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Author: Troy Dreier | Website: http://

This three-part Final Cut audio series is the longest project we've taken on at Web Video Universe, and the numbers show that you, the readers, are loving it. Part one explained basic audio terminology and showed how to use Final Cut filters to clean up your sound. Part two explained how to use panning to create richer audio.

Now, we'll bring the entire project into Apple Soundtrack Pro to perform final mixing and mastering. This is the last step in creating even, dynamic output. As before, we're working with Ernie Schaeffer, a fifteen-year media industry veteran, and a trainer with all4DVD.com. Schaeffer teaches classes on Soundtrack Pro at all4DVD's training center in Irvine, California. Visit the site for more information.

Finalize Your Mix
After you're finished with your multi-track video in Final Cut Pro and you've performed basic sound leveling, it's time to import the audio into Soundtrack Pro to do the final audio mastering.

As mentioned in Part one, be sure to use speakers with a subwoofer while you do this. Don't rely on headphones for audio work.

In mastering, you'll run your audio through a compression plug-in and an equalization plug-in in order to ensure that you get the maximum level of sound with proper equalization. You want your audio to be as loud as possible without showing compression effects or without "breathing" (where the sound starts to pulsate).

When you compress the file, you level off the sound spikes—the high decibel areas—so that you can bring the rest of the volume up.

Right-click on your audio sequence in the Final Cut browser and choose to send it to Soundtrack as a multi-track project. A dialogue box will ask you if you want to include background video, so that you can see the video while you work on the audio. This is optional, and the import will take longer if you have unrendered effects. Leave the other two check boxes checked, then save the audio to a new folder in your project folder.

The First Plug-In
Your audio will open in Soundtrack Pro. If you have a two monitor setup, you can open the mixer in one monitor and the video in the second. Go to the master fader in the mixer and right-click on the empty box just below the name, then add the Dynamics Adaptive Limiter.

This plug-in is a compression limiter and you'll use it to set a boundary for your sound. You'll see LEDs for input gain on the left side and LEDs for final output on the right. Three knobs let you change the input scale (increasing the level), gain (which increases the lower decibel levels), and output ceiling (the volume limit).

First, lower the output ceiling to -2db. This creates a maximum volume for your mix. Then, adjust the input scale to between -6db and -1db. Scroll through the loudest sections of your video and find the level that sounds the best to you. Finally, increase compression with the gain knob. This levels the highs and lows while raising the overall volume. The volume, however, won't go past the output ceiling you've already set. Keep an eye on the LEDs on the right as you do this; they'll stay closer together as you make your settings, showing that the video has less dynamic range and greater compression.

The effects you're adding should be subtle, so don't feel you need to adjust much. You're not recreating the whole mix; you've already done most of the work in Final Cut Pro.

The Second Plug-In
Again right-click on the master fader and bring up the Match Equalizer plug-in. This can be used with one mix, as we'll do here, or it can be used to copy the equalizer settings from one file for use in a second.

Open it and you'll see a line cutting across a spectrum on the screen. Click and drag the middle of the line up or down to adjust the settings visually. Bring up the area between 500 Hz and 1 kHz to give a boost to vocals. You can also brighten your mix by adding additional high frequencies (5 kHz to 20 kHz) and lower the low frequencies (50 Hz to 200 Hz) if it sounds too muddy.

When you're satisfied, select File/Export and save your mix with a new name. Make sure the bit rate is 16bit and the sample rate is 48. After you export the file, a pull-down menu will let you send your mix back to Final Cut Pro. You'll see your new mix in the Final Cut browser with the name you just saved it under. It will occupy the first two channels, and the channels that were there previously will be moved down and turned off. That older information is still there, so if you've made a mistake and don't like the results, you can always go back.

Double-check your results in Final Cut Pro and make any final volume adjustments, if necessary.

This concludes our three-part Final Cut audio series. Check back later this week when we start a new series on Final Cut color correction.

» Level Intermediate

Added: 2009-01-25
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