Post-production audio engineer Scott Hirsch discusses what techniques to use in this Adobe Premiere tutorial. Audio concepts such as volume key framing and cross dissolves in Adobe Premiere are explored. He then gives recommendations on when to migrate the audio to Audition, Pro Tools, Logic, or the digital audio workstation of your choice to finish audio post-production.
- [Voiceover] As the saying goes, use the right tool for the job. The same applies to working with audio in a video editing software. Premier, Avid, and Final Cut Pro are all optimized to make the most out of the visual medium, and consequently they fall a bit short when it comes to making the most out of the audio. Let's look at how far we should take our audio adjustments in our video editor, and what we should leave for our sound-refining session, or for the inevitable hand off to an audio editor, if you're working with that workflow.
Here we have a video edit of this scene. As you can see, there are a few different shots, camera angles and they're all cut together, as well as the audio sources from those different shots on the bottom two tracks. They follow the video edits somewhat closely, but not exactly. As you can see, there's some L cuts where the audio is edited in a slightly different spot than some of the video but the clips are using the audio channels from those shots. Another thing you can see here is that all of the audio for the most part has two channels.
So there's a left and a right component, which is actually two different mic sources, and we'll definitely hear that as we play it. There's a couple exceptions to this. As I scroll down, see in this shot here, anything that was labeled BCAM only has one channel of audio and that's interlaid onto both tracks. So we'll have to deal with that later. The main thing to also notice is that none of the levels in the audio have been altered at all. If I zoom out, you can see that we have flat lines. This little line in each of the clips represents the individual volumes for those clips.
As you can see the edit was made without really paying attention to the audio volume. We're at a point now where we're trying to refine our video sequence, our video edit, and to do that, it's pretty hard to work with this choppy audio, and it is choppy. Let me play it for you and you can hear that it really jumps around. Of course it does because we're jumping from different shots and we've got different mic sources on those shots. So it's pretty normal to have this level of choppiness as you're editing but you want to take the time to further refine your edit, even in the video software, to work on your audio and get it to a place that is helpful to really refine your edit.
So let me play it for you and you can hear that choppiness. It really shows up when the dialogue starts. - [Joe] Susan. - Oh Joe, hi there. - I can't believe I ran into you here. - Oh please sit. - [Voiceover] Ok so that's really jumping around between each of the shots especially when there's dialogue. We're really sensitive to that. If we want to refine or edit, we want to pay attention a little bit to the audio here to help us choose the shots wisely and to really get this into a watchable state.
The key is we want to make changes that are non-permanent and non-destructive, so that when we ultimately get to the spot where we're able to work on our audio more carefully, the changes we make don't have any serious consequences. So let's start here. For example, when our character Joe approaches the table, we can tell that his better mic source is on one of these two channels. The way I can tell that is by soloing each of the tracks and we can listen. So let's solo the top track here.
- Susan. - [Voiceover] So that's pretty clean when I compare it to the bottom track. - Susan. - [Voiceover] Ok, so it's pretty obvious. The bottom track is super noisy. It's definitely a distant mic and the top track is the good mic. Now one instinct a lot of video editors have is they just go ahead and take this bottom clip and type Delete and just get it out of the timeline. It will play better in the short term without that source there, but we want to actually keep all sources in there, because we might need this source for smoothing out room tone when we get into our audio edit later.
So a better way to manage this, I'm going to type Cmd Z to undo that change, and here's the better way to manage that. We want to actually just use our volume control on this clip and turn this down, so that if I click right in the middle on that line, I can turn down the volume. If I want to turn it down all the way because it's just very noisy, that's fine, and this is better because the clip remains in the timeline and I can have access to it later. So let's turn that all the way down, and let's move on to the next shot. If we listen, we want to find which of her reaction lines is better mic source.
So, we'll listen to the top one. - [Joe] Susan. - Oh Joe, hi there. - [Voiceover] So that sounds pretty good. Let's check the bottom one. - Oh Joe, hi there. - [Voiceover] Ok, so as we soloed up in this, it turned out the bottom one sounds a little better. So in this case, I'm going to turn down the top clip volume. This one is very close in volume. I don't know if I need to go all the way. So I'll just turn it down to a respectable amount. Maybe 10 dB's and this way we'll get a much smoother transition in terms of levels.
So let's check this out. - [Joe] Susan. - Oh Joe, hi there. - [Voiceover] So you can hear, the levels now match. There's not as much noise between the clips, but it's still real jumpy between. So there's two tools we're going to use to further smooth out this transition. One of those is the roller tool. The next tool we'll go into is the crossfade tool. So to get the roller tool, we can go over to our Tool menu here, or we can type N and this is the rolling edit tool. This let's you go in here on a clip-by-clip basis and move the edit point around until we find a more smooth point to cut from one shot to the next.
One thing I want to do is here is hold Option down, and click into the audio track so I have just that track selected. Otherwise we'd have the video track selected as well. If I hold Shift, I can select the next audio track. So I've got the roller tool. Let me zoom in a little bit with the plus key. I've got the roller tool just on my two audio tracks. So what I'm looking for here is a better spot to cut. I really want to cut right after he says the word Susan. So let's see if I can find that spot.
Just let me undo that, I meant to start here. There we go, this is the shot transition we're going to work with. - Susan. - [Voiceover] Ok, so that was a little far. Let's roll this back. You can see it's keeping all the clip information in there and we're just moving the edit point. So again, later on when we try to refine this, we'll be able to do this work and even further refine it in our audio editor. - [Joe] Susan. - Oh. - [Voiceover] Ok so let's start there.
That's a pretty good spot. I might just nudge it back one frame. - Susan. - [Voiceover] Ok, so that's a better edit point. It's still a little jumpy and that's where the crossfades come in. So we want to again make sure we only have our audio tracks selected. There's nothing up here in the video track. Right click and I'll say Apply Default Transitions. This will create two big crossfades over that cut. Now once you have these, you can go back to your selector tool, and refine the length of these.
I'm going to make them a lot shorter. We don't want such a long crossfade. We just want a quick crossfade so that the jump of the cut isn't as jarring. - [Joe] Susan. - Oh Joe. - [Voiceover] So there we go. Now again, this work here should be thought of as temporary. Your goal is to get the sound good enough to get you through your video edit and make the movie watchable. When you make changes like we did here, with just moving the clip volume, and applying these kind of crossfade transitions, the choices are non-destructive.
We can further manipulate them and use them when we refine our audio edit later. One thing I would argue against is making gain changes to source clips. What I mean here is that if you right click on a clip, you can go in here and say Audio Gain, and you can change the underlying volume structure of the clips. This might seem like a good way to deal with different volumes, but these changes destructively stay with the file, as you move to a different audio editor.
So instead, you want to make changes via the volume tools on the track like we did. This way the source clips are unaltered and that volume envelope comes across when we move to an audio-specific software. So when you're done, your audio edit might look something like this. I'm going to move over to another sequence where we have made all these changes. So you can see, we've got different clip levels. We've got some crossfade transitions between, when it was a jarring cut. We've also added in some sound effects and some music.
This is about where your video edit should look, in terms of your audio channels when you're completed. So you have it so it plays well and it sounds watchable. Then it's time to really get specific with your audio edit. Again, we made these changes non-destructively, so we'll have complete freedom in our audio edit.
- Capturing audio and following the proper workflow for optimum results
- Sound editing—improving and restoring audio in post-production
- Mixing and exporting audio or preparing it for handoff to a professional audio engineer
The second and third steps feature Adobe Audition CC, a powerful audio post-production program with a host of tools to clean up, sculpt, and finesse your sound design. The seamless workflow to and from Adobe Premiere Pro makes it a powerful audio toolset. However, author Scott Hirsch's techniques work equally well in other video and sound editing applications. Watch this course to learn practical techniques for getting better sound in all your productions.
- Choosing the right gear, including lavalier and boom mics
- Syncing offline devices
- Working with audio in the video editor
- Moving files to Audition
- Choosing sources
- Cleaning up and getting the most out of nonideal audio
- Reducing noise
- Adding sound effects
- Mixing and adjusting levels
- Exporting and managing final files