Join Maxim Jago for an in-depth discussion in this video Adjust the audio mix, part of Media Composer 8.7 Essential Training: 101.
- [Teacher] Media Composer includes really advanced audio finishing tools, but you don't need to go right the way into them to apply some basic mix adjustments. And if we look on the timeline in the fast menu, we've got the option to enable to display of waveforms, well, we know that already, but also, to display clip gain and volume. There's also an option to allow or not allow per track settings, and that just means if you turn this off, any setting you apply in this menu is going to apply to all of the tracks at once.
I don't need that for now, but I want to draw your attention to this little additional menu in the track controls. This actually gives me access to the same options, clip gain, volume, and I've got pan, where I can control the output, left or right, for my audio. We'll come back to pan later on, but for now, I'm going to turn on clip gain, and clip volume. Just notice when I turn the clip volume off, nothing changes, and I turn it on again, nothing. And that's because you don't see the clip volume adjustments until you've added one, and I'll show you how to do that in just a moment.
For now though, we've already seen here, if I click on the clip gain control, I can make adjustments here and change the output level, this is non destructive, and let's have a listen and see what needs to be changed. So, actually, it seems to me that the first clip's a little bit quiet, so, I'm going to zoom in a little so we can just get a bit more control here, and I'm going to use the gain control to turn this up by maybe 60 db.
And notice when I release the mouse, this line moves, it's very subtle, this dark line moves. You'll also notice that now I've increased the height of this audio one track quite a bit, we're getting some decibel markings, I'm just going to hold the alt key down here, over my track header, and I'm going to make this even larger. And as I do, you can see that we get even more steps, even more db ratings. Zero db means no adjustment has been made, and you'll notice that most of the change goes down, down, down into the negative, but we can add up to plus 12 db by adjusting the controls right on the clip.
In fact, we could probably add more audio level elsewhere in the application in a couple of clips if we wanted to as well. But if you need to increase the level by as much as 12 db, well, you may have to do some pretty serious audio cleanup, too. And in that instance, you might well send the audio over to Pro Tools, to work on it there. Now that I'm displaying the clip gain, you'll notice that even without a modifier key, I can click on this line and drag it. And now I can maybe push this even a little bit further, and you can see the number updates, and let's have another listen.
Well, I think that's better, but I might want to make a little bit more of an adjustment over time to increase the audio level when our subject is speaking, and decrease it afterwards so we don't get too much of that background noise. By the way, before we go on to our second adjustment, remember we discovered earlier that if you hold down the shift key or turn on caps lock, you get the audio as you scrub through clips and through sequences. What you'll find is that it's pretty much good enough if you move the cursor slowly for you to be able to hear what's being said, but you're unlikely to get full quality audio to get a sense of whether the mix is working or not.
Just listen again. And, of course, as you can tell from my wavery hand there, the issue is not to do with the playback performance of Media Composer, it's really just very difficult to move the mouse at exactly the right speed. So, my advice is not to scrub through your content in order to do things like check level and check audio quality, but you can definitely use the audio monitoring during scrubbing to locate content, it works very well indeed.
Now, I want to add another adjustment, in fact, let's make the adjustment to this longer clip right after the first, and I'm going to do this by adding a keyframe. Now, a keyframe is simply a little marker that contains specific settings, and there are two kinds of keyframe in Media Composer, simple and, I suppose you'd call it advanced. A simple keyframe contains a whole batch of settings in a single marker, and you can use it to make adjustments to things like the display of a video clip, the scale, the rotation, the position, and so on.
An advanced keyframe will apply to just one setting, so instead of being, for example, rotation and position control together, each one of those controls will have separate keyframes that you can adjust independently. When we're working with audio, well, most of the time we're just going to have two, pan and volume. You'll notice there doesn't seem to be a button in the interface for adding a keyframe, but if we just look at our settings, and go into the keyboard settings, here we are, it's actually, usually, the apostrophe key.
I say usually because not all keyboard layouts are the same, and particularly if you're working with an international installation of Media Composer, you may not even have this key, in which case you might need to create a new keyboard shortcut. You can do that by going to the command palette and looking under effects, and here it is, add keyframe. Still, on my keyboard, I do have this option, and of course we could add a button as well, and that's the option the command palette gives us, but I'm going to keep using the key.
All I need to do at this point is have the timeline window active and press the apostrophe key. A keyframe is added because the volume display is on. Now that I have a keyframe, I can click on it to select it, and I can move it up and down to change the volume. The line that's left behind here isn't my keyframed volume, it's my gain control, remember we turned our gain on as well, here.
Now, it can be a little confusing, because I think that the gain control line looks very, very similar indeed to the volume control line, and for this reason you might want to make sure that you have only one or other of these options displayed at a time. But remember, the adjustments you make are cumulative, so if you put a minus four decibel change on the gain, and a plus four decibel change on the volume, you'll end up with the same volume. If you go very far, though, in one direction or the other, remember that these are applied one after the other, and you might end up with pretty poor quality audio.
Imagine turning the level of your recording right down and then copying it and turning it back up again. And the gain is applied first for what it's worth. I'm going to zoom out just a little here, so we can see the whole clip, and I want to show you if I click and drag on this keyframe, you'll notice that although keyframes are really designed to make changes over time, where you specify different values at different moments, if you only have one keyframe, the volume adjustment is more or less the same as making a gain adjustment.
Notice also that as I drag this line up and down across the decibel lines in the background of the clip, I can snap to them by holding down the control key on windows, or command key here on Mac OS. And I've found this to be pretty useful when I'm working with multiple clips, and I just want to get an approximation of the same adjustment to several items, but not as a batch, which you can do in Media Composer, but one by one as I assess them.
Notice that I can hover my mouse cursor over the gain adjustment anywhere and adjust it, but for the volume I have to hover the mouse over the keyframe. If I deselect, you'll notice the keyframe turns black, there's a few different ways to work with keyframes, but I want to keep it nice and simple just for now. If I want to remove the keyframe, I can select it, and if the keyframe is selected, and it's pink as it is now, I can hit delete, and it's removed. I'll just undo that, so you can see it.
I think it's fair to say that if you're just making very simple audio level adjustments to get something approximating an audio mix as you edit, you're probably going to use the volume control more than you use the gain control. But because they're so very easy to turn off and on, it doesn't really make much odds. If you want to make a flat adjustment, use the clip gain, if you think you might want to make level adjustments over time, use the volume. Remember that just because they're not displayed, it doesn't mean that these adjustments are not applied.
If I bring back my volume, it's still there. And so, if you do make adjustments to the audio level, you'll notice that there's a little marker added at the bottom of the clip. In fact, let me just bring back the clip gain here, remember this clip also had a gain adjustment, but not a volume adjustment. The second clip has both, and if I turn off the clip gain, you can see I only have that little marker on the second clip, so it's the volume adjustment that's indicated and not the gain adjustment.
This is pretty consistent with post production audio work flows, but might be a little bit weird if you're not familiar with them. Remember that gain adjustments are right at the beginning of the path the audio signal takes through post production.
- Setting up the editing environment
- Creating a new project
- Importing media
- Finding, organizing, and linking clips
- Building a sequence
- Editing and trimming
- Adding transitions
- Applying segment effects
- Combining effects
- Applying freeze frame and motion effects
- Creating titles
- Exporting video projects