audio world, is they will set their maximum threshold to something like -3, just to give themselves a little bit of headroom, just to make sure they never cross that line because, again, in digital, you never ever want to get to 0, and some would say that you don't even want to get close to 0. Now, another thing that you can do to normalize audio peaks across multiple clips is new in CS4 and you actually select your timeline, go to the Sequence menu and select Normalize Master Track.
What this can do is specify a level because most of the time when you're normalizing, you're actually bringing up the audio levels of a clip to match other clips. So the trick is with this Normalize Master Track, it we try to Normalize Master Track now and say OK, we'll say -3, we'll get a warning dialog box saying that that can't happen. Basically, what that means is that, I think the wording here is a little weird, but what it's saying here is that you can't normalize audio that is louder than your loudest clip.
So whatever your loudest clip's gain is, then you can't have peak amplitude above that. So we could go ahead and click OK. I go back here again and take this to, let's say, -30, which is really quiet, and that will work. And now we could play it back and there won't be too big of a difference, but we can tell that there were some changes made. So the audio is fairly similar but slightly changed and now a -30 is kind of like the new peak for all of these clips. So as you can see, Premiere does have several features for normalizing audio but more than the features, it's important that you understand the concept, the idea of making your audio have consistent volume across clips.
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