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This course is part of a series that looks at Documentary Editing from the point of view of 3 different editors in 3 different editing applications. For more insight on editing documentary projects, take a look at Documentary Editing with Avid Media Composer and Documentary Editing with Final Cut Pro X.
- Interpreting a creative brief
- Logging interviews and other footage
- Pulling selects and presenting ideas
- Building sequences and scenes
- Creating title graphics
- Animating images
- Adjusting b-roll shots
- Tightening clip timing
- Compressing and exporting multiple files
Skill Level Intermediate
There's nothing more distracting when you're watching a video than bad audio. When you can't hear the person speaking or there is distracting background noise, it really takes you out of the moment. For that reason, it's really important to spend some serious time focused on the audio mix. Let's take a look. Like most editors, I like to adjust my interface before I start mixing audio. In this case, I don't like one of the pre-built workspaces. Instead, I just like to get my vertical drag arrows and just drag this centerline all the way to the top.
In one little move I've expanded all of the tools that I want to use, that's the timeline, the toolbar, and the audiometers, and I've hidden everything that I don't want to use. There is no real need to look at the video constantly while I'm mixing the audio. I may have to look at the video occasionally, and I can just pull this down like a window shade and reveal the video as much as I need it. Second, I do want to take note of the meters. The audiometers are the only way that you have an outside reference to what you're mixing.
You can't trust the headphones or the speakers because they have their own volume. You need to have an external reference, and that's here. So the related question is what am I looking to mix to? One point to look for is the -12 point. You want your peaks to be around -12, or that's a good average. It's more accurate to say that if you're delivering for broadcast or a specific event, you should try to ask the place you're delivering where they want their audio peaks.
Some broadcasters may say -6, -12 is common, and if you're going to be somewhere large, like an arena, you probably want to mix a little high, and if possible you want to test your mix in that space. We're going to mix for our peaks to be around -6 during this mix, but always use the meters for a reference and to stay consistent, and if you're delivering somewhere specific, ask for their specifications. Okay, I like to now drag my tracks to reveal mostly audio.
If we have room, we'll see the video up top. We can scroll everything down for lots of waveforms that we'll need, waveforms are all on. Let's unlock the audio tracks, but I like to leave the video tracks locked while I'm editing audio only. Again, in the off chance that we need to make a video edit, we'll just have to remember to unlock those. This is looking good. If I zoom in, we're ready to start mixing.
You'll remember that this first moment here with the bird's natural sound, it was one of my goals to make this really hit well, so let's listen, and then we'll make a small adjustment. (audio playing) That's pretty good for natural sound, but I actually want to give it a little bit of a boost, because at this first moment it's not really serving as natural sound, it's serving as more of a foreground sound, and I do want you to sort of be aware of it.
So my preferred way of mixing is just to work with the audio levels directly on the timeline here. So I'm going to give this a drag up, and you'll see that the pointer sort of disappears while I'm dragging, but you do see the yellow box below that's giving you the amount of dB boost. So maybe I'll try to boost that up for starters about one and a half, one and a third dB, and listen again as well as watching the audiometers. (audio playing) Now, there's no rule for this one, natural sound being used as a foreground sound, so I'd rather be a little loud than a little quiet.
(audio playing) I am happy with that, and now I'll move forward into making this audio transition where the music comes in just perfect, but you know all these techniques already, so what I'd rather do is skip ahead to the finished mix and just highlight a few places of emphasis that we've already talked about. Okay, I've just finished my mix, you can see all the key framing I've done in the music, as well as the level adjustments throughout.
If you look closely and compare, you'll even see places where I added small audio transitions and things of that nature. I want to go back and check a few spots of emphasis. So I do want to see some video, but not necessarily a lot, so I'm going to bring this down until we sort of have like a postage stamp size, just enough for a visual reference. And then I do want to keep an eye on all my tracks, and I want you to be able to see how these are arranged. So let's zoom in and pay attention first, not to these natural sounds that we were working on, but in fact to the transition where the music comes in and then all the way through when BD starts talking.
And I think beginnings are particularly important. I often think of the beginning of a video piece kind of like the beginning of a song, where one instrument comes in at a time, and those moments where each new voice comes in, they're pretty important, so listen to how this worked out. (video playing) [00:05:32ll.55] (male speaker: My name is BD Dautch, and I have Earthtrine Farms--) Okay, things are sounding pretty smooth to me.
I want to look at one or two other examples of natural sounds and how they worked out. One would be here, where we transition to the restaurant. And we've done a little trick here that I think will work emotively. When this shot comes up, you're sort of aware that you're out on the street, and you can see some reflection, like headlights or the glean off cars, but we don't actually see the cars. However, in the natural sound we hear them. So I wanted to try to preserve that just for a feeling. We don't really want people to be thinking about cars, but if we get it right, we get the feeling of transition.
Let's see how it worked. (video playing) (male speaker: We opened this restaurant in 1982--) My hope there is it's sort of subliminal. That little bit of a car noise kind of moves you from one scene to the other. You can judge for yourself if that's effective, but hey, that's editing. Let's look at one more, and it's here. This is toward the end of the piece, and it's this line about community, and I just felt like it was really important to sort of hear what was going on in the natural sound, but also important that when BD's voice comes in, you can hear it.
So I think we split the middle just perfectly, getting the most out of this. (BD Dautch: ...the economy, to community...it becomes a celebration of life, as well as a culinary celebration.) I was really pleased with that one, because we were able to really get the feeling of that moment in the first couple of seconds, with a little bit of a boost and then bring it down just a little so BD's voice is clear, but that attractive background noise continues.
Okay, there are some highlights of my mix. Obviously, it took me a lot longer to do the whole mix than what I've shown you. So pay attention to your content and make sure to block out enough time for a full mix.